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A Tribal Higher Education Commission for the 21st Century

Willeto, Paul.  Tribal College: Journal of American Indian Higher Education; Mancos Vol. 25, Iss. 4,  (Summer 2014): 52-53,7.

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I begin by asking: are the idealism and values of the Red Power movement as relevant today as they were in the late 1960s and 1970s? The answer is yes. The ideal of self-determination continues to inspire American Indians to regain control of their affairs after devastating U.S. government policies and practices, such as genocide, deicide, and ecocide (Cook-Lynn, 2007). There is no doubt that the activism of groups like the American Indian Movement and the National Indian Youth Council, as well as that of American Indian authors, artists, and many others, have led to U.S. policy changes. We have moved from termination in the 1950s to tribal selfdetermination in the 1970s and beyond. Tribal self-determination has led to the creation and continued expansion of tribal colleges and universities (TCUs). Today, there are 37 TCUs providing access to higher education to an estimated 30,000 American Indian tribal and non-tribal members (U.S. Department of Education, 2013).

Out of necessity, however, these TCUs seek accreditation from Western, non-Native agencies that accredit many higher education institutions in the United States and abroad. I argue that the American Indian higher education community must take a new direction by creating and establishing an independent, non-profit commission that accredits all TCUs in North America-a Tribal Higher Education Commission (THEC) that stands toe-to-toe with all Western accreditors.

Western accreditors operate as voluntary, non-profit entities. They seek to reassure students, taxpayers, the business community, general public, and the U.S. government, and build confidence in the quality of education. They are recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) for quality assurance. Western accreditors comprise regional and national institutional accreditors. Regional accreditors provide accreditation for public and private non-profit higher education institutions, while national accreditors offer accreditation for non-profit and for-profit...