Minnesota colleges leading the pack in training next generation of tribal leaders

By KBJR News 1

June 20, 2014 Updated Jun 20, 2014 at 10:45 PM CST

Cloquet, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- Two colleges in Northeastern Minnesota are leading the pack when it comes to offering programs geared towards American Indian Studies.

Tucked behind pine, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College is a hub for American Indian studies.

Along with acquainting surrounding communities of Ojibwe culture, the college also offers certificates and two year degrees in nursing, liberal arts, and law enforcement.

"It's exciting, it's an exciting time," Roxanne DeLille said.

DeLille has been a professor at FDLTCC for fifteen years.

DeLille's focus this summer is geared towards starting a one of a kind two year degree that will be offered this fall.

"We are completely reclaiming indigenous knowledge," DeLille said. "We are completely reclaiming and infusing the program with our way of knowing."

The American Indian Studies A.A. degree will be internationally recognized as a program centered in ingenious understanding.

"We want them intelligent, we want articulate speakers, we want knowledgeable people who are capable of speaking in whatever role they are in; but we also want them full of who it is that they are," DeLille said.

Fond du Lac Tribal and Community is not alone in its efforts to help others understand Ojibwe culture and provide students the skills to succeed in a changing economy.

"The Bureau of Indian Affairs, The Indian Health Service, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development used to do a lot of things, now the tribes are doing these things themselves," Tadd Johnson said.

Johnson runs the MTAG program at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

The Masters of Tribal Administration and Governance graduated twenty–five students this year, many of whom plan to take up leadership positions at various reservations.

"The Fond du Lac Band has been supportive of the MTAG program," Chairwoman Karen Diver said. "This program helps to build the skills and abilities of our tribal members, and in the long run helps us grow and thrive. “

MTAG's first graduating class was in 2013.

In addition, the program is now offered online to students across the country.

"We thought if we put it online we would have an opportunity to provide those folks what they need to run their reservations," Johnson said.

The MTAG program teaches students principles of tribal sovereignty, tribal finance and budgets, and leadership and ethics.

"We actually have a course that is traditional leadership and ethics textbooks, but also incorporate traditional Anishinaabe beliefs with regard to leadership," Johnson said.

Building up students' sense of self is the imperative goal Johnson and DeLille are trying to infuse in the next generation of tribal leaders.

"The focus isn't so much of what we have lost, but on what we have and how we move on from here with what we have," DeLille said.

FDLTCC website: http://fdltcc.edu/
UMD MTAG website: http://www.d.umn.edu/~umdmtag/main/index.html

Nick Minock
nminock@kbjr.com