In the fall of 1967, Hopi Action News reported that hippies
were invading Native communities throughout the Southwest. In direct
contrast to the missionaries and assimilationists who preceded them,
however, these alienated baby boomers venerated Indian cultures
and traditions. Armed with Frank Waters' Book of the Hopi
and John Neihardt's Black Elk Speaks, the long-haired vagabonds
hoped to learn from Indians, whose spiritual, ecological, and sacred
knowledge was lacking in modern American society. They embraced
tribalism as an alternative to their individualistic, bourgeois
upbringing. They attempted to emulate Indians by establishing communes,
living in tipis, growing their hair, and holding "powwow be-ins."
Of course many Native communities weren't exactly mutually enthused.
Cree folksinger Buffy Sainte Marie called the hippies "the worst
soul suckers," while the editors at Hopi Action News joked that
they could send the outsiders to the Pueblos who would "throw the
bearded society off the cliffs and mesas as they have historically
done with unwanted missionaries."
When viewed in its historical context, the hippy invasion of
Indian Country may seem strange and was probably pretty annoying
to many observers. But when one considers the traditional knowledge
that tribal communities possess it makes perfect sense. Whether
Hopi, Navajo, Winnebago, or Crow, traditional tribal knowledge has
been built up over millennia. In the grand scope of human history,
the emergence of modern industrial society is merely a flash in
the pan. Social scientists Joseph Henrich, Steven Heine, and Ana
Norenzayan have argued that Western-educated, industrialized, rich,
and democratic (as defined by the West) societies are outliers best
described by their acronym: WEIRD.
Nevertheless, the spread of Western culture has been ubiquitous,
working to undermine traditional ways and cultural knowledge. Modern
technological society often bills itself as superior or progressive
or advanced, but in truth it is relatively new and untested. In
our profit-driven, fast-paced, highly individualistic world, corporate
enterprises and state governments are quick to embrace new technologies,
methods of parenting, modes of social interaction, and foods and
chemicals to consume without considering their long-term effects.
Can we really say that sticking our elders in retirement homes and
assisted living facilities advances our society? In most tribal
societies, elders are revered, cherished, and valued for the knowledge
they possess and can pass down. Similarly, is it prudent to conclude
that the pediatrician-approved parenting strategies of the 21st
century that employ strollers and cribs instead of cradleboards,
encourage passive forms of entertainment, and compartmentalize family
members in separate rooms are superior? Perhaps these strategies
explain the rise of "Mommy and Me" classes that are increasingly
needed to teach children how to interact with their peers.
Since time immemorial, Native peoples have devised practical
solutions to myriad problems and continue to possess knowledge that
if forgotten, would be a great loss to all of humankind. To preserve
this knowledge requires effort. And tribal colleges and universities
(TCUs) are at the front lines, developing new strategies to protect
and preserve the lessons and wisdom of the past for the future.
In her feature article, "Like a Thunderbird," Rhonda LeValdo-Gayton
(Acoma Pueblo), former president of the Native American Journalists
Association and a faculty member at Haskell Indian Nations University,
illustrates the various ways TCUs across Indian Country are preserving
and protecting knowledge. From Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College in
Michigan to Wind River Tribal College in Wyoming, maintaining culture
and language remains the core of the greater TCU mission. LeValdo-
Gayton also underscores the important role that elders continue
to play in achieving that mission.
At Diné College and Sinte Gleska University, faculty
are working to record the wisdom of the elders for posterity. Using
state-of-the-art digital media, these two TCUs are paving the way
by archiving oral histories that can be accessed with the click
of a button. Readers can view and learn about these documentaries
If these elders' wisdom reaches the wider community where it
can become living knowledge, much of the battle has been won. In
the feature, "A Hundred Ways of Learning," Martha Lee builds on
this premise, maintaining that teaching and learning about cultural
knowledge is a community endeavor. Lee points to Tohono O'odham
Community College, where a board of advisors known as the Himdag
Committee seeks to incorporate the operations of the college into
the O'odham way of lifeand not the other way around. This
distinction is crucial, as it puts O'odham culture front and center
and elevates the role of the larger community in the people's education.
Elise Krohn, an instructor of traditional plants and foods at
Northwest Indian College, likewise recognizes the importance of
involving everyone in the learning process. In this issue's Talking
Circle, Krohn stresses that teaching is most effective when people
collaborate as a group and share their experiences. She and her
students frequently work in the field as a unit, collecting, identifying,
and cooking traditional Native foods of the Pacific Northwest. The
AIHEC Student Congress (ASC) joins Krohn in emphasizing the vital
role that knowledge of traditional plants and foods can play for
tribes. By strengthening food sovereignty, people gain greater control
over their own communities. Jamelyn Ebelacker (Santa Clara Pueblo),
vice-president of ASC, discusses what TCU students can do to foster
this process in TCJ's Voices column.
An active and interested student body is crucial in TCUs' overall
efforts to protect and preserve cultural knowledge. And so is funding.
Fortunately, as Tanksi Clairmont (Lakota) illuminates in her article,
"For Future Generations," the American Indian College Fund has partnered
with the National Endowment for the Humanities to offer TCUs financial
resources to implement new plans and programs. Little Big Horn College,
Navajo Technical University, and Oglala Lakota College, among others,
have tapped these funds to fulfill their cultural missions.
Such investments will ultimately help shape the cultural knowledge
of generations to come. It is essential that such knowledge is venerated
to motivate people to preserve it and pass it on. TCUs are working
hard to do just that.
Diamond, J. (2012). The World Until Yesterday. New York:
Smith, S. L. (2012). Hippies, Indians, and the Fight for Red
Power. New York: Oxford University Press.
Bradley Shreve, Ph.D., is managing editor of Tribal College
Journal. He thanks Dr. Maggie George, Ed McCombs, and Harry Walters
at Diné College for their assistance with the Raymond Johnson
images featured in this issue.
Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC)
AIHEC is the collective spirit and unifying voice of our nations
37 Tribal Colleges and Universitiesa unique community of tribally
and federally chartered institutions working to strengthen tribal
nations and make a lasting difference in the lives of American Indians
and Alaska Natives. Since 1972, AIHEC serves its network of member
institutions through public policy, advocacy, research, and program
initiatives to ensure strong tribal sovereignty through excellence
in American Indian higher education.
Tribal College Journal (TCJ)
On behalf of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium's member
tribal colleges and universities, TCJ provides information for everyone
interested in American Indian higher education. TCJ's culture-based
publication addresses subjects important to the future of American
Indian and Alaska Native communities utilizing both journalistic
and scholarly articles and has become a forum for college staff,
faculty, administrators, and students to discuss their needs, successes,
and evolving missions.