Meeting of the Tribal Colleges

[imgbelt img=aihec4.jpg]Once a year, students from 37 tribal colleges get together. There’s serious business here…and not-so serious business.


hand games contests continued to draw students this year who tried to outdo each other in distracting moves and elaborate masks.

I noted a lot more ‘bling’ in the jewelry overall and a whole lot more height in the women’s shoes. There were also competitions featuring the computer gaming system Wii as well as a film festival.

AIHEC represents 37 tribal colleges in the U.S. and one in Canada, and once a year they get together. Last month, they gathered in Bismarck, North Dakota, for their annual competition that tests their levels of accomplishment against their peers. 

The competitions for general knowledge, science and critical inquiry were serious business in which two teams of three to four students competed against each other. In a game show style, they used buzzers to indicate they would like to answer the presenter’s questions. The presenter kept a close eye on the audience to ensure no signs or information was passed along to contestants.  

The tension was palpable as I made my way through the hallways of the Civic Center, which was full of small, fervent knots of Indian students, their heads bent together as they devised last minute strategies. About 900 students attended this year’s event. Past years have seen much larger attendance but organizers speculated that the slow economy might have kept people away this year.

But no matter, the students were excited and proud. This annual event offers a priceless opportunity for tribal college students to showcase their knowledge and accomplishments outside of their schools. Many sat for long hours traveling to Bismarck in their colleges’ older model buses to get here.