Intern Sees Stories in Numbers

Larissa, a pre-med major and College Fund intern. Oki (hello).  I attended Blackfeet Community College for a year and a half, where I learned of this internship opportunity through the American Indian College Fund as a Tribal College and University research intern.  I knew that a new journey was starting anew.  I was excited, nervous, but mostly ready to take that step.

This internship has been one of my best experiences.  From it I have learned that numbers tell stories.  Sometimes it’s not the story we necessarily want, but it allows for the research to show what is happening and gives people the opportunity to be able to change that.  I look forward to taking some of the information and great examples back to my TCU at home to share the information.  In addition, the College Fund administration, staff, my fellow intern, and my supervisor have been so positive, so inspiring and supportive.

I will be transferring from Blackfeet Community College this fall to attend the University of Montana.  I’m working toward a bachelor’s degree in Cell Biology/Neuroscience.   My ultimate goal is to attend and complete medical school. It is said that one must have a support system in place and more importantly that we turn to our support when we need it.  I am very fortunate to have a strong support system in place and I don’t hesitate to turn to it when I need to.

I encourage my fellow students to never give up, to strive for better, and to take advantage of opportunities for growth.  The world is full of people who have made a difference in the life of someone, I encourage each of you to become one of these people.

Kiitakittamatsin….See you again.

Larissa Horn is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe from Browning, Montana.  She served as an intern at the American Indian College Fund in the summer of 2015.

College Fund Research Intern Presents at National Family and Community Engagement Conference

College Fund intern at the University of DenverYá’át’ééh!

My name is Cassandra Harden. I am a graduated from  Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI) with an associate’s degree in early childhood education who is  currently working as a Tribal College and University (TCU) research intern for the College Fund.

As part of my duties I had the recent opportunity to attend and present at the National Family and Community Engagement Conference in Chicago.  I presented with the SIPI team Dr. Danielle Lansing and Rebecca Izzo-Manymules about SIPI’s  K’é Early Childhood Initiative: Responsive Engagement Opportunities for Native Children and Families project. I spoke about my one-year internship with SIPI’s Wakanyeja “Sacred Little Ones” and K’é Early Childhood Initiatives programs and how I developed my  skills of how to be culturally responsive to Native children and families. I also shared my experiences with SIPI’s early childhood education initiatives.

Presenting at a conference for SIPI This was a different experience for me because I presented to both a Native and non-Native audience. I had to adjust the context of the presentation for the audience to understand Native and Navajo formal introductions, culture, language, and customs throughout the presentation. Through this experience I learned to be more open-minded and to adjust my presentation and articulation to the audience’s understanding.

As I attended the National Family and Community Engagement Conference I gained new knowledge that helped me to think more nationally, and even globally. The conference had great motivational speakers, sessions, and discussions revolving around family engagement and community improvement. There were 1,100 people who registered for this conference representing 47 states. There were educators, parents, students, and people of all different nationalities in attendance. Our group represented Tribal Colleges and Universities, the College Fund, SIPI, Sitting Bull College, College of Menominee Nation, and Northwest Indian College, all located in  New Mexico, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Washington.

Presenting for SIPI ECEAs a future Native early childhood educator I  was moved by some of the statements made at the conference. Attending this conference enhanced my knowledge and awareness for the inclusion of all people on a national and local level. I certainly will utilize the experience I gained within my field and as a TCU Research Intern. It was an honor and an excellent opportunity to expand myself as a Diné student, educator, and researcher.

Cassandra is interning at the American Indian College Fund this summer in the Office of Research and Special Programs.

Ké’ Family Engagement : It’s Too Easy to Get Caught Up in the Craze of Today’s World

Written by: Michelle Wilson

Get the kids to bed!
Research says people benefit from 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night! Is that why we had a meltdown at the grocery store today? Is the baby going to sleep tonight? How on earth am I going to function at work? Did I buy diapers? Are we feeding our kids enough vegetables? Did we order the middle school yearbook? Why, oh why, can’t I have more than two cups of coffee a day…is that really spit up on my shirt and how long has it been there?

In the life of a parent, there is so much to keep up with that it can be easy to forget to slow down and enjoy the ride. I have to take a moment and remind myself that the children are only going to be this small once. Some day, my boys are going to be grown and start families of their own. The days of baby cuddles will be remembered only in my heart. The days of waking up early on the weekends for youth league soccer will be replaced with a phone call from college. Take time to slow down and cherish all of the firsts, because before you know it, they will be nothing but sweet memories.

This is what the Sacred Little Ones Ké’ Family Engagement Initiative has taught me.
It is a beautiful reminder of what is truly important in life. Our children. Our family. The bills and the chores can wait (trust me they are not going anywhere). Take the time to make bath time fun or listen to the latest happening in middle school. This is what really matters: Being present for your children to show them, teach them And to love them.

Our trip to the Great Wolf Lodge gave our family the opportunity to do that. The Sacred Little Ones program took care of the logistics and funded the whole trip. There were literally no worries! That was the greatest gift of all. For one weekend the stress of daily life melted away and we were free to just have fun and enjoy each other! Laptops and email were replaced with Slushees and smiles! There are no words that can express how grateful I am for the gift of carefree family time. We got to reconnect with one another. Mother and child. Father and child. Husband and wife.

Time will march on and the complications of daily life will come creeping back, but every time I trip over the fuzzy wolf ears I am going to stop, smile, and remember. Take the time to play. Take the time to laugh. Take the time to listen. Take time to love. Be a family.

Pueblo of Jemez –Photo Voice Showcase

Presented by Alyssa Yeppa and Stacie Barney

Introducing Lana Toya

Our Parent Photo Voice team had the great honor of having Walatowa Headstart Program Manager, Lana Toya, enlighten us with their Photo Voice project and journey.  Lana shared information on the project’s foundation, development, motivation and their efforts to transform a head start to a language immersion program in Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico.  Lana Toya emphasized to our parents that passion of retaining cultural identity, language, and motivation in our community is only the beginning of great universal family changes that can happen. We were also happy to have the company of Santa Clara Photo Voice Head Start Director and representative at our location.

Lana shared her knowledge on all aspects of leading a Photo Voice project including how to maintain participation.  Through her commitment, she has been able to share with tribal leaders of the Pueblo of Jemez the hopes and dreams of parents.  Ms. Toya shared how the center shared the Photo Voice projects during a community showcase and an ongoing display.  This provided some great ideas for SIPI’s parent team.

Lana shared information regarding her experiences with parent participation in the Photo Voice project.   Walatowa’s Photo Voice attracted a high parental involvement because it captivated parents’ interests of their willingness to share their dynamics of family, culture, traditions, and values. Lana shared with the group the amount of planning and commitment required of parents in the project.  She also shared her knowledge of how to facilitate a Photovoice project.

Walatowa’s Photo Voice project initiated an ongoing study of how to transform early childhood education in Jemez Pueblo.  Lana shared her experience of traveling to other places and other schools to investigate how those schools transformed into a language immersion program. This willingness to change their program derived from the parents sharing their interests through the Photo Voice reflections. Lana and her Head Start staff from the Pueblo of Jemez were able to travel to Hawaii and learn how those schools evolved into a preservation of language, curriculum and even, written language books.  It made her realize the infinite potential there is to evolving her Head Start program into a language preservation center.

Overall, this Parent Photo Voice event was a great turnout for visions and limitless ambitions to be developed amongst SIPI’s parent participants.  Parents were able to address great questions to Lana. The perspectives parents had for Lana were intriguing and engaging, this could have carried on, but as time permitted we ended the night with a scrumptious dinner.

Wakanyeja Sacred Little Ones & K’é Family Engagement Initiative Presents: “SIPI YDI Community Planting Event”

Blog By: Marissa Analla & Cassie Harden

The Wakanyeja Sacred Little Ones and K’é Family Engagement Initiatives presents Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute “YDI Community Planting Event” held on Tuesday April 28th, 2015 from 4:30-6:00pm. This event took place just west of the SIPI/YDI center in the YDI heritage garden. This event attracted a variety of participants including; teachers from the center, children, families, ECE staff members, and interns. As the YDI parents and children were arriving, they were welcomed and signed in by, student intern, Cassie Harden. The event day weather was beautiful and calm, with a light breeze flowing around us. The sun shined high above making this a perfect day to plant some seeds. The event kicked off at 4:30pm with the children, families, and participants gathering just outside of the heritage garden. YDI parent Donovan Barney came forth with his daughter to speak about the planting event and to say a prayer for the families and garden.

After Donovan’s prayer and blessing of the garden, a SIPI facility staff member gathered the participants near the garden and spoke about the seeds that were going to be planted that day such as the chili, melon, and corn seeds. The chili and melon seeds were donated by staff, and the corn seeds were dried up and kept from last year’s garden within the care of the SIPI 4 preschool classroom. He spoke about the planting of the seeds, in particular the location and proximity of plants to one another. The corn seeds will be in the east rows, the melon seeds in the middle rows, and the chili seeds planted in the west rows. The children from infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their older siblings began to enter the heritage garden one by one. Families and participants were able to witness the children plant the seeds on this beautiful day. The children planted seeds on their own and with some assistance from family and staff. The first seeds to be planted were the corn seeds, then the melon, and the chili seeds were planted using plastic gloves and a spoon to protect the children’s hands.

SIPI staff assisted each child with a hands-on learning experience of placing the seeds in the child’s hands and having them place them in a small hole within the ground. Then, the child was able move the dirt gently over the seeds, and even some children gently patted the dirt down. One by one each child was able to take turns in planting all of the seeds within the heritage garden. The infants had the assistance of their parent’s to plant the seeds. Through this experience children were able to make the connections of how to plant seeds, how a garden is started, and how food is grown and produced to nourish our bodies. This gave the YDI families the opportunity to be engaged with their children by participating in this event.

After the children planted all of the corn, melon, and chili seeds they were directed with their families to the SIPI Science and Technology Atrium where dinner was served. Dinner was provided by Mexican food from Twisters, and paid for by the Wakanyeja Sacred Little Ones program funding. After the families headed toward the SIPI S&T Atrium, a few parents and teachers stayed behind to begin watering the YDI heritage garden. Staff explained to the parents and teachers about how much water was needed for the heritage garden and the timeframe of days to water the garden throughout the upcoming weeks. This year we are all hoping for a successful garden filled with red chili, melons, and corn. The vegetables and fruits produced from this garden will then be harvested later within the year and given out to the YDI families.

This planting event was another successful learning opportunity for all participants who attended. This gave the young children the enjoyment of planting, and understanding of how agriculture is an important component to Native people. Together we witnessed the children’s motivation and willingness to be part of the planting event. A statement from a family participant was, “I enjoyed myself. The prayer and seeing the kids and the planting made me feel hope, faith and happiness. Knowing our creator wants us to be happy.”  This planting event has truly impacted the lives of Native children and families within our SIPI and YDI communities. Thank You Wakanyeja Sacred Little Ones and Ké Family Engagement Initiatives for making this event possible for Native children, families, and community.

College4Kids Program Features Pigs, Pancakes and Maple

If you give a pig a pancake — oh, the adventure you will have!  Maple sugaring was the theme for this Saturday’s College 4 Kids session. Children and their families attending the College of Menominee Nation’s College 4 Kids on March 21 enjoyed the adventures in Laura Numeroff’s book titled If You Give a Pig a Pancake.  The adventures included taking a bath, dancing, building a tree house, and sending pictures to friends.  Ms. Numeroff’s book was read to the children while they enjoyed hot pancakes and real maple syrup.  The CMN Saturday activities are designed to engage parents in learning with their children.  The pancake activity was able to address the physical, cognitive, language and social/emotional developmental domains of the children during the snack time. For the physical domain the children were able to pour maple syrup and cut their pancake into bite size pieces. During the snack activity the children were able to hear the alliterative P sounds in pig and pancake and recall the story sequence when the book was re-read.  Reading the book and asking children to predict and then recall the story was done to address the children’s cognitive and language domains. Socially/emotionally the children were able to participate in the snack by taking turns and following directions to receive their pancake and sit together and enjoy.

There are two other stations for the parents and children to participate in; the Literacy Corner and the Creativity Room. Each activity is aligned with a book representing the week’s theme. In the Literacy Corner every week a version of the book There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a ___is read. This week the book was There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly.  Reading the same book has been very successful because there is a built in familiarity with the book only what is swallowed changes each session. This is set up as a puppet stage and children are able to interact with the Old Lady story by depositing the items she swallowed through her mouth and they land in her stomach.  In the Creativity Room , a book about maple sugaring was read. Then maple leaves were designed, cut out and attached to a picture frames along with sequins, glitter and other cutouts per each child’s design. Pictures of each child were taken and by the end of the session were inserted into the picture frame and given to the child’s parent.  In addition children were able to cut maple leaves out of play dough. At another activity station, the children were able to paint their very own maple tree after reading about maple sugaring.  During these two activity sessions parents work alongside their child to engage and compete in the fun!

Emeritus Trustee Gail Bruce Honored by Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Multicultural Audience Development Initiative

American Indian College Fund emeritus trustee Gail Bruce was honored at a special reception on March 9 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Multicultural Audience Development Initiative (MADI), as part of Women’s History Month. Gail was one of the original founders of the American Indian College Fund and is an entrepreneur, artist, and American Indian activist, and was honored for her work at the Met as well as her work in Native higher education.

Gail says she was fascinated with American Indian issues ever since she was a child. She remembers her family moving from Chicago to the West Coast when she was five years old, and getting off the train in Albuquerque. She says she wandered away from her family to follow a group of Indians, her curiosity piqued by their colorful clothing and jewelry. That interest in Native cultures has spanned an entire lifetime.

As a young woman in California, Gail befriended a Native elder from the Chumash nation who she came to call “Grandfather” and his good friend Rolling Thunder. From Grandfather Gail says she learned about the many social and economic problems facing American Indians. “I talked with them about what I could do to help. Both men said, ‘Education, that’s what our people need. We have to educate our people’.”

Grandpa’s message stuck with Gail, and years later in Florida on a movie shoot with her husband she met the actress Anne Sward Hansen. A few years later Anne moved to New York City and reconnected with Gail. It was the early 1980s and the oil crisis was in full swing. The high cost of heating oil combined with a cold, bitter winter hit American Indians on the Great Plains the hardest. Many elders and children were dying from the cold, unable to afford to heat their homes. Anne, an actress on the CBS soap opera “As the World Turns” mobilized her connections at the studio, and secured donations of clothes, blankets, and winter coats, which were delivered to the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations in South Dakota.

Anne was later invited to the reservations to be honored for her work and there she saw how the schools were the centers of the communities. Anne was hooked. A few years later, during the Reagan era, cuts across the education sector were set to impact American Indians the most. The American Indian Higher Education Consortium created the American Indian College Fund (the College Fund) to solicit donations from the private sector to supplant dollars that would be lost through federal funding. Anne was named the first chairman of the board of the American Indian College Fund, and she recruited Gail to help with a book drive. “Who knew that over 25 years later I would still be doing this,” Gail said. “From that minute on, I was committed.”

Gail is a rare woman who has melded her passions—her love of the arts and American Indian issues. She has served as an adviser at: the National Museum of the American Indian in New York, the Association on American Indian Affairs and Wings of America promoting active lifestyles and healthy living. She conceived of and built 29 cultural learning centers at the tribal colleges in 12 states, which kicked off the College Fund’s Sii Ha Sin, capital campaign, and founded UNRESERVED American Indian Fashion and Art Alliance, creating internships for native youth. In addition, she worked with the Met’s MADI committee to create internships for Native American students in the museum studies field at the Met. The internship opportunity gives Native students the opportunity to work at one of the largest and best museums in the world alongside a mentor to develop their professional skills, while also giving them the chance to curate artwork from their own cultures. “It has always bothered me that Native arts have been overseen predominately by white curators and for the most part they don’t know the spiritually involved in looking after these collections,” Gail said. She also helped the students adjust to life in a big city environment, providing them with a place to live at her studio and serving as a base for them while they were in New York. After her studio became a 24/7 business, she worked tirelessly to find them other affordable housing that was homier during their internship. Gail speaks glowingly of the students that have enriched her life over the years and their many accomplishments.

One recent intern who benefitted from the Gail’s work to get the Met’s internship program off the ground is Bradley Pecore, a museum studies alumnus from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Bradley, a member of the Menominee/Mohican tribe of Wisconsin, grew up on the Stockbridge-Munsee reservation, where he developed an interest in sculpture and painting as a young boy. He is currently finishing his Ph.D. at Cornell University while he works at the National Museum of the American Indian.

Gail realized a long-time dream when she was at the MET to witness their public opening of “The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky” exhibition this month as well. She was asked to curate the merchandising kiosk at the exit of the exhibition. “For the first time the MET is showing reservation-based artists that would normally never have a chance to show their work in New York City, much less at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  This show, at one of the major museums in the world, is an important acknowledgment and validation of Native American art and I am so pleased.”

The College Fund could not be prouder of Gail and offers its hearty congratulations on a well-deserved honor.

Tribal College Students Embracing ECE Initiatives at NWIC

Things are moving fast at the Northwest Indian College and the Lummi community.  For the last three and a half years of collaboration and planning on behalf of the Wakanyeja “Sacred Little Ones” Early Childhood Education Initiative by the American Indian College Fund, the leadership and partnerships have created many exciting new opportunities for families and children in the Lummi community.  The Wakanyeja ECE initiative, , has supported the incubation of these projects and collaborations, and allowed us to build a foundation that will support the continuation of these amazing partnerships.

The early learning center at Northwest Indian College has made great strides in our overall quality and has enrolled in the Washington State Department of Early Learning’s Early Achievers program.  Early Achievers is a quality rating and improvement system for state licensed child care programs that is providing support, resources, and guidance for early learning center management and staff as we work to provide an environment where young children and families will thrive.  The support we receive from the Wakanyeja ECE initiative and the Ké’ Early Childhood Education Initiative allows us to meet these quality goals.

Furthermore, the Wakanyeja ECE initiative is helping to enrich the curricula used at all of our partner early learning programs.  Every Professional Learning Community participant has received an Identity Safety Literacy Kit and a classroom enhancement stipend, to ensure that teachers are using instructional materials that foster place-based education and create culturally responsive learning environments.

The Wakanyeja ECE initiative and Ké’ ECE leadership teams have also created new connections between the numerous early learning and family support programs in the Lummi community.  The Ey’ Snat Family Fun events were previously limited to families with children enrolled in the Lummi Head Start and Early Head Start programs.  The Ké’ ECE team has worked to bridge the gaps between families served by these programs and the NWIC Early Learning Center, Lummi Childcare and the Teen Parent Child Development Center.  Recent events have included a traditional Lummi salmon BBQ, Coast Salish art lessons, drum making, and dancing.  By welcoming families from the numerous early learning programs, and pairing health and wellness information and resources with Lummi cultural activities, the participation in these events has skyrocketed.  We look forward to many more of these wonderful family centered events as we continue to strengthen the web of early childhood and family support programs.

Alicia Allard is the Early Learning Center Director at Northwest Indian College



NWIC Brings Family Engagement to Lummi Community

Our first Family Engagement activity was an Ey’ Snat Family Fun Night in September held in conjunction with Sacred Little Ones partner site Lummi Head Start. We wanted families to get to experience a salmon barbeque with salmon cooked in the traditional way.

Lummi fisher, Dana Wilson, had the participants skewer chunks of salmon on long ironwood sticks then he propped the sticks near the fire to cook.  The barbeque took place on a warm fall evening, on the beach, where children enjoyed playing near the water, elders visited, families ate, and Head Start and Northwest Indian College (NWIC) staff enjoyed the great turn-out.

The October Ey’ Snat was an Art Event! We began with a meal at the head start then Bill Jefferson, Lummi artist, shared some of his knowledge about traditional Coast Salish art forms. Families and young children got to do painting with those art forms, and take their artwork home. They were so pleased.

November’s event was a family play evening, where parents and family members brought their young ones to share a meal and play and play and play. Additional adults came without their children to be members of the “Play Team” who could add playfulness and extra resource to this family time. When half the parents went to the building next door for a support group, the Play Team and other half of the parents stayed out to play. The second half of parents also got their support group as well. There was much activity and while there were no physical take-homes, there were smiles and joy and a sense of peace as families departed. Parents and children connecting through play made children’s eyes shine. Participating in the brief but safe parents’ support group brought out the smiles on family members’ relaxed faces as well.

The December Ey’ Snat Family Fun Night in conjunction with our partner, Lummi Head Start, was a wonderful success, though in unexpected ways. That is, we did not expect the gathering to draw 125 people, as we had planned for 60… Our invitation “went viral,” and we were glad it did!  We loved having so many families of young children there, and we received lots of support from the Silver Reef Hotel Casino & Spa to accommodate everyone.  The catering department opened a second banquet room, added tables to the area between the two rooms, and served delicious food. The Silver Reef did a fabulous job of keeping the food coming, finding room for everyone, and treating us all so well.

Children and families ate and made several engaging and fun “make-and-take” activities.  Due to unforeseen, but surmountable challenges, our activities were more Christmas crafts and less traditional crafts than originally planned.  However, Lummi traditional values of generosity, working together toward a common goal, valuing family, and sharing and caring were fully engaged. And believe us when we say, that making scarves with a Seattle Seahawks applique was a hit of tremendous proportions for this wonderful occasion!

In January, we held our second Family Play evening, with more Play Team members than before. The parents’ support groups were eagerly attended in the middle of the event, and we initiated a Play Team members’ support group (for the adults and teens who came without children to support the children and families) after the families went home. It was lovely to hear each person’s delight with the evening and their part in it.

Enthusiasm was high for the next one, which took place February 6th.  With over 40 participants, it was our biggest turnout yet!

The Tse’lala Parent Advocacy Group continues to meet on a weekly basis, and family engagement/community empowerment is in full swing at Lummi. These parents are committed to strengths-based, asset-oriented approaches to supporting their children’s education and educators. They introduced themselves to the tribal council in December, and at that time, the Tribal Chairman assigned two council members who are themselves parents, to attend  the Tse’lala group as part of their community participation as Council members.

Being able to interact with and involve parents more fully has been a big and joyful job! We look forward to our next Ey’ Snat Family Fun Night with Head Start on Thursday, February 12. This time we will be at the Wex Liem Community Building with a variety of traditional crafts and some songs and dances for the young ones and their families.

Tribal College Week Brings TCU Students to D.C.

The AIHEC student delegation in Washington, D.C. at the National Museum of the American Indian during the AIHEC Winter meetings.

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) winter meetings for Tribal College Presidents and Students.  Each year representatives from the 37 different tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) meet up for an advocacy workshop and Capitol Hill visits. It was amazing to see 150 representatives in one room, ready to share their TCUs’ story. The students were especially inspiring. For many of them, this was their first visit to Washington, D.C. They were excited and eager to fill the halls of House and Senate building to share the importance of their TCU with their State’s representatives.

The students had prepared their two-three minute stories, shared and practiced with their fellow students, and were encouraging and proud of one another. Because so many TCUs are isolated, many students have never met one another. It was wonderful to see them make connections with other tribal college students and share their similarities and differences! I was so impressed with the initiative students made to find these connections with one another.

It was a wonderful experience to learn not only from our students but from other Native American organizations and supporters located in Washington, D.C. It was a great reminder that we are all seeking the same thing: to empower and strengthen Native Americans and their communities. Meeting to discuss and share our successes is important to achieving our goals. I hope to see this event grow with even more students and tribal college representatives attending. It is important to have this presence in Washington D.C. and to advocate for the importance of tribal colleges and universities.

Tiffany Gusbeth, at NCAI National Congress of American Indians at the Embassy of Tribal Nations  during Tribal College Week in Washington, D.C.  Tiffany is the Internships and Career Readiness Program Administrator in the Student Success Services department at the College Fund. Learn more about the career center and services offered at