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The University of Minnesota Duluth
BRIDGE - Winter 2006, Volume 23, #1
Message from the Chancellor
Over the past five or six years a major commitment by the University of Minnesota Duluth has been to work as closely as possible with tribal colleges and grades PreK-12 on the reservation schools. Initially we attempted to determine what might be the best way that UMD could serve the American Indian population. It was clear that for many years the College of Education and Human Service Professions had prepared numbers of teachers and also the Department of Social Work had worked closely with reservations on the resolution of various issues. Although I only know Ruth Myers by reputation, it has been obvious to me she made an impact on the UMD campus in terms of Indian education, and UMD is honored to have a chair named the Ruth Myers Endowed Chair in American Indian Education. In addition, her reputation remains one of being strong and firm, but a gentle woman of wisdom. The inroads she made at UMD will never be forgotten, and her legacy will live on throughout generations of students.
About seven years ago I had the opportunity to meet a very charismatic individual, President Jack Briggs of Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College. Jack and I sat and discussed the many and various ways that UMD could interact with Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, but also with other tribal colleges. With Jack's vision, and under the directorship of Amy Bergstrom, who is now on staff in the College of Education and Human Service Professions, UMD embarked on a program with Fond du Lac Tribal College, the Gekinoo'imaagejig Program, which is Ojibwe for "the ones who teach." The focus of Gekinoo'imaagejig is to prepare American Indian students to teach on the reservations in tribal schools. UMD has also developed a Master's Cohort Program and has worked with the Twin Cities campus to develop an Ed.D. Cohort Program, which has included many American Indian administrators from tribal colleges. The Gekinoo'imaagejig program and the Tribal Master's Cohort to date have graduated approximately 35 American Indians with teaching credentials to return to the tribal schools. These programs have been designed in response to needs, first to elementary and secondary schools, and then in response to the specific administrative needs of Tribal Colleges. The campus has long had the Ojibwe language taught to students who are interested, both Indian and non-Indian. Through the leadership of Associate Dean Jackie Millslagle we have initiated a program cohort in PreK education with the Red Cliff Reservation, as well as the continuation and expansion of the Gekinoo'imaagejig Program. We are working with White Earth Tribal College, and are continuously reviewing the curriculum of our education programs to better serve all students by accurately responding to the needs of our American Indian students and Tribal Colleges.
We are a campus dedicated to listening and to responding to the needs of reservation schools and tribal colleges. Central to our future programming in American Indian education is the design and construction of an American Indian Center on the UMD campus. This facility would house the library and papers of Ruth Myers, as well as interactive classrooms and seminar rooms for UMD's American Indian Programs. The American Indian Center would also provide a focal point for all UMD American Indian Programs. We would hope to achieve this dream in the next few years.
Meeting Jack Briggs and working with the Gekinoo'imaagejig Program has certainly forcefully alerted me to the limitations of how as educators we have responded to American Indian educational needs. Clearly the work that we are doing now at UMD is a keener response to the culture as well as to the educational needs. If we are to continue to be successful, the equation of educational needs and cultural forces must be much clearer in the minds of all of us who are non-Indian in educating American Indians. We have much that we can learn from the American Indian culture, and use it to better inform all that we do in higher education; that is our goal at UMD, and certainly that goal has been a large factor in the success of the Gekinoo'imaagejig Program.
We believe we have an obligation to better understand the culture of our American Indian colleagues and through that understanding, to better care for our earth as a component of our educational programs.
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