The Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College has earned accreditation from the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium — or WINHEC. [Win-heck] The accreditation comes after college faculty worked for more than two years to integrate college coursework deeper within the Anishinaabe culture of the Fond du Lac tribal community. Reporter Melissa Townsend has the details.
STORY: FDLTCC GETS WINHEC ACCREDITATION
HOST: The Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College has earned accreditation from the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium — or WINHEC. [Win-heck] Reporter Melissa Townsend talked with faculty member Roxanne DeLille.
REPORTER: The Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, located in Cloquet, Minnesota, serves over 2000 students — some are Native and some are not.
The school is state accredited, but it has just earned a second accreditation. This one from the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium - or WINHEC for short.
The organization promotes teaching indigenous culture, spirituality and life ways in tribal colleges.
Roxanne DeLille is a faculty member at the college and she spearheaded the accreditation effort.
ROXANNE: The biggest push throughout history has been to assimilate. Well that simply hasn’t worked. And for those of us who have become highly assimilated, there's always been a hole, always been an emptiness, a lack that hasn’t been filled. (:16)
REPORTER: Delille says, with WINHEC’s help, Fond du Lac tribal college can help close this hole.
ROXANNE: Thinking about indigenous students coming in from various communities across the state, we don’t want them to leave here less Ojibwe than they came in. When they leave an educational environment, they should leave more grounded in who it is they are.
REPORTER: WINHEC accreditation required Roxanne and her colleagues to consult with Fond du Lac tribal elders about the tribe’s cultural standards and values that should be passed on to the next generation.
ROXANNE: And so we then started going back into the classes and asking ourselves - are we doing this? And if we are not, how do we insert this into the class? (:10)
REPORTER: Roxanne says her team decided to alter aspects of the American Indian Studies Department.
ROXANNE: I had received a grant for the preservation of traditional arts and we then did hide tanning - which people just simply don’t do anymore. We go out and purchase commercially tanned hides - they are very hard to work with but they are easy, they are accessible. To tan hides really is rigorous work.
REPORTER: So, she wondered, why should the students have to take physical education classes?
ROXANNE: Why do they have to take bowling or any other form of P.E. when in reality working hides is really hard work. And then we recognized it’s not just working hides, it’s also harvesting wild rice, it’s sugar bush, it’s dancing, it’s all these things we do. (:39)
REPORTER: Faculty are shifting course criteria, but to maintain their state accreditation they have to keep the state standards along with the new WINHEC Standards.
Roxanne says it hasn’t that difficult to meet both sets of standards, but she says, there is much more to do.
ROXANNE: The reality is most of us are Western educated and so that we see. And so we really have to be really focused on what is indigenous knowledge as opposed to how does a western world approach this. (:21)
REPORTER: I ask if the goal is to decolonize the minds of indigenous people.
ROXANNE: The idea of decolonization is that we were given a way to think, a way to be, and to decolonize is to let that go. You know - so there’s where I have my issue. I don’t know so much that we can decolonize because this is the world we live in. We live in houses, we have running water that comes from our taps, I drive a car - I like it. So there are many things that colonization have provided for us that really I don’t think anyone is prepared to give up. (:36)
The reality is this is the world we live in, but how do we maintain who we are as we go forward.
REPORTER: She says there are aspects of who indigenous people are and what they have always been that are still very valuable today.
ROXANNE: I think of a very wise elder in our midsts talked about - it’s time to step forward, don’t look back anymore. Pick up what’s on the trail and walk forward. It’s a very loose translation, loose summary if you will. I don’t know that we will decolonize so much as we will evolve. (:46)
REPORTER: Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College will be honored with accreditation from the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium at their conference in July.
For Minnesota Native News, I’m Melissa Townsend.
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