Accreditation, tribal governments, and the development of governing boards at tribal colleges in Montana and Washington
Wabaunsee, Rissa McCullough, 1950-
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In the tumult of the 1960's, groups of Indian intellectuals sought to create community colleges that would be responsive to reservation Indians' needs and reflect tribal traditions. In order to qualify for Federal funds and to ensure respectability in the higher education community, these tribal colleges needed to be accredited. This study is an in-depth look at the effects of accreditation on the role of the board of trustees and the boards' relationship with tribal governments at the eight tribal colleges served by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges.Approaching the topic through historical document review encompassing the years during which the tribal colleges applied for and were granted full accreditation, the study tracks a set of formal interactions between the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges and the tribal college concerning governing boards. Special emphasis is paid to the colleges' relationship to the tribal councils that chartered them.Open systems organizational theory directed attention to two important organizations that are found in the tribal college's environments--the accrediting association and the tribal governments. The struggle between these organizations and the effects that can be seen in the manner in which the governing board role developed and changed is most important.The tribal colleges in this study have succeeded and flourished in this environment. The colleges have changed to accommodate accreditation requirements. The Commission has protected the colleges from the tribal government. But, the colleges paid a price for this "protection", a reduction in their "Indianness".These findings lead to implications for practice for tribal college board members and tribal college administrators. The relationship with the tribal government is important and must be cultivated. Sharing information is important. Developing good board members is a must. The use and timing of the Commission's clout in tribal government-tribal college power struggles is very important.The suggestions for further study include studying this topic at the other regional accrediting agencies, studying this topic in depth by use of case study methodology, and studying tribal government management practices.
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