Carrie Billy Lectures on Efforts to Install Heritage and Tradition in Education


Speaker Carrie Billy speaks to students and faculty about integrating Native American heritage into schools. (Photo Credit: Adriano Cassoma)

Native American Conference

Carrie Billy, President and CEO of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) gave a lecture titled “Tribal Colleges and Universities: Strengthening Native Nations Through Tribal Higher Education.” She mentioned the issue of low success from American Indian students, who show a 50 percent high school dropout rate. The mission of Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) are to develop programs to increase the success rate of these students.

The basis of the curricula at TCUs is community. The programs offered at the colleges are provided for the success of the American Indian students and progression in careers in their respective tribes. These programs include Human Service, Business, Tribal Studies, Education, and Natural Resource Management. Many colleges have gone so far as to invite native studies and language into their classes. This gives students a way to engage further in their culture and strengthen communities. Something they find very important is training American Indian educators as a method of integrating more culture into the primary school system. Billy, being a member of Navaho Nation, attended primary school in her tribe. She described how she never had an American Indian teacher and she never felt very encouraged as a student. She said that higher education was based on expectations of her parents. It is because of her experiences and the experiences of others that made American Indian educators in high demand for these tribes. Billy is an example to the younger generation of American Indian students that there are better opportunities for them past high school.

The lecture was attended by many faculty members and professors who questioned the progress and motives of AIHEC. The questions ranged from opportunities for disabled and military personnel to Billy’s history as a former student in a tribal nation and her success. After the lecture, the attendees were given native food and pamphlets with more information.