College has major new American Indian studies initiative in planning stage

Jul 26, 2017 By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

A new "flagship" program being developed at Central Wyoming College takes advantage of the school's proximity to the Wind River Indian Reservation.

The concept is part of an ongoing effort to promote unique learning opportunities at CWC.

For example, in May CWC president Brad Tyndall talked about plans for an Alpine Science Institute that highlights student studies in the mountains of Wyoming.

Similarly, the Institute of Tribal Learning is intended to capitalize on opportunities for students and visitors to learn about American Indian culture through CWC.

"It would be an institute that serves everybody," Tyndall said. "(It could) rise to regional and maybe national prominence. ... That's the big, bold vision we have."

The institute would focus on strategies to better educate tribal students, he continued, with programs developed in partnership with tribal leaders from Fremont County and throughout the country.

"There's a tribal wisdom aspect to this," Tyndall said. "It's not just the health-care sector or education - you're also looking at tribal elders and culture. That's part of the fabric."

Tyndall and other administrators already have been working with public school principals on the Wind River reservation to find ways to provide better service to tribal students, and next month he will use his presentation at the Native American Education Conference in St. Stephen's as an opportunity to gather input about the Institute of Tribal Learning idea.

"Since the vision really belongs to the tribes, (we want) to garner their ideas," Tyndall said.

The curriculum also would be made in partnership with the Wyoming Public Broadcasting Service, which recently developed several online videos and lesson plans featuring the tribes of the Wind River reservation.

"Partnering with Wyoming PBS is a big part of this vision," Tyndall said.

In time, he would like to create a growing "society of people" promoting reservation education, in part by hosting conferences, trainings and other events at CWC that draw nationwide participation.

Sessions would benefit local residents, too - both new and old. Recalling his family's arrival in Fremont County several years ago, Tyndall said it was difficult to find information about the tribes of the region.

"At the Chamber of Commerce there was one mention, 'If you're going to be in the area or live in Riverton, go to a powwow, and don't say "costumes," say "regalia,"'" Tyndall said. "That was good advice, (but I wondered), 'What else do I need to know?'"

He envisions regular presentations to schools and local civic organizations that would better inform area residents about tribal cultures.

"I think there's a desperate need, (and) we'd do a bang-up job on that," Tyndall said.

CWC trustees were complimentary of the Institute of Tribal Learning idea during meetings this summer.

"I'm delighted to see this," Trustee Paula Hunker said. "It's very cool."

Trustee Colton Crane said it "looks like a great plan."

"It's very well thought out," he said. "I hope you'll keep us apprised of progress."

As with the Alpine Science Institute, Tyndall said the Institute of Tribal Learning will be supported by CWC's marketing department, which will feature relevant images in CWC literature, posters and brochures.