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  • Capturing Education: Envisioning and Building the First Tribal Colleges by Paul Boyer
  • Lionel R. Bordeaux
Capturing Education: Envisioning and Building the First Tribal Colleges. By Paul Boyer. Pablo, MT: Salish Kootenai College Press, 2015. ix + 110 pp. $12.95 paper.

My memories of the early days of the tribal colleges are still fresh, forty-five years after I became the first Lakota president of Sinte [End Page 320] Gleska University. Reading Paul Boyer's Capturing Education, I'm reminded how hard, yet rewarding, that journey has been. Boyer taps into the key events of six colleges, using dissertations, interviews, and correspondence with five of my colleagues, recounting a brief history of the Tribal College Movement, particularly the founding era of the late 1960s and 1970s. These years laid a foundation for tribally controlled higher education. It's a tidy and compelling story of how Northern Plains Tribes and the Dine radically changed American Indian education and tribal livelihood.

That our colleges continue to exist and expand our reach and influence is a main theme of Boyer's narrative as he weaves the stories. These shared accounts give testament to the founders' sheer will and tenacity, reaching a crescendo in telling the struggle to gain passage of the Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities Assistance Act of 1978. Bureaucratic and racial barriers seemed insurmountable then. An admonition by one elected congressional official when we asked for support steeled our resolve and still drives me to this day. He said a pursuit of tribal colleges by tribal nations was honorable, but we were misguided. He said that tribal people were good with our hands and should stick with the arts and crafts, and, if we really wanted to do something meaningful for our reservations, we should flood them with chicken coops and hog pens, that this was our future! These experiences unified us in our common mission, and Boyer relays the presidents' memories with great facility, showing how they and their fledgling colleges grew stronger together through forging the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, a still powerful, unified voice for tribal colleges.

Since the National Science Foundation funded Boyer's work as a research monograph, it's disappointing that more key leaders from the early era are not included. Even so, he manages to capture the essence and energy of the Tribal College Movement, recounting with great affection the heart and soul of this most dynamic grassroots effort. The affinity he shares with his sources even gives the book a novella quality. Often called one of the best-kept secrets in higher education, Capturing Education lets the reader in on this secret with Boyer disclosing just the right amount of first- and secondhand information.

Lionel R. Bordeaux
Sinte Gleska University
Mission, South Dakota


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pp. 320-321
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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