Episode 1 Tribal College Movement Podcast
Tribal College Movement Podcast
Tom Davis joins Christine Reidhead in this episode to talk about his journey, challenges, and successes in the Tribal College Movement. He is one of the founding fathers of the movement, being involved for over fifty years.
Christine asks Tom to take us back to when he first started in the movement, with Tom insisting that the whole story begins before that. He talks about getting a job after college on the Menominee Reservation before it was even a reservation. We learn about the report that set the stage for the Tribal College Movement and the radical parents of students who decided they would form their own school.
Tom recalls the crazy advertisement that he saw for a job at the school and says that though it didn’t make a lot of sense, he decided to apply anyway. He shares information about the discussions he had with his wife before accepting this job, which didn’t offer as much stability as some of the other opportunities that Tom had. We then hear about the Drums Movement that was simultaneously going on at the reservation and how it began, as well as its outcome.
The Drums Movement didn’t particularly like the Menominee County Community School. Tom remarks that, ironically, the people behind the school were attracted to the key figures of the Drums Movement because they were looking for a way to gain power in the Menominee political situation. He then discusses the high dropout rate among the Indian children being another motivator for the establishment of the new school. Helen Maynor Scheirbeck is then introduced to the story. Tom says that she entered the Menominee situation because she had been peripherally involved in developing Rough Rock Community School in Arizona.
Tom continues on and shares what it was like when he went to work at the Menominee school for the first time. He talks about a child that he noticed upon his entrance and what happened when Tom went to his classroom and waited for students to arrive. He was shocked that no children arrived and was told that he had to go find some himself.
This led to Tom’s involvement with Helen and the Coalition of Indian Controlled School Boards, as well as meeting the founders of Rough Rock. He explains the idea of these founders that if you spoke an Indian language, had Indian culture, had an understanding of the community, and served the community through education, the disaster of American Indian Education could be turned around. Tom says that the founders thought that parents and students would believe in the education and not see it as a tool of assimilation, but a tool of building up the Indian people. The founders of Rough Rock asserted that this philosophy would change the arc of where American Indian society was within the United States.
Tom reflects on the two great movements he has brought up today and adds in the unplanned movement toward sovereignty in Menominee. To finish, Tom touches upon an evaluation that was performed on the Menominee County Community School.