American Indian Heritage Month: Commemoration vs. Exploitation
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American Indian Higher Education Consortium

The American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) was founded in 1972 by the presidents of the six oldest tribally controlled community colleges in America to lobby for American Indian Higher Education initiatives. Their mission was, and still is, to further the ability of Indian students to realize their academic potential and to foster Indian self-determination. AIHEC's Web page says that its mission:

. . . identifies four objectives: maintain commonly standards of quality in American Indian education; support the development of new tribally controlled colleges; promote and assist in the development of legislation to support American Indian higher education; and encourage greater participation by American Indians in the development of higher education policy . . .

AIHEC now represents more than thirty colleges and universities in the United States and one in Canada. The consortium works to locate and maintain funding through the Tribally Controlled College or University Assistance Act and other government sources. Tribal colleges and universities do not usually qualify for state or local funds, due to their trust relationship with the federal government and their location on land held in trust (AIHEC, 2006, 1).

AIHEC was instrumental in securing legislation by executive order, No. 13021 issued by President Bill Clinton on October 19, 1996 and also signed by President George W. Bush on July 3, 2002 (No. 13270). These executive orders guarantee the support of various federal agencies and departments for tribal colleges. AIHEC and the presidents of the tribal colleges spent three years working to secure the initial executive order (Executive Orders 13021 and 13270, n.d., 1). In 1994, a research initiative was created by the AIHEC board of directors as a joint effort between the AIHEC and the American Indian College Fund. The initiative's goal is to conduct research and to create and maintain a database to track "Tribal college enrollment, budgets, curricula, facilities, services and student outcome" (Database, 1994, 1). Another aspect of the research initiative is to improve each college's research abilities. The AIHEC board of directors has identified this research initiative as being a top priority, second only to securing and maintaining financial and legislative support for tribal colleges (Research Abilities, n.d.).

The AIHEC also acts as a clearinghouse for tribal colleges, government agencies, and the general public. AIHEC supports the Tribal College Journal (TCJ), providing the advisory board a voice, while granting editorial independence, "so it [is] not a typical in-house publication." After twelve years in publication, TCJ now prints more than 11,000 copies of its quarterly journal (TCJ, n.d.).

The American Indian Higher Education Consortium may be reached at:

121 Oronoco Street
Alexandria, VA 22314 (703) 838–0400

The Tribal College Journal can be reached at:

Tribal College Journal of American Indian
Higher Education Consortium
PO Box 720, Mancos, CO 81328
(970) 533–9170

Daniel R. Gibbs

Further Reading
Tribal College Journal (TCJ). No date. Available at: story.html. Accessed January 15, 2007.; American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC). No date. (Accessed January 15, 2007).; Database. 1994. Available at:; Executive Orders 13021 and 13270. No date. Available at: 2006, 1.; Research Abilities. No date. Available at:

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