©2002 Environmental Education Outreach Program & Northern Arizona University
Chapter 1, Section 3:
We honor our ancestors for their care and stewardship of the land. Their religion, economy and everyday lives were illuminated by their reverence for the Earth. Much has happened since the days when the First Americans lived alone on this continent. Now, Apache, Hopi, Dine, Ute and other southwestern tribes are struggling to re-take control over their own lands. In the modern world, control over the land lies with resource managers who are educated in the environmental sciences. Your tribe’s land and natural resources are currently managed by environmental professionals. Some of these professionals are American Indians, but few have college degrees. Your tribe needs college educated environmental managers, and a student you know may choose to become one of these experts.
Tribal lands are under threat. Water resources are being degraded. Illegal dumps litter the countryside. Air pollution has dimmed our view of the Sacred Mountains. The fish and wildlife that once abounded in tribal lands and waters are disappearing. Recreational use of tribal lands needs to be regulated. Tribal environmental professionals are needed to manage all these problems.
Your son or daughter or other dependent child may be ready to make a career choice. Families should start planning for college at least several years before their student graduates from high school. Some web sites offer great advice to families just starting this process. A few are:
Like all teenagers, the student in your home needs to think about what path to take into the future. Every young person has personal preferences; and your family may have expectations for your student’s future. Perhaps family, clan or tribal obligations will influence the student’s career choices. Fortunately, there are environmental careers that can incorporate traditional wisdom and modern science while serving tribal sovereignty and identity. The environmental professions are ideal for American Indian students who wish to serve their tribes and restore harmony in their homelands. These are professions that re-establish and preserve tribal sovereignty. Among your tribe’s greatest problems is a shortage of college-educated, American Indian environmental professionals to manage tribal resources. Now, the tribe relies overmuch on non-tribal experts who are not familiar with traditional culture or values. In addition, we need warriors trained for today’s battlefields: the courtrooms where lawyers and environmental experts will testify against us.
It is time for the tribe to produce its own college-trained environmental experts and lawyers. A four-year Bachelor of Science degree in water resources, forestry, range or wildlife management can add a new dimension of knowledge to the student’s traditional cultural wisdom. Young tribal graduates who make this choice become new American Indian experts on the tribal payrolls and welcome advisors in tribal councils. College need NOT destroy traditional knowledge, it should add to it.
A college education requires planning and completion of preparatory classes in high school. Your student needs to study as much science as your school will permit. Mathematics, which is the language of science, is also necessary. Since communication skills are important for success, writing and reading in English must also be continually improved. Your student’s high school counselors and teachers can provide helpful guidance on a high school college preparatory program.
Perhaps the best source of information on tribal environmental professionals can be found within your own tribe. If you do not know them already, you can meet and talk with your tribe’s water, land, wildlife, solid waste and air quality managers by calling or visiting the tribal offices. Perhaps the student in your house would like to talk with these experts who are also your neighbors. Perhaps the young do not know how badly environmental technicians are needed by the entire community.
Technology with Traditional Knowledge
While the student does most of the work in earning a college education, the family’s role is critical. First, the student must apply to a number of colleges: getting in is not automatic, even to your state’s universities or community colleges. Family support and encouragement are important at this early stage. Good grades in high school, extra-curricular activities and volunteering in the community all improve the probability of a student’s being admitted to college. Then, financing must be arranged. Every college and university has an Office of Financial Aid that helps students find the funds to help pay for college. The federal government offers significant financial support to college students in the form of grants and loans. Your tribe may offer scholarships to its youth. These and other sources of college funding can be found in the Chapter 5 of this web site. The family should participate in all funding decisions and students who are minors must have parents or guardians sign their loan documents. College Financial Aid offices help students shape the mix of family support, scholarships, loans and part time work that combine to pay for a college education. Funding should not prevent the student in your home from going to college, because new sources of financing are always being created. But you must start planning early with your school’s guidance counselor and the financial aid office at the colleges of your choice.
Last updated: May 26, 2005