Breakthrough Book Shatters Stereotypes of American Indians

American Indian College Fund
Thursday, 14 August 2003

First-of-its-kind book brings to life the dramatic success possible after more than 30 years of the tribal college education movement.

The American Indian College Fund and underwriter W.K. Kellogg Foundation will unveil a new hardbound book that chronicles, with impressive photographs and first-person narratives, the tribal college education movement, which now enlists 34 colleges in 12 states. These schools, their leaders and students have revolutionized Indian education, becoming the best hope for social and economic change in the communities they serve.

The "coffee table" book, Real Indians: Portraits of Contemporary Native Americans and America's Tribal Colleges, provides an epoch-making look at everyday American Indian life, highlighting 37 people at the forefront of Indian education and dispelling common stereotypes. It takes a pure, heartfelt and personal look at American Indians, allowing readers to meet them, get to know them intimately, and see the world through their eyes.

Stunning photographs by Manitou Springs, Colo.'s highly respected portraitist Andrea Modica are presented with stirring stories from these educational pioneers. All have had a tie to the tribal college movement and the American Indian College Fund. Students, educators, administrators and graduates who participate in myriad professions represent their deeply layered and complex cultures.

"Yes, take a look at the wondrous and surprising details that contradict everything you thought you knew about Indians," acclaimed author Sherman Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, writes in his introduction to the book. "Look at all of these Native-Americans successfully living on both sides of the hyphen Go spend a few minutes with their faces and a few more minutes with their stories. These Indians, and all other Indians, are not who you think they are. They're not even who they think they are. Every Indian in this book is a mystery, and you're going to have a good time trying to figure them out."

Included in the book are never-before-published stories like Marvin Weatherwax's. As a POW in the Vietnam War, he saved his life with the Blackfeet language - today a language in part kept alive by tribal colleges. And hear about the passionate plans Miss South Dakota and ballerina Vanessa Shortbull has to become a lawyer and how her tribal college is making it possible.

Copies of the new book are available online for $50 each, with each purchase benefiting the American Indian College Fund. The W.K Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Mich., underwrote the book as part of its Native American Higher Education Initiative - the single largest foundation initiative to focus on tribal education.

"The dawn of the tribal college movement occurred only 35 years ago with the establishment of the first one on the Navajo reservation in Arizona," said Richard B. Williams (Oglala Lakota), president and CEO of the American Indian College Fund. "This movement has been a tremendously positive change for Indian educational self-determination, and the time was right for a book that not only documents this astounding revolution, but celebrates its growth and continuing success today."

Today, the nation's 34 tribal colleges, with most located on or near Indian reservations with high rates of poverty and unemployment, annually serve approximately 30,000 mostly Native students from 250 tribes. All teach accredited academics, but Native culture is infused throughout the curriculum to provide an environment and learning style that is more appropriate to Indian sensibilities.

The American Indian College Fund has spent more than a decade helping increase educational opportunities for Native students. The Denver-based nonprofit distributes scholarships and support to the tribal colleges. This aid directly supports more than 6,000 scholarships each year. The Fund also supports endowments, developmental needs and public awareness, as well as college programs in Native cultural preservation and teacher training.

Real Indians Unveiling in Santa Fe, N.M. on August 22, 2003

The book's unveiling will take place at a reception hosted jointly by the American Indian College Fund and The Institute of American Indian Arts from 4 to 6 p.m. on Friday, August 22, 2003, at the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum, 108 Cathedral Place in Santa Fe, N.M. The reception is free and open to the public, and light fare and beverages will be served. Among those featured in the book are local Santa Fe residents Della Warrior, president of the Institute of American Indian Arts, and Marita Hinds, major gifts officer for the Institute.

For more information, or to contact American Indian College Fund, see their website at:

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