United Tribes NewsTribal Colleges group visits Bolivia
By Wanda Agnew, UTTC-USDA Extension/Land Grant Programs Director
9 January 2006
- During the summer of 2005, I was one of nine students enrolled in the Prairie PhD Program of South Dakota State University (SDSU). I participated in an exciting multi-cultural international learning experience that took me high into the mountains of South America.
I was part of a group representing tribal colleges that visited Bolivia. High in the Andes Mountains, at elevations over 15,000 feet, we visited a private college. Unidad Academica Campesina-Carman Pompa (UAC-CP) is located in a rural area 50 miles from LaPaz.
Indigenous people in the local community are justifiably proud of their educational facility and many families have moved to live close to it. Training is provided for teachers, nurses, office workers, agriculture and environmental science professionals. The people speak Spanish and their native languages, Quechuan and Aymaran.
During this remarkable experience, our group took tours and participated in college exchange classes. Much like United Tribes Technical College, UAC-CP offers an elementary school where students attend class from 8 a.m. to noon; many walk two hours to and from classes.
I was particularly excited to see huge gardens maintained by the university community, where research is conducted on traditional plants and produce is shared with community members. The college is in the process of building a coffee bean roasting facility and meat processing plant.
Because many cultural traditions associated with living in the rain forest and mountains had been lost, the university is working to re-establish indigenous knowledge and life ways, particularly those relating to wellness and healthy diet using traditional, locally grown plants.
It was our good fortune to be able to attend a festival that commemorated a significant self-determination event in the country's history. In 1952, Native people in Bolivia regained their land after years of Spanish colonization and Hacienda slavery life.
It was humbling and enriching to learn how an educational mission, based in learning from the land - like our Land Grant Program - can revitalized community life.
Along with UTTC, other tribal colleges represented during the 10 day visit to Bolivia were Sisseton-Wahpeton Community College, Nebraska Indian College, Si Tanka University and Oglala Community College. Faculty from SDSU also participated in the learning opportunity.
The program was made possible through SDSU's Prairie PhD Program for staff from tribal government or tribal colleges, funded through USDA and the Kellogg Foundation.
A partnership developed during the visit resulted in a proposal to USDA's International Science and Education Competitive Grant Program. The proposal included SDSU, UTTC, Nebraska Indian College and Sisseton-Wahpeton Community College and focuses on exchange learning. The opportunity would create an exchange of tribal college students and Bolivian students aimed at teaching about cultural and education.
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