Our primary function since AIHEC’s inception in the mid-1970s is advocacy—telling the stories of the Tribal College Movement. 

Over the past three decades, AIHEC has worked to help ensure that the principle of tribal sovereignty is recognized and respected and that Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) are equitably included in this nation’s higher education system. We have achieved remarkable accomplishments with Congress and the respective presidential administrations, including two Executive Orders on Tribal Colleges and Universities, which laid the foundation for expanding federal support to tribal colleges; enactment of the Equity in Educational Land-Grant Status Act of 1994, securing a place for Tribal Colleges in the nation’s land-grant system; establishment of vitally needed TCU facilities and instrumentation programs within the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Science Foundation to help the colleges develop and expand science-based education and research programs; and the enactment of legislation authorizing (and reauthorizing) funding to help the Tribal Colleges become more sustainable.

Through our comprehensive data collection system, AIHEC AIMS, we are collecting data on 116 qualitative and quantitative indicators of Tribal College success, giving us the information we need to better tell the story of our remarkable institutions.

One of the highlights of our activities over the past few years includes the shaping of the Indigenous Framework for Evaluation, a powerful tool that values Native ways of knowing and helps our people take ownership of evaluation and ensure that programs are both successful and have lasting value to the local community as well as funders.

When the first TCUs were established over four decades ago, tribal governments exercised their sovereign right of self-determination by creating an innovative form of higher education—tribal higher education. The TCUs’ core mission is to sustain tribal cultures, traditions, and languages, while bringing education, social, and economic opportunities to American Indians. Every initiative the TCUs pursue is in harmony with this core mission and all TCU programs and activities weave together to strengthen sovereign nations through excellence in tribal higher education.

AIHEC’s mission supports the work of these colleges and the national movement for tribal self-determination.