Dr. Yolanda Bisbee, Director of Tribal Relations at
University of Idaho.
By LACEY WHELAN
FORT HALL — University of Idaho Executive Director of Tribal Relations, Dr. Yolanda Bisbee, helps facilitate the conversations between the University of Idaho and the different tribes throughout the state of Idaho.
She also partners with the University of Idaho in helping with identifying the statuses of the ten reservations in the region.
Bisbee is an enrolled member of the Nez Perce Tribe, as well as a Mexican American.
She was part of the TRIO Upward Bound Program specifically for the Nez Perce Reservation and the Coeur d’Alene Reservation. She took part in writing several grants for various programs, including the CAMP program.
She said the different tribes do not want to be researched. The tribes used to be the number one researched group within the nation. But now because of research guidance, sovereignty and self determination, tribes are able to say they know what their needs are and they know what’s best for them, therefore they are going to be able to say yes or no and what research is going to happen. She also helps work with the researchers of the university and develops research habits for the university.
She helps organize an advisory board that works with the tribes that meets with the university president every fall and spring. There is also an advisory board, which consists of tribal educators that meet with the Native Center Director, and they talk specifically about recruitment and retention and how are they engaging with students.
Bisbee explained the importance of family support when colleges and universities view student attrition as resulting from a lack of individual commitment or ability, these institutional values and student/family values. The real reasons for high attrition rates (students leaving school) among disadvantaged students are never addressed. Colleges and universities need to reevaluate their assumptions and shift the paradigm to a student and family centered approach. She wants to hear more stories about indigenous students succeeding.
She addressed Counter Deficit, which intends to document brokenness (less than) and hold those in power accountable for their oppression with low-test scores, low graduation rates, low retention rates, and high drop out rates. They are used to leverage resources for marginalized communities but reinforce a one-dimensional notion that people are depleted, ruined and hopeless.
Bisbee spoke about cultural capital and the challenges of traditional interpretations of culture capital, and the focuses on cultural knowledge, skills, and abilities that go unrecognized.
She gave tips to the educators about being culturally responsive. She advised there needs to be involvement of Native communities in curriculum design. There needs to be offering teachers immersion opportunities in community contexts. Also modeling student centered culturally responsive teaching practices are needed. She said there is a difference in teaching culture and teaching culturally. They are not asking the students to teach culture, they are talking about how to teach culturally. Given the background and experiences and the knowledge these students and the information being taken on these experiences, how do you transform that into the classroom.
Bisbee suggested possibly starting a resource list for teaching methods on each reservation to access their local books for local schools to use and bring to the table and to be more inclusive. By starting a partnership with the tribes, will help educators. Bisbee invites all educators to possibly engage with a job shadowing with a teacher at a reservation school one day, to see what it is like from their view.
Bisbee has been a part of several summits locally for five years and is currently doing regional summits.
She then showed a video of the IKEEP program at the University of Idaho, which is the Indigenous Knowledge for Effective Education Program. Bisbee is a co- principal investigator as well as Vanessa Anthony-Stevens.
Through the office of Indian Educational development they submitted a grant proposal, to find native students and to come in and complete their education and then do a year of induction service. They didn’t want to be preparing the teachers to be teaching the same way that they are getting their college education, they wanted them to walk out empowered, to be who they are, and to take that into the classroom. They wanted them to take an indigenous framed approach and to look at their research and to integrate that into their curriculum and allow them to teach.
The program currently has nine students, and the video showed the experiences of the IKEEP program.