Introduction

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For generations, many Native American people have struggled to achieve self-reliance and prosperity. Once among the most self-reliant people on earth, many tribes now struggle to overcome severe poverty that has resulted from a variety of circumstances and factors. Without the necessary support and mentorship, many Native Americans are unable to complete their education and secure meaningful employment.

Buffalo Jump Analogy
This phenomenon has been likened to herding buffalo to the top of a cliff and over a buffalo jump (A buffalo jump is a cliff over which plains Native American tribes historically drove bison to kill them in mass quantities). See Figure 1.

Buffalo Jumo
Figure 1

The buffalo jump analogy is appropriate, with many Native American communities suffering from extremely high rates of poverty, suicide, and a wide range of other social pathologies. Poverty is widespread.

American Indian/Alaska Native Statistics

  • 29 % live below poverty line, the highest of any race group
  • Suicide rate of young adult ages 15-24 two-to-three times higher than the rate of the general population
  • Alcoholism rate 519% higher than general population
  • AI/AN students nearly twice as likely to drop out of high school than the general population
  • Only 28 % enroll in degree-granting higher education institutions
  • Only 40 % of those enrolled complete their degrees within 6 years
  • Only 11% of total AI/AN population complete 4-year degree in 6 years
  • AI/AN bachelor’s degree holders earn 24% less than bachelor’s degree holders in the general population

Many tribal communities are virtually isolated from the mainstream economy and the general population. The Foundation for Indigenous Education, Leadership Development, and Sustainability (FIELDS) provides a bridge to help link Native American people with the mainstream economy through education and career development services. FIELDS provides a comprehensive, systematic set of education and career engagement services which are directly linked to regional economic opportunities and which honor Native American culture, languages, and principles of sustainability. FIELDS helps to unleash the human capital of tribal nations for the benefit of the world and helps these nations to reclaim their traditional heritage of self-reliance and prosperity.

Mentoring

One of the unique success factors that sets FIELDS apart is the mentoring and tutoring services that accompany each of the FIELDS programs. These services are available to each student and are delivered by volunteers. Many times, Native American students are not given the necessary support in their studies and are left to navigate the system on their own, which often leads to failure. The FIELDS team understands this and has extensive experience and success in teaching and mentoring Native American students. The dominant factors in each success story are attentive mentors and flexible and assertive delivery of tutoring and other support services.

FIELDS programming provides a bridge from the buffalo jump to self-reliance (see Figure 2).

bridge
Figure 2

FIELDS Services:

  1. SOAR- Peer-to Peer and Adult-to-Youth Mentoring Program for Middle School, High School, and Adult learners.

  2. FIELDS of Dreams- Higher Education Preparation and Leadership Development Program for Middle School, High School, and Adults learners.

  3. Adult Re-Engagement- Access and Transition Support. College and University Access and Transition Programs/GED/Lifeskills/ABE.

  4. Higher Education Bridge- Higher Education and Career Success Services. Support of B-STEM Bridge Projects/Mentoring/Tutoring.

  5. Tribal Workforce Leadership- “Teaching a Community to Fish”. Online Bachelor’s and Master’s Programs.

FIELDS’ innovative and comprehensive programs and services are based on sound research to meet the specific needs of Native American learners. As FIELDS works with tribal nations to implement its full range of programs and services, it provides Native American people with a path forward out of poverty and its associated social pathologies. FIELDS connects the Native American community with the regional economy and bridges the gap between Native Americans and their academic and career success.