News & Events

Building Research Capacity on the Rez

Public Health in the National News – The Little Priest Tribal College (LPTC) and the UNMC COPH partnered to develop a three-credit-hour course—Indigenous Research Methods—offered at LPTC this spring. The goal is to build research capacity among American Indians and increase the diversity of the public health-related workforce by expanding health career options for tribal college students interested in the health care professions and health sciences.

source: creativecommons.org

The course is co-led by an LPTC instructor, Carolyn Fiscus, and a COPH faculty member, Dr. Shireen S. Rajaram. Several other COPH faculty members are participating in this class as guest lecturers (either in person at LPTC or via distance education) and as hosts during two UNMC site visits by LPTC students.

LPTC is one of two tribal colleges in Nebraska, and one of 32 tribal colleges in the United States. LPTC is a chartered entity of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and an accredited college of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.1 Little Priest Tribal College is named after Chief Little Priest, the last true war chief of the Winnebago Tribe. The LTPC mission mandates that the institution integrate the culture of Native people, specifically the Winnebago people, into the curriculum, and LPTC faculty and staff also strive to follow the words of Chief Little Priest, “to be strong, and educate my children.”2

The broad framework of the class is defined by five values as outlined in the National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center’s (2009) Research that Benefits Native People: A Guide for Tribal Leaders3 and includes the following principles: indigenous knowledge is valued, research is culturally defined and is not neutral, responsible stewardship includes knowing how to understand and interpret data and research, tribes shall exercise sovereignty when conducting research, and research must be of benefit to the people.

This innovative partnership between LPTC and UNMC is based on principles of cultural humility and sensitivity, trust, open and authentic communication, and equity and social justice. Through multiple adult-learning pedagogical techniques, this class provides a meaningful and dynamic forum for the exchange of ideas between researchers and tribal communities geared toward building research capacity and increasing diversity of the health related workforce via enhancement of undergraduate curriculum.

Funding for this course was received from the UNMC – COPH Mutual Fund 2011-2012, supported through the Dean’s Office.

1 American Indian Higher Education Consortium [homepage on the Internet]. Available from: http://www.aihec.org/. (Accessed March 18, 2012).
2 Little Priest Tribal College [homepage on the Internet]. Available from: http://www.littlepriest.edu/. (Accessed March 18, 2012).
3 National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center. (2009). Research that Benefits Native People: A Guide for Tribal Leaders. Available from: http://www.ncaiprc.org/research-curriculum-guide). (Accessed March 18, 2012).

This article was written by Shireen S. Rajaram, PhD, associate professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health, and by Carolyn Fiscus, department chair and faculty of Little Priest Tribal College.

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