Dartmouth to Host Tribal Leadership Academy in August

News subtitle

The intensive program for new tribal leaders is the first of its kind.

A spring tree on Dartmouth campus

This summer, Dartmouth will bring together up to 25 newly elected or appointed leaders from federally recognized Native American tribal governments around the country for the first-ever Tribal Leadership Academy.

“This first-of-its-kind program is emblematic of Dartmouth’s engagement with tribal nations and Native peoples to help prepare the next generation of tribal leaders for the increasingly complex responsibilities of self-governance,” says President Sian Leah Beilock, who announced the creation of the academy during her Inaugural address

“The academy is a testament to the immense talent, experience, dedication, and generosity of our Native alumni network—more than 1,300 strong—many of whom are contributing their expertise as well as financial support toward making the Tribal Leadership Academy a reality.” 

The academy’s first cohort will meet Aug. 4 through 10 for intensive sessions on such topics as economic development, health care, education, natural resources management, and reservation criminal law, led by expert faculty presenters—many of whom are Native alumni of Dartmouth.

Academy participants will have the opportunity to share ideas for projects in their home communities and get feedback from faculty, expert practitioners, and peers. The idea is for participants to return to their communities with refined proposals that they will be better prepared to put into practice. 

N. Bruce Duthu ’80, the Samson Occom Professor and chair of Native American and Indigenous Studies, is the academy’s first faculty director. He says the initiative is filling a crucial need.

“Since the 1970s, U.S. policy in Indian Affairs has centered on tribal self-determination grounded in the recognition of tribal nations as sovereign governments,” Duthu says. “This has led tribal nations to take on greater governance responsibilities, which in turn has exposed the need for tribal leaders who bring not only deep knowledge and experience in traditional governance values and practices, but also a host of other capacities for effective leadership.”

The plan to launch a professional development program for tribal leaders began in 2022 as Dartmouth marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Native American Program and what is now the Department of Native American and Indigenous Studies.

“As we approached the 50th anniversary, members of the Native American community on campus joined with Native alumni to help chart a new pathway for Dartmouth to continue to give meaning and expression to its foundational commitment to educate the ‘youth of the Indian tribes,’ ” Duthu says, referring to language in Dartmouth’s 1769 charter

“I’ve been astounded at the positive response from our alumni who have answered the call with such enthusiasm and generosity,” Duthu says. “Several of our donors have shared with me their excitement and pride at seeing their alma mater engaging more directly with tribal nations.”

“What gets me excited about the Tribal Leadership Academy is that it’s practical. This is about how we can work together to help participants solve their needs,” says Native American Visiting Committee Co-Chair Casey Lozar ’03. 

Lozar, an enrolled member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and vice president and director of the Center for Indian Country Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, will lead a session on developing local tribal economies at the academy in August. “This is part of a long-term idea from Native alumni of Dartmouth’s role and opportunity to add even more value” to Native communities.

The academy is one of two pilot initiatives of a proposed Tribal Sovereignty Institute through which Dartmouth would “face outward to Indian Country, seeking to partner with tribal nations on issues of mutual concern and interest,” Duthu says. 

The other pilot initiative, the Tribal Services and Solutions Project, is providing Dartmouth undergraduates and recent alumni opportunities to work with tribal leaders and Native alumni to help develop community-based solutions to address critical needs.

“Through the generosity of Dartmouth alumni, both of these demonstration projects are fully funded and in operation,” Duthu says. “Our hope is that these initiatives will ultimately be folded into the Tribal Sovereignty Institute and will become part of an evolving constellation of projects that meet the needs and aspirations of tribal nations throughout the country.” 

To date, more than 170 donors—including over 75 Native American alumni, parents, and friends and two Dartmouth alumni classes—have raised nearly $2 million for the Tribal Leadership Academy and the Tribal Services and Solutions Project. 

These contributions will allow academy participants to attend free of charge, with the program covering tuition, travel, accommodations, and most meals. Gifts for the Tribal Services and Solutions Project supported the award of five year-long post-baccalaureate fellowships for recent graduates and one term-long internship for current students to work with tribal communities, agencies, and organizations dedicated to advancing the interests of tribal nations and Native peoples.

“I don’t think there’s a place better than Dartmouth for something like the Tribal Leadership Academy,” says past NAVC Co-Chair Kalina Newmark ’11, an enrolled member of the Tulita Dene Band in the Northwest Territories of Canada. “If you were to go to the roots of what Samson Occom wanted for Dartmouth, this is a realization of his intention.”

Dartmouth’s commitment to Native and Indigenous students goes back to its origins in the 18th century. In 1766, the Mohegan minister and scholar Samson Occom—an early student of Dartmouth founder Eleazar Wheelock—traveled to Great Britain to raise crucial funds for Wheelock’s new school based on the promise that it would serve Native students. 

But the institution that became Dartmouth did not seek to fulfill this promise until the administration of President John Kemeny in the 1970s. Today, Dartmouth has more than 1,300 Native alumni and over 200 Indigenous students, representing more than 70 tribal communities.

In 2022, Dartmouth repatriated Occom’s papers to the Mohegan Tribe. At the repatriation ceremony, the tribe presented then-President Philip J. Hanlon with a new treasure: a hand-beaded wampum belt that symbolizes the living relationship between Dartmouth and the tribe and the institution’s renewed dedication to its charter mission of serving Indian youth. 

President Beilock formally received the wampum belt from Hanlon at her inauguration in 2023, a ceremony that, for the first time in Dartmouth history, featured Mohegan representatives, including Mohegan Vice Chairwoman Sarah Harris ’00, a direct descendent of Samson Occom and a member of the Native American Visiting Committee. The belt was part of the formal ceremony at Commencement earlier this month.

“The Dartmouth community can celebrate that our institution continues to look for opportunities to make a difference for Native peoples and tribal nations,” Duthu says. “We see this work as vital to making good on our charter commitment to the tribal nations of this country.”

Hannah Silverstein