Jodi Rave: Blackfoot Project promotes education
"Iris Pretty Paint, a sociologist, spent the last 10 years researching and developing a theory on educational persistence as part of her doctoral program. She was driven to find answers about why people don't give up when faced with challenges.

Pretty Paint has been using her research knowledge with members of the Blackfoot Project, a program she's coordinating to help fellow tribal members earn their doctoral degrees. It is the only known project of its type in the country, a collaboration that allows group members to work together and provide a direct benefit to the Blackfeet Nation by uniting traditional knowledge with Western science.

“I always remind them,” said Pretty Paint, “ ‘Don't get sidetracked. The bottom line is you want a degree. That's it. If you allow things along the way to stop you, you just don't have the luxury of letting that happen. If we let the system stop us, they've won. And we've worked too hard in our lives to get to the point where we're at.' ”

Blackfoot Project members recently met in Babb, a small town on the Blackfeet Reservation, to discuss the group's future. The daylong meeting crystallized the group's purpose and marked the group's seventh gathering since last September. Members proclaimed their determination to support one another as they develop individual master's or doctorate proposals and pursue their degrees.

The majority of the group's two dozen members are women.

“Most of our ceremonies from way back, I don't know how far back, were given to our women,” said Narcisse Blood, an adviser to the Blackfoot Project. “Over the years, especially the last 200 years when we faced some real challenges, whether it's starvation or the killing off of the buffalo - and especially today - it's our Blackfeet women who step up and rise to the occasion of doing what needs to be done."

Get the Story:
Jodi Rave: Project pushes education by degree (The Missoulian 8/3)

Another Higher Education Story:
Jodi Rave: Higher-ed legislation lauded by tribal leaders (The MIssoulian 8/2)

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