World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium, WINHEC Vision of WINHEC

The vision of WINHEC as stated in the Charter is as follows:

“We gather as Indigenous Peoples of our respective nations recognising and reaffirming the educational rights of all Indigenous Peoples. We share a vision of Indigenous Peoples of the world united in the collective synergy of self determination through control of higher education. We are committed to building partnerships that restore and retain indigenous spirituality, cultures and languages, homelands, social systems, economic systems and self-determination.”

Summary of major events which created WINHEC

While WINHEC was officially launched in Canada in 2002 the concept and desire to form a world indigenous higher education body was not new.

A number of meetings and discussions over the years had taken place to ascertain whether the concept was worth pursuing. Most of the discussions revolved around the need to meet, to provide a forum, to advance the educational rights of indigenous peoples, to create an accreditation body, to provide for the sharing of knowledge through exchanges of various types and to advance the aspirations of such people including the maintenance of indigenous languages, spirituality and culture.

The following reports indicate the interest surrounding this subject since 1993. No doubt there have been other discussions, which have taken place over the years that are not mentioned here. This represents an attempt to develop a history of this new organisation. Further information to build a more complete picture would be welcome.

a. University of Alaska 1993

In 1993 the University of Alaska held an international conference on Higher Education and Indigenous People. A group of people resolved to call on UNESCO to establish a Working Party to examine the issues associated with higher education and indigenous peoples, including the maintenance of languages, spirituality and cultures and the establishment of a Higher Education Qualification Authority.

b. WIPCE CONFERENCE 1996 & 1999

The idea of forming an International Indigenous Higher Education Consortium including the development of an international accreditation system for indigenous programs and institutions was discussed at the 1996 and 1999 World Indigenous Peoples Conferences on Education (WIPCE).

c. International Indigenous Higher Education Consortium Proposal in 2000

Those discussions led to the development of a proposal in the year 2000 by Dr. Ray Barnhardt of Alaska and Sonny Mikaere of Aotearoa. Their proposal outlined the need for the development of an international accreditation system for indigenous programs and institutions.

d. Developing Relations Between AIHEC and WANANGA 2001 AND 2002

In 2001 Wananga were invited to the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Representatives from Te Wananga o Aotearoa and Te Wananga-o-Raukawa attended. The main aim of the visit was to develop positive relationships with each organisation. In turn AIHEC was invited to visit New Zealand in 2002. They accepted. In March 2002 15 CEO’S and associates of the Tribal Colleges visited the three Wananga of New Zealand. A view was expressed that Wananga have similar features and good relationships would be mutually beneficial. At Te Wananga-o-Raukawa further discussions were held on the concept of an indigenous higher education body. A draft concept paper was the result. Again the call was made to enhance spiritual beliefs, culture and languages, an international qualification system and improved social and economic development of indigenous communities. Discussion also introduced the need to ensure that indigenous people kept up with the latest state of the art technology and communication links. The meeting was also reminded of the need to keep in touch with its native tribal communities especially with elders. The draft concept paper that was produced formed an important part of the conversations at Calgary August 2002.

e. Meeting at Te Wananga O Aotearoa

Prior to the meeting in Calgary a meeting was held with Rongo Wetere, Bentham Ohia, Marcia Krawll, and Turoa Royal at Te Wananga o Aotearoa . A number of questions were raised regarding the development of a consortium, its values, purpose, rationale, membership, objectives, structure, funding and name.