American Indian Higher Education Conference

Bismarck - It's one of the biggest gatherings of Native Americans in the country, and it's going on right here in North Dakota this week.

Emily Medalen tells us how American Indian students are bringing their heritage to life.

The American Indian Higher Education Consortium Student Conference - 
also known as AIHEC - is one of the most exciting weeks of the year for these students.

It has brought all 37 tribal colleges in the country here to create new memories, and remember old traditions.

"We're all about language preservation, and keeping our cultures alive," says Shelrae Davis, Student, United Tribes Technical College.

Over one thousand Native Americans from across the country are united as one this week.

"We don't even know each other, but it feels like we've known each other for a very long time," says Rayni Babback, Student, United Tribes Technical College.

"I'm very excited to see all the unity - the coming together - and just being part of a really big family," says Shelrae Davis, Student, United Tribes Technical College.

AIHEC is a student conference for American Indians to strengthen tribal nations around the country.

"We're sharing our culture and our traditional ways. You see that. Every time I come to this I see more and more of that. And our young people are really stepping up to the plate," says Laurel Vermillion, President, Sitting Bull College.
"It's really a way for each tribal college to showcase their individual tribal college heritage," says Koreen Ressler, Vice President, Sitting Bull College.

The students are joined by family and friends - young and old - for 4 days of education and culture brought to life.

"You get to meet all these different natives from different reservations. Seeing how they dress and what kind of differences we have... but we're still the same," says Shelrae Davis, Student, United Tribes Technical College.

Davis says being able to network with other students is getting her excited about higher education...

"It's a good time to get all of our leaders in one area so we can brainstorm, open new doors, make new connections..." says Davis.

And reminding everyone - no matter how old - the importance of keeping heritage alive.

"Culture, and language as well, defines us as a people," says Jessica Baker, Student, Sitting Bull College.

AIHEC continues through tomorrow afternoon at 4:30 and closes with a student award banquet.

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