Devotion to the people: the legacy of Helen Scheirbeck.

Record Number: 

Davis, Tom. “Devotion to the people: the legacy of Helen Scheirbeck.” Tribal College: Journal of American Indian Higher Education 12.4 (August 31, 2001): 33- .


This detailed, interestingly written article profiles the extensive contributions of Helen Maynor Scheirbeck, Ed.D., now 66. Davis notes that “Scheirbeck has been one of the most significant voices in American Indian education since the late 1960s.” Listed below are some of the positions she has held and programs in which she has played a leadership role:

- As director of the Office of Indian Education in the U.S. Department of
  Health, Education, and Welfare, she led discussions that found a strategy 
  to enable tribal colleges (beginning in 1973) to obtain start-up funds 
  through Title III (Developing Institutions) of The Higher Education Act.
- Assisted in the development and shepherding of the Tribally Controlled 
  Community College Assistance Act, passed in 1978.
- First Indian intern for the National Congress of American Indians.
- As a staff member for the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional 
  Rights, she helped organize a Capitol Conference on Poverty in 1962, where 
  Indian leaders advocated for Indian participation in the War on Poverty.
- Helped establish the Coalition of Indian Controlled School Boards in 1972.
- Chaired the Indian Education Task Force of the American Indian Policy 
  Review Commission.
- In 1991, became head of the Indian Head Start Program.
- From 1987-1995, served on the Board of Trustees of the National Museum 
  of the American Indian.
- Since 1995 she has worked in a public programs position with the National 
  Museum of the American Indian.

Scheirbeck's Head Start colleague, Roger Ironcloud, described her this way: “We have our own Rosa Parks here. Rosa Parks changed history by refusing to move out of the White section on a bus. Helen Scheirbeck has changed history by altering Washington, D.C.'s attitude toward Indian people.”

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