Rapid City, SD The annual American Indian Higher Education Consortium conference hosted a meeting of the minds - with the presidents of all 37 tribal colleges across the country.
They say tribal colleges provide a place in their community to hit the books with a focus on native culture.
Many tribal colleges are also a symbol of hope on reservations sometimes plagued with violence and drugs.
Some educators say with schooling comes a better job and resources to support themselves.
Thomas Shortbull, the president of Oglala Lakota College, said "Tribal colleges are beacons of hope for the problems that we have on our reservation. Because when someone wants to change their lives - whether they have a drinking problem or a drug problem, they always come to us and say 'I want to change my life.'"
The 36th annual conference also includes competitions for students. This year's theme is 'revitalizing native spirituality'.
They say Native Americans are oftentimes viewed as just one group but each tribal nation is unique with different cultures.
Dr. David Yarlott, the chairman of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, said "This is a time that we can come in and share the uniqueness of who we are as individuals, but also coming in together as a common goal because education provides that stepping stone for us to be a better person and also a better citizen, but also provide a lifestyle for the ones to follow."
Competitions - with everything from volleyball tournaments to a film festival will begin Sunday.