Review: American Indian College history

American Indian College: A Witness to the Tribes, edited by Joseph J. Saggio and Jim Dempsey. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2008.

American Indian College, the first regionally accredited Bible College for Native Americans in the United States, celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2007. Since its founding as All Tribes Bible School by Assemblies of God missionary Alta Washburn, the school has played an important role in the training of Native American pastors and the development of indigenous Pentecostal churches.

American Indian College: A Witness to the Tribes is a valuable collection of historical accounts, interpretive essays, and personal narratives that will evoke memories for those who lived the history. It will also become an essential resource for students and scholars who wish to better understand the history and future of Native American higher education and Pentecostalism. The book was edited by former longtime AIC faculty member Joseph J. Saggio (and now a professor at Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington) and Jim Dempsey, longtime faculty member currently serving as AIC Campus Pastor.

The content of this volume falls into three major categories: 1) three previously-published histories of the school; 2) short essays or “reflections” by people associated with the school; and 3) an overview of the school’s history, mission and aims, written by the editors.

The three histories, reprinted with introductions in this volume, are: Trail to the Tribes, by Alta M. Washburn; A Trail of Beauty: A Short History of American Indian Bible College, by Pauline Dunn; and Indian Harvest: A History of American Indian Bible College, by Carolyn D. Baker.

The reflections were written by: board members (T. Ray Rachels, Rodger A. Cree, Sr., Curtis W. Ringness, and Marvin Begay); presidents (Don Ramsey, Simon Peter, Carl E. and Alice Collins, David J. Moore, Jim H. Lopez, and James V. Comer); faculty (Alma F. Thomas, Eugene Hunter, Betty J. Hanna, Belinda F. Lopez, Nancy J. Saggio, and Everett F. Peralta); staff (M. Nadine Waldrop, Sandra K. Ticeahkie, Sandra M. Gonzales, Donald P. Merino); and alumni (Lillie Ward Neal, Jimmy Yellowhair, Vince Roubideaux, James J. Bollinger, Marco J. Burnette, and Jameson D. Lopez).

George O. Wood authored the foreword. Appendices include a historical timeline, lists of members of the Board of Regents, administration and faculty, staff, and graduates. The book also includes invaluable name and photo indices.

American Indian College: A Witness to the Tribes deserves to be widely distributed, as it provides a rare treatment of the intersection of three important subjects, each of which merits attention in its own right: Native Americans, higher education, and Pentecostalism.

Reviewed by Darrin J. Rodgers

Softcover, xiv, 433 pages, illustrated. $18 plus $7 shipping and handling. Order from: American Indian College, Attn: Sylvia Rivera, 10020 N. 15th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85021-2199. Checks should include the phrase “AIC Book” in the memo line. For more information or to order a book, contact Sylvia Rivera by phone (602-944-3335, ext. 221) or by email (

1 Comment

Filed under Education, Reviews

One response to “Review: American Indian College history

  1. Jim Kendall

    If you enjoy history and reading biographies about folks who dare to obey the will of God to make a difference in the life of a displaced people, then American Indian College: A Witness to the Tribes is a good read. The book is an amazing account about the founder of the AIC’s Alta Washburn. It skillfully details her struggles, triumphs, tragedies, and faith as she reaches out to Native American tribes with the gospel.

    The inspirational book is made more inspiring by the fact Washburn only had an an 8th grade education, yet, she established an institute of higher learning. Today, the college turns out well educated men and women from all tribes and nations. Each one well equipped with the necessary education to live in the world and the biblical education to reach more Native Americans. All of them taught by a faculty of faithful, highly educated men and women.

    The best thing about the book is it is an easy read. The research for the book was extensive, but instead of boring data you get the personal testimonies from people who knew Alta Washburn. In addition to the personal accounts are the testimonies of those that have carried on the mission after Washburn. Sharing the same vision and dream of Alta Washburn, they are working towards the future ensuring the gospel will be carried our to every tribe and nation.

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