Educare of Omaha began in 2002 as a private, non-profit collaborative effort of the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, the Omaha Public Schools, and the local Head Start grantee. Two sites are located in Omaha serving diverse communities in North and South Omaha. Educare differs from other early child care programs due to its prominent focus on children in poverty, and providing highest quality care by highly educated staff. “Students and families from low-income homes often face unique barriers in developing foundations for success and Educare’s program model is specifically designed to help at-risk students and their families overcome such barriers” (The Educare Report-Evaluation Summary 2011-2012). Educare is expanding its’ efforts to the Winnebago Reservation in Winnebago, Nebraska. It is estimated that 44 percent of the Native American population on the Winnebago Reservation lives at or below the poverty level. Demographic projections include doubling the population due to high birthrates by 2040. One critical aspect of Educare is the importance the program places on parent engagement. For Native American communities, the family is the centerpiece; the generational strengths of all including non-blood relatives must be accounted for and to. This article will examine qualities that the Winnebago Educare Program will utilize, including its adherence to cultural competence and a culturally infused curriculum in relation to Winnebago or Ho Chunk culture. Included will be interviews with leadership in the Winnebago-Educare Program and tribal leaders who will give their wisdom and interpretation of how this program will meet its’ goals for the next generation of Native American children.

Key Take Away Points

  • successful collaborations can be instituted between diverse organizations including private foundations, school systems and the local tribal college
  • the importance of teaching Native children through cultural identity, strengths perspectives, and the Ho-Chunk language which translates culture
  • remembering the past to guide the present and future-Winnebago history and perseverance of the Winnebago people to create a better pathway for Winnebago children

Author Biography

Theresa K. Barron-McKeagney graduated from the University of Iowa-BSW, University of Nebraska at Omaha-MSW, and the University of Nebraska Lincoln-PhD. She is a full professor in social work, and former Director of the UNO Grace Abbott School of Social Work. She is currently the Associate Dean for the UNO College of Public Affairs and Community Service. Her research and teaching interests are in qualitative research especially ethnography and oral histories, diversity and Latinos. She is the youngest of 11 children of Mexican immigrant parents. She is a proud grandmother to two fine grandsons, Eli and Xavier.

Marisa Miakonda Cummings is a graduate of the University of Iowa. While at the U of Iowa, she was an active leader in the Native American Council and the Center for Diversity and Enrichment. She is currently the Director of Public Relations, Institutional Advancement and Government Relations for the Little Priest Tribal College in Winnebago, Nebraska. Marisa is proudly descended from the Omaha Tribe.


The authors would like to thank members of the Winnebago community who offered their time and expertise to this article regarding the Winnebago Educare Program. We would also like to acknowledge the passion of the Little Priest Tribal College faculty and staff for creating the pathway for future educators to teach Winnebago children. Lastly, we would like to thank Tribal Chairman John Blackhawk for his integrity, insight, wisdom and leadership for the Winnebago Educare Program.