Date of Award

January 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Justin D. McDonald


Issues regarding substance use, particularly alcohol use, and academic outcomes are two factors that are vital to examine when researching the quality of life and academic success of American Indian (AI) college students. Because AI college students comprise a relatively small percentage of the general college population, the majority of research conducted using college student samples tends to focus on Caucasian (CA) subjects or all ethnicities combined – neither of which directly pertain to furthering understanding surrounding issues specific to AI college students. One factor that has been shown to predict alcohol use among AIs is historical trauma, which is mass trauma inflicted on a specific group of people and which is carried through to subsequent generations, even if those subsequent generations did not directly experience the initial trauma. Whether or not these findings are applicable toward understanding academic outcomes in AI college students is questionable. Additionally, it is unknown if AI college students attending a tribal college might experience historical trauma differently and thus manifest alcohol use and academic outcomes differently than AI college students attending a public university. Data was collected from 89 total AI college students; 49 attended a four-year predominantly White public university and 40 attended a two-year tribal college. Information was gathered on demographics, historical trauma, alcohol use and academic outcomes to examine how historical trauma impacts alcohol use and academic outcomes and if any differences between the two subsamples were found. It was hypothesized that historical trauma thoughts and feelings mediate AI college student group status and both alcohol use and academic outcomes. Statistically significant mediations between these variables were not found. However, statistically significant associations were found between AI college student group status and sense of school belonging whereby the AI tribal college students reported a sense of school belonging significantly more than AI students from the four-year institution. Additionally, an inverse relationship between historical trauma feelings and sense of school membership was found, whereby the less historical trauma feelings felt, the more likely the student felt as though they belonged to their academic institution. Implications for these findings were discussed.