Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
Native languages, cultures & histories
WASHINGTON - With tribal leaders in town for the White House Tribal Nations Conference, President Barack Obama on Friday issued an Executive Order on "Improving American Indian and Alaska Native Educational Opportunities and Strengthening Tribal Colleges and Universities."
The Executive Order establishes the White House Initiative on American Indians and Alaska Native Education, which will be co-chaired by the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar.
The Initiative is charged with the mission to "help expand educational opportunities and improve educational outcomes for American Indian and Alaska Native students, including opportunities to learn their Native languages, cultures, and histories "
"This is an urgent need. Recent students show that American Indian and Alaska Native students are dropping out of school at an alarming rate, that our Nation has made little or no progress in closing the achievement gap between American Indian and Alaska Native students and their non-American Indian and Alaska Native student counterparts, and that many Native languages are on the verge of extinction," reads part of the Executive Order.
The Executive Order has been received with mostly positive reaction by American Indians.
"This Executive Order's Initiative is welcomed, as it should be, for educational opportunities and college-preparatory focus that will assist our Native youth in a multitude of ways," said Derek Bailey, chairman of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.
"If successful, this Order will also allow for language enrichment, accurate historical understandings, and a ground work for career achievement. For our children's benefit, we can only hope this Order will meet its intended goal," further commented Bailey, who also serves on the National Advisory Council on Indian Education and is a Democrat, seeking his party's nomination for Michigan's First Congressional District.“This Presidential order is historic and ground breaking. We have been waiting for over 30 years to see the words, all, cities, and public higher education institutions in American Indian education language from the White House,”
commented Dr. Dorene Wiese, Ojibwe, president of the American Indian Association of Illinois. "This communication begins the dialogue about the educational needs of all Indian people, where ever they live. This land, where Chicago sits, has been home to our people for thousands of years. Zero recognition and funding for our programs has not been enough," she continued.
Some American Indians involved in education are concerned the Initiative could erode monies already reserved for American Indian education through the Indian Education Title VII funds.
"While the Order mentions public schools, the emphasis is on Bureau of Indian Education schools. There is little indication of appropriations. If the new Initiative takes more money from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to give to Bureau of Indian Education schools, the urban/off-reservation schools may lose their access to Title VII funds. The Initiative could have helped urban/off-reservation by making it clear that those schools will have full access to all Elementary and Secondary Education Act funds as requested by the American Indian community," commented Ron Andrade, La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians, director of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission.
"The President could have extended funds to urban/off-reservation Indian programs. The Johnson-O'Malley program was originally intended for urban/off-reservation schools but slowly the funds were shifted to tribal programs."
posted December 3, 2011 8:20 am est
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