I would like to tell you a story.
It is an Indian story, and a personal to my
own family. This story comes from the beginnings of federal Indian education
policy- a time of great change and tragedy.
I am a descendent of Chief Roman Nose. In 1875, he was
captured along with other Cheyenne and sent to Ft. Marion in St. Augustine,
Florida. Then in 1879, he and other Cheyenne went to the first Carlisle Indian
Industrial School, the first Indian boarding school. And we know what happened
Of course, we as Natives have felt the waves of time
ripple through our families’ experiences in Indian education.
We know the stories.
We have heard them.
We have songs for them.
We know the saying:
“Kill the Indian, save the man.”
We live with it now, as do our children.
And now, as we gather in this room today for the cause of
Native education, we must remember and recognize that our children and
grandchildren – the generations we are now guiding – look to us for their
But let us also remember, that the ones that came
before us, our people, our grandfathers
and grandmothers, our mothers and fathers, the leaders of our shared past-
stand strong beside us and expect that we will harness the opportunity to come
together and build the future for the generations that come after us.
What we do today, this week, and this year, is another
path that builds the bridges between our children’s future and our ancestors’
Our traditions already do
Our stories already do this.
Our songs already do this.
Our ceremonies and dances already do
Our languages do this.
It is time, once again, for all of us educators to make
sure that Native education builds these bridges as well, as it had always done
for thousands of years.
Thank you for coming to Washington to fight for
And because we are in Washington,
it’s time for me to get into the details of this vital cause.
First, I will
tell you what NIEA has been doing here in Washington.
Then, I will introduce the agenda for what we all want to
accomplish in the next year, which will be a discussion between us as educators
and what the Federal government should be doing.
This past year, NIEA Participated with National Congress
of American Indians and the United South Eastern Tribes in drafting provisions
of what would later become the Native CLASS Act. The Native CLASS Act, which
was passed last year by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs develops
culturally based curriculum and assessments and support schools and programs
that use Native language as the primary instrument of instruction. It
authorizes increased tribal control over the education of Indian students. And
it establishes teacher development programs to recruit native teachers and
ensure culturally aligned instruction. NIEA continues to advocate for the
provisions of the Native CLASS Act in all its communication and education
activities on Capitol Hill
NIEA also teamed up with the United South and Eastern
Tribes, the National Council of American Indians, the Affiliated Tribes of
Northwest Indians, and the All Indian Pueblo Council to advocate for the
Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act (currently known as the No
Child Left Behind Act). We worked to ensure that tribal needs are addressed in
the ESEA bill.
NIEA also worked with national partners representing the
African American, Latino, and Asian communities. This includes working with the
Campaign for High School Equity to reduce student dropout rates, to increase
the number of effective teachers, and to increase college and career readiness
for Native students.
On the White House front, NIEA assisted in planning and
implementing national Tribal leader consultations on the State of Indian
Education and advocated for the public release of the US Department of
Education’s Report entitled Tribal Leaders Speak: The State of Indian Education
This report highlighted concerns from Tribal leaders
nationwide on issues such as the inadequacy of federal education funding, the
need for increased availability of native language and culture-based education,
the need for more tribal control of education systems responsible for educating
native students, and the need for increased recruitment and retention of native
NIEA also supported the creation of a Presidential
Executive Order to increase the visibility and attention devoted to American
Indian and Alaska Native education within all federal agencies. This Executive
Order mandated all federal agencies create plans to assure that the education
needs of American Indian and Alaska Natives are taken into account, that their
native languages, cultures, and traditional ways are honored and respected, and
that the education progress of American Indian and Alaska Native students will
be tracked and reported from one year to the next.
On the communications front, NIEA live-streamed its annual
convention in Albuquerque. NIEA also launched a new and improved Website with
research and policy updates and useful data that can be used by native
education advocates for informing and assisting them in their work.
On data and research, NIEA started a research division to
capture and tell our stories of education success and our unmet education
needs. We collected, analyzed, and distributed research on the impact of native
language and culture based approaches to promote native student engagement and
education success. We also disseminated Native education research and best
practice at state and national conferences, convened a team of Native education
researchers to address NIEA’s research priorities, and launched an e-network to
inform Native education researchers.
NIEA also worked with the U.S Department of Education’s
Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) to provide information on
Native education research, and encouraged and trained native researchers to
display their research on this website.
We translated research into practice in partnership with
the Regional Comprehensive Centers, the Regional Educational Laboratories, the
Equity Assistance Centers, and several universities including the Native
American Program at Harvard University. And we worked with the U.S. Census
Bureau, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other organizations to
help the public use and interpret data on Native people.
This is impressive work. But we have so much more to do.
There are at least 700,000 American Indian, Alaska
Natives, and Native Hawaiians in public K-12 schools. Only around HALF of our
students graduate high school. Of those that graduated high school, a quarter
complete a certificate or Associate Degree, and about a third complete a Bachelor’s
within six years of enrollment. Seventy
Bureau of Indian Education schools failed to satisfy the Adequate Yearly
Progress requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2005.
Our Native students need and deserve excellent, culturally-based education -- and they need it now.
We realize this will be a difficult year.
The budgetary constraints are daunting. But
we can and will fight for Native education.
We must continue to work on both sides of the aisle for dramatic and
lasting change in Native education.
First, we must continue moving towards a federal
education policy that supports Tribal Self-Sufficiency and Self-Determination,
which also holds the federal government to its trust responsibility to Indian
This year, we are focusing on these five areas: (1) Strengthening
tribal control of education; (2) Addressing the needs of Native education in
urban settings, (3) investing in cultural and language revitalization; (4)
developing and retaining Native teachers, administrators, and education
leaders; and (5) improving the federal government’s support of Native
When we talk about
Tribal Control of Education, it means funding the establishment of Tribal
education departments and mandating more collaboration and sharing of data from
the States and local education agencies.
We are talking about
Addressing the Needs of Native Education in Urban Settings, it means
supporting the inclusion of Urban Native learners as educational policy is
developed and resources are allocated at the federal, state, and local
We are talking about
in Cultural and Language Revitalization. Native students who have a strong
foundation in their language and culture perform better academically.
Therefore, NIEA supports culturally based
education and Native language instruction, including language immersion
It also means
Developing and Retaining Native teachers, administrators, and education
leaders. It is critically important to build up a larger and stronger cadre
of Natives working in the education field.
This effort would include more resources for professional development,
salary increases and other long-term employment incentives.
And it means
Improving the Federal Government’s Support of Native Education. The Federal
government could take several important steps to improve its support of Native
Today, President Obama will release his proposed budget
for Fiscal Year 2013. We know that he plans to stay within the budget
limits set by the Congress last summer. This means that he has to offer a
budget that is a little less than one percent smaller than the FY 2012
budget. He has indicated that he wants to emphasize science and math
education in this budget. He has also said that those who are most
vulnerable will be cut the least. We will soon learn what this means for
Indian education programs.
But his budget will not reflect the planned cuts that the
law provides for in January 2013. Unless Congress amends the law, we will
see cuts of 8.5 percent to 9 percent in virtually all domestic programs,
The Federal government has a trust obligation to Native
peoples, which is unique and based on treaties, agreements and the cession of
lands. For millennia, Native American cultures and communities flourished
on this continent. However, in recent centuries our ability to educate our
children has been under assault.
The Federal government historically has displayed a keen
understanding of the central importance of our ancient ways, beliefs, culture
and language to tribal unity and strength - and for years made every effort to
destroy those beliefs. This effort to kill our minds and our spirits
failed, but not without first doing great damage. Indian languages are in
retreat. Native students perform far below their potential. Federal
paternalism has encouraged poor self-esteem for too many of our youth.
The Native spirit has endured and, in recent years, grown
Much of the harm inflicted upon Native peoples is being
undone by Native people themselves -
yet the resources needed to complete this great task can only be found with the
originator of the harm – the Federal Government.
For far too long, others have brought education to us.
And what they have given has not been of high quality or respectful to our
Now it’s time for us to choose education that is
excellent and is based on our traditions. And this is especially important in
an age in which the success of our communities – and the preservation of our
languages – will be based on what we know and how we use the technologies of
Let’s help every Native community choose a high-quality,
culturally-based education. Let us join together to take control of the schools
that nurture the futures of our children. And let’s work to ensure that the
federal government meets its trust responsibility to all of us.
Thank you for joining together to advocate for our
And thank you for being part of