Weighing the candidates' Native education platforms
Washington D,C.: Senators John McCain and Barack Obama say they care
a lot about education. But how do they address issues that affect
Native students? The National Indian Education Association asked
campaign advisors about their Native-focused education policies.
Among the comments:
According to advisors Lisa Graham Keegan and Hessy Fernandez:
As Arizona's Senator, John McCain has a long history with Native groups
McCain is committed to partner with tribes to meet the
needs of Native students. This includes support for
culture and language.
McCain has pushed for reforms to BIA schools and more resources for
tribal education programs.
McCain believes providing educational opportunities to Native
children is critical to prepare them for a productive lives and to
preserve their languages and cultural identity.
McCain will continue the BIA construction initiative for new
reservation schools and renovations for others.
McCain's wants to create immediate ways for schools to make
necessary changes in much quicker ways.
McCain doesn't support a one-size-fits-all education policy
According to advisor Jon Schnur:
Obama is committed to developing, retaining and rewarding a
high-quality teachers that serve on Indian reservations.
Obama wants to focus on accountability, maintaining gains, and
accelerating the quality of teaching and leadership.
Obama proposes to properly fund the No Child Left Behind Law.
Obama wants to support early learning programs and increase support
for early education.
Obama wants to focus on college teacher education programs in
schools of education.
Obama plans to listen carefully to everyone, examine the data, and
look at what's working.
Lillian Sparks, NIEA director, is pleased that both candidates are
open to promoting language and culturally based education. This is
among the NIEA's top legislative goals. ''I think they both have
policies in place to do positive education outreach to the Indian
population. We're very encouraged that both campaigns are paying
attention to Native students.'' NIEA will release a transition
paper focused on Native education and priorities for the next
First Native American in space inspires Neah Bay students
Makah Reservation, Washington: John Herrington,was a member of the
Endeavour Space Shuttle team that spent two weeks at the
International Space Station in 2002. Now the former astronaut is
honoring his Chickasaw heritage by bicycling across the nation. His
goal is to encourage students to study science, math, engineering
and technology. "You don't have to be number
one to be an
astronaut, but you do have to be dedicated, work hard and work well
with others," Herrington said. "I was rarely No. 1 in anything, but
along the way, I had mentors who
guided my talents and told me I
could do things I didn't think I could. " Harrington, 49, began his
bicycle trip in Neah Bay. He plans to bike 4,000 miles to Cape
Canaveral, FL, in a journey expected to take three months. His trip
includes stops on many reservations:
Yakima tribe in Toppenish;
Nez Perce tribe in Lewiston, ID.;
Flathead tribe in Missoula, Mont.;
Crow tribe in Lodge Grass, Mont.;
Wind River reservation near Arapahoe, Wy.;
Chickasaw in Ada, Okla.;
Mississippi band of Choctaws in Choctaw, Miss.
Herrington also has a website for students to track his
progress, solve science problems, view updated trip videos and
photos, read his blog and post comments:
Info on Miami Nation available for schools
Indiana: Indiana's Miami Nation of Indians and the Community
Foundation of Wabash County are providing educational materials for
grades 3-6. The Miami materials help students understand Indiana's
American Indian cultures and are tied to the state's academic
standards in social studies, history, reading, and writing. The
material is available in two trunks which include cultural objects
and resources for hands-on use by students.
People’s Education: Mindanao, the Philippines
Philippines: Until recently, the Bukid’non Pulangiyen tribal
community in Malaybalay City had no access to primary education. The
nearest school was seven kilometres away at the bottom of the
mountain, and students had a two-hour walk to reach it. Recently,
the Apu Pulamguwan Cultural Education Center was created in Bendum.
APC is a community school with a culture-based curriculum for
primary education. 150 indigenous children attend the school.
With support from Oxfam, APC offers daycare classes, a complete
elementary course and supports young adults through high school,
college and vocational-technical courses. Its culture-based
curriculum for daycare and primary education is taught using
Binukid, the native language, This enables students to develop life
skills rooted in both mainstream and their own indigenous culture
and way of life.
Suresh, Age 12, Fights
Intolerance in Nepal
A 600-metre-long wall separates Dalits from caste Hindus at
Uthapuram village in Madurai district.
Nepal: 12-year-old Suresh is a member of Nepal's "untouchable" Dalit
caste group in Kanchanpur district. He remembers when, as a young
boy, villagers would not allow him to use the public water tap.
"That was the first time I realized I was being treated differently
because of my caste," he says. "That incident left a wound in my
heart. It will only heal after I am able to prove myself to
society. For that, I must work hard." As a Dalit, Suresh faces
constant humiliation and a future restricted to the most menial and
unpleasant jobs. However, with help from Save the Children,
Suresh has an opportunity to break through cultural barriers. The
7th grader is chairman of Save the Children's School Health and
Nutrition program in Nepal. He also belongs to STC's school
children's club where youth from all castes gather for socializing
and community. There, he's treated as just another kid. "Save
the Children has helped me realize we are all equal and that
discrimination is the result of ignorance," he says, "but [kids']
parents who are uneducated still hesitate to let me enter their
house. This is because they lack awareness." Suresh is
determined to change that: "I will do all I can to end
discrimination in society."
hosts educational leadership symposium
Choctaw Indian Reservation, Mississippi: Seven Mississippi colleges
and universities joined in an educational leadership symposium for
Choctaw students in grades 9-12. Sponsored by the Mississippi Band
of Choctaw Indians, the event was organized by Tribal Education
Services Officer Dalton Henry and Natasha Phillips. Phillips says
the program is part of the solution to increase Choctaw students'
school attendance rates and expose them to the opportunities of
higher education. More than 500 students attended the symposium.
"We want to teach these kids what it takes to be successful and make
it in life," Henry said. "It is a process. In order to be at a
certain level four years from now, you have to start somewhere. By
exposing the students to speakers and exhibitors, we can get there.
You need a map and a good plan." Dalton said that the MBCI plans to
hold the event next year as well.
Indian language textbook becomes part of state's education mission
New Mexico: A Navajo textbook co-authored by Evangeline Parsons
Yazzie from Northern Arizona University, will soon be available to
all school districts in the state. Yazzie's book, ''Dine' Bizaad
Binahoo'ahh,'' or ''Rediscovering the Navajo Language,'' is filled
with cultural and language lesson plans suitable for students of all
ages. State officials believe that New Mexico is the first state to
adopt a Navajo textbook for use in the American public education
system. BIA schools will also review the text and decide whether to
use it next year.
Officials: Tribal schools struggling with gas prices, maintenance
South Dakota: Federal funds for the state's tribal schools' bus and
facility costs are not keeping up with actual costs. "The
challenges, like the cost of gas to run buses, has only hurt our
schools," said Janice Richards of the Little Wound School Board.
Little Wound runs 13 bus routes of 1,575 miles per day. For 2007-08,
the school budgeted $642,600, but the expense was $813,001.15. The
U.S. government works through the Bureau of Indian Education to fund
174 schools in 23 states that serve about 48,000 students. Richards
spoke at the the National Indian Education Association where several
other problem issues were also discussed. Among the comments: .
"Everyone is pointing their finger at somebody else. Everyone knows
the BIE schools have tremendous needs, but no one has stepped up to
the plate." Association Lobbyist, Debbie Ho
"They give us less money to operate on than we need. " Deb
Bordeaux, principal at Loneman School on Pine Ridge Indian
Services for education should be at the local level." Deb Bordeaux
who says the BIE must give more local control for the schools.
"If we don't get something turned around here, it's going to be a
disaster." Paul Ironcloud of Porcupine Day School.
"We're not all the same. We're individual nations with unique
identities, and we should be able to show that." Deb Bordeaux about
funds for teaching Lakota language and culture.
"The BIA can't tell tribal schools what to do, but under NCLB,
that's what they're trying to do. " Chris Bordeaux
Rapid City Journal
Educators look to boost minority graduation
Utah: American Indian students often drop out of school because they
don't feel connected to their cultures. In a survey by the National
Indian Education Study, only
of American Indian and Alaska Native students said they knew "a lot"
about their tribe or group.
said they knew "nothing or not much." 'If you don't have a
strong cultural identity, it becomes very hard to assimilate
yourself into today's educational system,' said Steven Trubow. "If
I live in a native culture and go to school
and there's never a mention of my culture, of my lifestyle, then
it's going to kind of send a message to me that my culture isn't
important." Last school year,
American Indian students were enrolled in Utah's public schools.
of the seniors graduated, compared with
of students statewide. Trubow
said schools can help minority students by embracing their cultures
in the classrooms. Otherwise, these students may lose interest and
struggle academically. Trubow calls it the "cycle of disengagement."
Out of tragedy, success
Kansas: During May's graduation at Haskell Indian Nations
University, Willow Jack Abrahamson was the first student to cross
the stage and receive her bachelor’s degree. That honor was bestowed
upon her by the cheering crowd of students, teachers and family who
call her a leader and inspiration. Three years ago, Willow lost her
husband and 4-year-old daughter in a car accident. Willow and her
6-year old son, Nakeezaka, survived, but Willow suffered head,
spine, and pelvic injuries. Doctors told the award-winning jingle
dancer that she would need a wheelchair or walker. “I was feeling
like the whole world was caving in. It was like I was living a
real-life nightmare, something I would never want to see anybody go
through,” Willow said. What kept her going was a visit by the Dalai
Lama, who heard her story and wanted to meet her. His Holiness
reminded Willow that she still had a son and happiness to share. “I
decided I can’t be sitting there acting like a crybaby," Willow
remembers. " I am the mother and the father now. I have a child to
raise. I’ve got to quit this road of self pity.” In 2006, Willow
returned to Haskell. But tragedy struck again in 2007 when she and
Nakeezaka were in another rollover accident. Nakeezaka broke his
arm and femur. Willow shattered her pelvic area. Again, doctors told
said she'd need a wheelchair or walker. Willow said she often
thought of the passage: “This too shall pass.” Once again, Willow
overcame these challenges, then went on to finish college by
graduating magna cum laude. She dedicated her graduation to her
daughter and son. Willow was also honored as the head lady dancer at
Haskell' powwow -- a high honor.
Engineering students partner with Red Cliff Indian Reservation to
improve community infrastructure
Red Cliff Reservation, Wisconsin: Engineers Without Borders is an
organization that designs sustainable projects for communities.
While EWB usually works overseas, this year the University of
Wisconsin-Madison chapter sent four students to work for the Red
Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. The students will spend 5
years working on three projects related to flooding and storm water.
One task for UW-Madison EWB is to find a practical way to prevent
flooding in a community cemetery downhill from a wetland. "Working
closely with a Wisconsin community is as important as working in an
exotic foreign location," says graduate student, Alison Sanders.
"We're also getting a valuable experience in learning federal
engineering design codes as well as learning the reservation's own
laws." Red Cliff is not the only tribal community that will
benefit from EWB efforts . EWB chapters at UW-Platteville and
Indiana University-Purdue University will work with Lac Vieux
Desert. Michigan Technological Institute will pick up projects with
Oregon tribes, university partner to mentor prospective Native
Oregon: The University of Oregon and the state's nine federally
recognized tribes have partnered to create a masters degree program
in education. Tribal students and those descended from an enrolled
grandparent, are eligible to apply. Programs of study range from
elementary to high school levels. Those students accepted in the
Sapsik'wala Program (Sapsik'wala means ''teacher'' in the Sahaptian
language of the Umatilla Tribe) have their tuition paid, receive
$1,775 a month for living expenses, a book allowance of $250 per
term, and $1,500 for a laptop. After graduating, Sapkik'wala
students are required to teach at a tribal or Title VII-funded
Student Taralee Suppah, Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, now
feels ready to teach. ''I feel like I am prepared and have been
given a great opportunity,'' she said. ''I feel like a teacher.''
Suppah, 23, will return to Warm Springs to teach 5th grade.
Tyla LaGoy, Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, will be teaching
at a Title VII school in Eugene. She credits Sapkik'wala with
providing connections to the teaching world. ''Sapsik'wala provides
mentorship for when we leave the program,'' she said.
Stephany ''Running Hawk'' Johnson, Oglala Lakota, said her favorite
aspect of the program ''is just being in the classroom. I would
definitely encourage anyone to do this. This is a
great program, and we really need more Native teachers.''
The application deadline for the Sapsik'wala project is
Universities launch effort to debunk Native stereotypes
Alaska: Many students and professors at the University of
Alaska/Anchorage are woefully misinformed about Alaska’s indigenous
people. The situation makes many Native students uncomfortable. It
may also be a factor in the group's high dropout rates. “I think
there’s a perception that Alaska Natives are white people under
different skin,” said John Dede, assistant to the vice provost.
“And they are not. They come from different cultures with a
different world view, and understanding that will be a realization
for a lot of people.” To overcome the problem, a 100-page handbook
debunking Native myths is being published. UAA and neighboring
Alaska Pacific University will give free copies to 600 professors
and provide 900 free copies for students. Students will also
receive free copies of "Yuuyaraq: The Way of the Human Being” by
Yup’ik author, Harold Napoleon. The book describes how European
diseases devastated tribes between the 18th-20th centuries. Students
will also receive “Growing up Native in Alaska,” by A.J.
McClanahan, which features interviews with Alaska Natives about
their search for self-identity.
American Mascot Power Point Presentation
Project pushes education by degree
Montana: Iris Pretty Paint spent 10 years researching why people
don't give up when faced with challenges. Pretty Paint now uses her
knowledge with members of the Blackfoot Project, a program that
helps fellow tribal members earn their doctoral degrees. “I always
remind them: 'Don't get sidetracked,'" said Pretty Paint, a
sociologist. "The bottom line is you want a degree. That's it. If
you allow things along the way to stop you, you just don't have the
luxury of letting that happen. If we let the system stop us, they've
won. And we've worked too hard in our lives to get to the point
where we're at.' ” The Blackfoot Project is the only known project
of its type in the country. It seeks to build a foundation for
success through shared tradition. Most of the group's two dozen
members are women bound by the same language and place. “Most of
our ceremonies from way back, I don't know how far back, were given
to our women,” said Narcisse Blood, a Blackfoot Project advisor.
“Over the years, especially the last 200 years when we faced some
real challenges, whether it's starvation or the killing off of the
buffalo -- and especially today -- it's our Blackfeet women who step
up and rise to the occasion of doing what needs to be done."
Blackfoot Project members work together to help the Blackfoot Nation
unite traditional knowledge with Western science. Four core issues
guide their research projects: rediscovering Blackfoot values; the
role of stress; language, and the limitations of political systems.
The project's name is Ihto'tsii Kipaitapiiwahsinnoon, which in the
Blackfoot language means “Coming from Within.” The University of
Montana and Research Opportunities in Science for Native Americans
are also involved.
Research shows it's difficult for people of
races to earn an advanced degree:
of people who start a program actually finish it. The challenge is
for Native people whose philosophy may differ from mainstream
society's higher education values;
Native people earned doctorate degrees and
Natives earned master's degrees;
Native people need an advanced degree to join university and
tribal college faculties where they can help their community or be
of tribal college faculty members are Native. These numbers are
for science instructors -- only 15%
master's degrees and
Watch a video report on the Blackfoot Project: