Native Village
Youth and Education news
December 2009  Volume 2

Education rights for American Indian children need protecting
By Lewis Diuguid

Condensed by Native Village

Colorado:  Robert Cook is president of the Oglala Lakota Indian Education Association. At a recent conference in Denver, he said that Article I Section 8 and Article VI of the U.S. Constitution ensure treaty rights for American Indians. That includes the right of Native children to receive a good education which prepares them for college and good careers.

Sadly, however, American Indian schools average 60 years of age. Many are in horrible condition, and more than $1,000,000,000 is needed to fill the backlog of repairs and maintenance. 

Often due to this, the Native student dropout rate is disproportionately high.

"Our schools are literally falling apart," Cook told the 19th Annual International Conference of the National Association for Multicultural Education. "They don't serve the needs of our students."

Another problem is that many schools don't teach the constitutional guarantees for American Indians. This includes  sovereignty rights for 564 federally recognized tribes who see these rights eroding.  "Students are not aware of the treaty rights," Cook said.

This information void leaves American Indian schools incapable of preparing students for 21st century jobs. Cook wants to enable Native youth to protect their tribal heritage, language, culture, traditions, land and resources. But they can only do this with a good education.

Cook said he and other American Indians have great hopes for a turnaround under President Barack Obama, an adopted Crow tribal member.  "He understands the nature and concerns," Cook said.

Cook told a Lakota proverb to the audience of educators: "We will forever be known by the tracks we leave behind."

American Indians are trying to leave tracks now so their children will prosper in the future.

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