WASHINGTON, D.C. – William Mendoza, Director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education at the U.S. Department of Education, and Dr. Charles M. “Monty” Roessel, Director of the Bureau of Indian Education, today announced that the Pine Ridge School in South Dakota has received $218,000 at their request under the U.S. Department of Education’s Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant program to aid in recovery from student suicides and suicide attempts.

The Pine Ridge School, which serves the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation, requested assistance after experiencing a significant increase in the number of counseling referrals, suicide ideations, and suicide attempts between August 2014 and April 2015.Two of the students who committed suicide were high school students and two were middle-school age.

“We are heartbroken about the tragic loss of life and are committed to working with the Pine Ridge community as it heals. These funds will help Pine Ridge School’s continued efforts to restore the learning environment in the face of these great tragedies.” said Mendoza. “This Administration is committed to supporting tribes in their work to meet the needs of their students. We all must do more to address the challenges across Indian Country.”

“Children and youth need help in seeing that their lives have meaning and that they, too, have the power to create promising futures for themselves. No tribe can long endure the loss of its lifeblood, its children and youth, to suicide,” said Roessel. “Thanks to the Department of Education and the SERV Program, the Pine Ridge School will be able to begin to help its students and their families onto healthier life paths that lead to more positive outcomes.”

In line with the Obama Administration’s Generation Indigenous (“Gen-I”) initiative to improve the lives of Native youth by removing the barriers for their progress and academic success, the SERV grant will support a culturally appropriate approach to the recovery of Native youth at Pine Ridge School. The grant will enable the Pine Ridge School to hire additional counselors and social workers to help students during the summer school session and the next school year. It also will support implementation of a multi-faceted and holistic approach to healing that is based on Lakota traditional culture and relevant to Pine Ridge School students, who have dealt with the sudden loss of classmates to suicide or know those who have attempted suicide.

To view the entire press release, click here.

An excerpt:

Matt Campbell Works the Dream Job at NARF

6/14/15

If you had asked Matthew Campbell when he graduated from Fort Lewis College 11 years ago if he ever imagined that he would one day work as an attorney for the Native American Rights Fund, he probably would have responded with an “Are you kidding?” And yet, as he sits in his office at NARF’s Boulder, Colorado headquarters, he sees that destiny set him on his life course—that he is exactly where he is supposed to be.

Campbell, 33 and an enrolled member of the Alaska Native Village of Gambell, was born and raised in Denver. He did not get high grades in high school. He considers himself lucky to have gained entrance into the Durango, Colorado liberal arts college, where he earned a B.A. in Sociology. Campbell said he also struggled in his first year of college, but he did well in his second, third and fourth years.

After college, he did not know what he wanted to do for work. Thanks to his persistent mother, who must have seen a lawyer in him, Campbell took the Law School Admissions Test. But he did not study hard enough, and his scores reflected that. Campbell knew the upper-echelon law schools would never take him, so he applied at the lower-tier schools. They did not want him either.

In 2005, he received a flyer for the Pre-Law Summer Institute for American Indians and Alaska Natives, offered at the American Indian Law Center (AILC) in Albuquerque. He called the AILC yet was told the deadline had passed. “They asked me to send my application anyway, and I got in,” he said.

Campbell describes the two-month program, which replicates the first year of law school, as “intense,” and it attracts recruiters from law schools all over the country. Not only did he do well, but he was also wooed by recruiters from three different law schools. Campbell ended up enrolling at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University in Tempe. In addition to his J.D., obtained in spring 2008, he holds an Indian Legal Certificate, with an environmental emphasis.

Campbell sent his resume to NARF in 2012 in pursuit of a boarding school staff attorney vacancy. That was the job he interviewed for at the organization’s headquarters. But when NARF called him after the interview, it was to tell him he did not get that position; rather, it had him in mind for an education attorney position that had recently become vacant. Campbell, who understood how prestigious NARF is and how rarely it hires lawyers due to low turnover, did not need time to think about it. “I pretty much accepted on the spot,” he said.

To read the article in its entirety, click here.

An excerpt:

“This language (English), which is good enough for a white man and a black man, ought to be good enough for the red man. It is also believed that teaching an Indian youth in his own barbarous dialect is a positive detriment to him. The first step to be taken toward civilization, toward teaching the Indians the mischief and folly of continuing in their barbarous practices, is to teach them the English language.”

—Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs
September 21, 1887

“It is a great mistake to think that the Indian is born an inevitable savage. He is born a blank, like all the rest of us. Left in the surroundings of savagery, he grows to possess a savage language, superstition, and life. We, left in the surroundings of civilization, grow to possess a civilized language, life, and purpose. Transfer the infant white to the savage surroundings, he will grow to possess a savage language, superstition, and habit.”

—Carlisle Indian School founder Colonel Richard Pratt, 1892

QUICK STORY:  We recently completed an incredibly successful program on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, for Browning High School (a public school) and initiated by a couple of progressive teachers and administrators.  The program tapped into Blackfeet people’s long history of powerful orators and focused on public speaking with an emphasis on storytelling.  This program touched on four values very profound and powerful for Blackfeet people (Amskapipikuni): storytelling, Blackfeet history, Blackfeet language and public speaking. 

How do we know that it was “incredibly successful?”  Simple.  Because the students were engaged.  A bunch of Blackfeet kids voluntarily choosing to present their stories, dance and poems to their community in a public setting in front of hundreds of people.  Powerful  Beautiful.  Like their eloquent and practical ancestors. 

They loved it. 

Let’s be clear: NO ONE loves public speaking.  According to Psychology Today, most people would rather DIE than speak publicly.  Psychology Today says “We are afraid of being rejected from the social group, ostracized…We fear ostracism still so much today it seems, fearing it more than death, because not so long ago getting kicked out of the group probably really was a death sentence.”

But these beautiful Native students loved it.  They were incredible at it.  Owned the moment.  Why?

Because the teachers showed them, from Blackfeet history, how they were born to do this. The teachers showed them how these gifts—language, storytelling, oratory—were literally in their blood. How their stories, their language are their strength and by mastering these gifts they were they doing their part to carry on a very proud and very ancient tradition. 

Those kids got permission, from their own culture, to be great.

Blackfeet Students with rapper Frank Waln. Photo by Wesley Roach, Lakota
Blackfeet Students with rapper Frank Waln. Photo by Wesley Roach, Lakota

There was no “shy Indian kids” here.  It was not perfect (for example, it is crucial that the district implement this program K-12—it’s hard to fit 12 years of practical application of Native history and language into one year), but it was undoubtedly great.  These prodigious Native kids did something that NOBODY else, of any color or age, enjoys and they did it incredibly.  Other Native kids will do the same when their studies are presented in this light.

WHY AM I TELLING YOU THIS?  Well, because every single Native community desperately needs to follow the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida’s lead and take back control of educating their most precious resources—Native children. 

See, the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida recently showed that they will not forsake tribal history, language or storytelling anymore in the name of national standards.  The Tribe applied for (and received) a waiver from the Department of Interior and also Department of Education that recognizes the Tribe’s sovereign right to define what “Adequate Yearly Progress” is and, guess what?  It will be better than what is required under federal law, the No Child Left Behind Act. 

To read Gyasi Ross’ opinion piece in its entirety, click here.

 

An exceprt:

Graduating this week from Yakama Nation Tribal School, Ashley Walsey is closing in on the goal she set for herself long ago — to study zoology at Washington State University.

“It’s been my dream since I was 7,” she said. “I’ve always loved animals a lot; my dad tells me that when I was little, the very first thing I wanted was a ferret.”

This fall, the 18-year-old animal lover from White Swan is headed to WSU and she’s simultaneously thrilled about her next adventure and worried about how much she’ll miss her little sister and her friends.

It’s a touch of the competitive spirit that made her a three-sport athlete for the Tribal School, competing in basketball, volleyball and track, as well as dancing in the powwows she travels to with her family.

Tribal School Principal Relyn Strom said Walsey works hard at everything she puts her mind to.

“She’s one of our strongest students academically, but she’s also a three-sport athlete and she’s very active in traditional cultural activities, like dancing and learning the Yakama language,” Strom said.

Walsey also credits her experience at the Tribal School and some of the friends she made there with helping her stay on track to college.

As for what kind of career she envisions for herself, Walsey is still open-minded. Maybe she’ll be a veterinarian or a zoologist who travels the world, or come home and work for the Yakama Nation’s wildlife program.

To read the entire article, click here.

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (N-NABS-HC) is a non-profit corporation, incorporated in June 2012 under the laws of the Navajo Nation.  The Coalition was formed to discuss and develop a national strategy to focus public attention and foster healing for the wrongs visited upon individuals, families, communities, American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal Nations by the Indian Boarding School policy of the United States.

NABS is currently seeking an Executive Officer. Click HERE for the full job description.

For more information about NABS, visit their website www.boardingschoolhealing.org or follow them on Facebook!