Isleta Pueblo has taken over the Isleta Elementary School, which since its founding in the 1890s had been under the control of the federal government. The difference in school morale and the children’s behavior, say school officials, is already evident. And it was certainly easy to see the day ICTMN visited—bubbly, friendly, well-behaved children, smiling teachers only too eager to show off their classrooms, and committed staff who took time to share their programs and plans for the future.
The transfer was official July 1. Just a few days before school started in August Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn, Bureau of Indian Education Director Charles Roessel and Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M, joined Isleta Pueblo Gov. E. Paul Torres at the school to celebrate and turn over the keys. This is the first BIE-to-tribal school transition enabled by the Obama Administration’s Blueprint for Reform and the president’s Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative, according to the Department of the Interior.
Torres explained that this is the school his grandmas and grandpas attended. It had once been an important gathering place for the community and provided a sense of continuity.
The language program has been active in the school for about two and a half years, with David Lente, Isleta Pueblo, serving as language teacher for grades K-6. “We’re incubating the language program now, working up to integrating language/culture into all instruction at the school,” he said. Among the initiatives underway, explained Lujan, are the production of cartoons in Tiwa for the younger kids and working with a private contractor to develop a Tiwa language program to run on Apple devices, called Tiwa Talk.
“Language, culture, and tradition are the focus of our new school,” said Gov. Torres. “We need our future leaders to be strong in language and culture to keep our identity.”