Utah School District Graduates 100 Percent of Native Seniors!

From Indian Country Today:

In 1997, the graduation rate for Native American students was 37 percent in theNebo School District; this year, the district graduated 100 percent of its Native seniors, with 23 of the 26 starting college in the fall,reportstheDaily Heraldout of Utah.

It was in 1997 thatEileen Quintana, manager for the Nebo School District’s Title VII program in Utah County, Utah, approached the board of education and brought the graduation rates to their attention.

“If this were the case for white children, heads would be rolling,” she remembers saying, reported theHerald. “There would be an outrage.”

Though she shocked some, the district gave her program more resources, like a classroom, computers, and supplies.

According to theWhite House’s 2014 Native Youth Report, the national graduation rate for American Indian/Alaska Native students is 67 percent, the lowest of any racial or ethnic group. Graduates from Bureau of Indian Education schools fare even worse, with a graduation rate of just 53 percent, compared to a national average of 80 percent.

Quintana and Brenda Beyal, a teacher in the program, attribute their program’s success to collaboration. While many Title VII programs try to survive on the $200 they get every year per student from the federal government, Nebo’s program looks for supplemental grants, and support from family and employees.

“Many of our Title VII programs throughout the state function from a desk out of a cubbyhole,” Quintana told theHerald. “You have to have a classroom, you have to have computers… you have to have teachers and tutors… If your school administration is not going to that point of supplying you and helping you secure these fundamental necessities of education, you can’t make an impact.”

Aside from funding difficulties, Native students spend their entire educational careers battling low expectations and assumptions.

“People think Native Americans don’t have to work hard because they get into college anyway,” Beyal said. “That’s not true.”

Aside from being collaborative, the program encourages students to incorporate their culture into assignments.

“Everything that we learn is from [the] white perspective,” Quintana told theHerald. “Sometimes all it takes is an adaptation, indigenise the curriculum a little bit. That is what we have done many times and it has worked.”

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Elizabeth Reese: The Making of a Modern Warrior

From Harvard Law Today:

Being Native American defines Elizabeth Reese ’16. Then again, so does being the granddaughter of a Lutheran minister from Pennsylvania. Together, the two have helped shape a woman and a lawyer.

Reese was raised 20 miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, as a member of the Pueblo of Nambé tribe. The village there is small and old—it dates back to the 14th century—as is the tribe that makes the reservation home. Some 1,100 members of the 2,000-person Nambé tribe live on the 20,000-acre reservation, which is filled with cottonwoods, juniper, and scrub oak, and surrounded by sandstone and mountains and river. Such isolation has helped the community maintain its culture and traditions.

Reese was raised squarely in that community and in that culture, although she’s always felt she belonged in two very different worlds. She grew being called Elizabeth but also Yunpovi (which means Willow Flower in the Tewa language). She may have been surrounded by scrub pine, but her father read her Homer as a child, which helped her navigate traditionally elite white spaces more easily than she might have otherwise.

She considered her educational journey an opportunity to learn things that would aid her in making a difference for her people—for her tribe specifically, but for native people more broadly. First, she went to Yale.

“When I went off to school at Yale I really wanted to make sure I understood the world of education and power that exists in America, because that world is something few Indian people have been a part of and understood,” says Reese. “And yet, that’s where so many decisions that impact us and define what will happen to us get made.”

As an undergraduate she developed a background in political theory, which led her to England and the University of Cambridge. There she earned a Master of Philosophy in political thought and intellectual history and did work on Indian political theory. She counts herself as one of the first Native Americans to attend the university and one of the first scholars there to focus on Indian ideas.

Reese’s commitment to the study—and protection—of Native concerns led her to Harvard Law School and shaped her focus during her three years. She built visibility, programming, and recruitment as a leader in the HLS Native American Law Students Association. She helped to write a District Court amicus brief intervening in a tribal water jurisdiction case through the Native Amicus Briefing Project. She also served as a congressional intern and a fellow for the Senate Judiciary Committee, and interned at the Department of Justice in the civil rights division.

Now she is hoping to become a warrior.

“There’s a common theme in Indian society that lawyers are the modern warriors for Indian people,” says Reese. “I’m really excited to become one of those warriors and to join the fight to ensure that tribal sovereignty survives for my children, my grandchildren, and my great grandchildren.”

After graduation Reese will clerk for Judge Amul R. Thapar at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. Late in the year she’ll head to Washington, D.C., as a Public Service Venture Fund Redstone Fellow at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The breadth of cases she’ll be part of—from litigating voting rights on one side of the country to school desegregation on the other side—excites her.

While Reese hopes to spend the early part of her career working on civil rights cases that affect the lives of people of color in the U.S—including her family members—she also hopes to someday practice Indian law. After all it’s the law, she says, that determines whether or not Indian tribes survive.

“It can’t be understated how fragile our future is—how our survival is still something we have to fight for,” says Reese. “Unlike a lot of other groups or identities, this is our only homeland. Our culture exists nowhere else in the world if we fail to ensure its survival here. I take that challenge very seriously and hope I can do all I can to protect my tribe and my people and our sovereignty.”

Congratulations Elizabeth!

Congress Passes the Native American Children’s Safety Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, praised Congress’ passage of S. 184, the Native American Children’s Safety Act. The bill was sponsored by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), with bipartisan support.

S. 184 amends the Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Prevention Act to require background checks before foster care placements are ordered in tribal court proceedings. The bill passed out of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Feb. 2, 2015, and passed the full Senate on June 1, 2015. The bill passed the House of Representatives on May 23, 2016.

“Protecting Native children is paramount,” said Barrasso. “Requiring background checks for potential foster care parents of Indian children is just common sense. I want to thank Senator Hoeven for his leadership in introducing this important bill, and I call on the president to sign it into law as soon as possible.”

“Our bill ensures that Native American children living on reservations have all of the same protections when assigned to foster care that children living off the reservation have,” Hoeven said. “The measure requires background checks for all adults living in a foster home, which will help to protect children placed there at an already difficult time in their lives.”

ANNOUNCEMENT: 2016 Professional Development Program Application Now Open!

The Office of Indian Education Professional Development Program competition opened on May 17, 2016 and closes on July 1, 2016. The purposes of the Indian Education Professional Development Grants program are to:

  1. increase the number of qualified Indian individuals in professions that serve Indians;
  2. provide training to qualified Indian individuals to become teachers, administrators, teacher aides, social workers, and ancillary educational personnel; and
  3. improve the skills of qualified Indian individuals who serve in the education field.

The notice was published in the Federal Register at this link: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-05-17/pdf/2016-11606.pdf.

Interested applicants will need to use the grants.gov website to apply at http://www.grants.gov. The Grants.Gov Opportunity Number is: ED-GRANTS-051716-001.

For more information you may click here: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/indianprofdev/applicant.html.