From Omaha.com, here.  An excerpt:

FLANDREAU, S.D. — At 6 a.m. the dorm’s hallway alarm blared. Then the overhead fluorescent lights beamed on.

Slowly, high school students Talitha Plain Bull, Juwan Grant and Ethan Young Bird tumbled out of bed and toward the showers.

They had arrived the night before, without much time to settle into this government-run boarding school for Native Americans.

Some of their schoolmates had flown to South Dakota from far-flung places like the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Some had come by car. Most had come on buses that traversed the Great Plains, stopping at reservations and towns along the way.

From NBC News, here. An excerpt:

BARROW, Alaska — America’s northernmost city, home to nearly 5,000 people above the Arctic Circle, is at the crossroads of change.

For generations, the native villagers have lived off the land, storing whale meat and blubber in underground ice cellars and sending children on their first hunts before they even hit their teens.

But a warmer climate threatens traditions in a community that retired Adm. Robert Papp, the U.S. envoy to the Arctic, calls “America’s refrigerator.”

“I don’t see the ice anymore,” Papp said during a summer visit — his sixth since a first attempt to get to the Arctic in 1976 was aborted because his ship couldn’t get through the ice.

Here, from Slate. An interesting article about Native oral history.  An excerpt:

In the year 1700, on Jan. 26 at 9 at night, in what is now Northern California, Earthquake was running up and down the coast. His feet were heavy, and when he ran, he shook the ground so much it sank down and the ocean poured in. “The earth would quake and quake again and quake again,” said the Yurok people. “And the water was flowing all over.” The people went to the top of a hill, wearing headbands of woodpecker feathers, so they could dance a jumping dance that would keep the earthquake away and return them to their normal lives. But then they looked down and saw the water covering their village and the whole coast; they knew they could never make the world right again.

That same night, farther up the coast in what is now Washington, Thunderbird and Whale had a terrible fight, making the mountains shake and uprooting the trees, said the Quileute and the Hoh people; they said the ocean rose up and covered the whole land. Farther north still, on Vancouver Island, dwarfs who lived in a mountain invited a person to dance around their drum; the person accidentally kicked the drum and got earthquake-foot, said the Nuu-chah-nulth people, and after that every step he took caused an earthquake. The land shook and the ocean flooded in, said the Huu-ay-aht people who are part of the Nuu-chah-nulth, and people didn’t even have time to wake up and get into their canoes, and “everything then drifted away, everything was lost and gone.”

. . . .

What the indigenous people knew all along, geologists have known only since 1984. Thomas Heaton was still in college in 1970 when geologists, who knew that the world’s largest earthquakes occurred where one tectonic plate descended under another one, first recognized that one of these subduction zones ran between the Juan de Fuca and North American plates. But the so-called Cascadia subduction zone had no record of ever producing large earthquakes. So, says Heaton, “they thought it was aseismic, just creeping.”

Excellent update from NIEA, below.

Native Education Advocates See Major Wins in ESEA Reauthorization Bills  

It has been a busy week for Native education advocates on the Hill! As Congress debated and negotiated the reauthorization of the largest civil rights education bill, the Elementary and Secondary School Act (ESEA), NIEA and it’s members advocated on behalf of the over 350,000 Native public school students to ensure that they are provided with a high-quality academic and culturally relevant education to achieve college and career success. We would like to thank our Native education partners for their continued support and for their efforts in helping ensure Native students succeed.

Student Success Act (HR5) Passed in the House

Student Success Act (SSA) passed through the House on July 8th with a recorded vote of 218 to 213. Twenty-seven Republican congressmen crossed party lines to join House Democrats in voting against HR5 Wednesday night. The SSA is a conservative version of the ESEA rewrite and was introduced by Rep. John Kline (R-MN). This bill favors state and local accountability over federal oversight by eliminating the current national accountability system. This measure would allow states to set their own academic standards and would prohibit federal statutes that mandate, incentivize, or coerce states to adopt Common Core State Standards.

The White House has indicated that it plans to veto the SSA in its current form because, as stated by Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, “instead of supporting the schools and educators that need it most, the bill shifts resources away from them.”

Native education advocates did see an important amendment added to the SSA under Title V entitled “The Federal Government’s Trust Responsibility to American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian Education.” The independent title was inserted thanks to strong bipartisan support, which was led by Rep. Don Young (R-AK). The amendment allows local educational agencies and tribes to be eligible for grants which improve education for Native students.

Every Child Achieves Act (S1177) is Being Debated in the Senate

Debate on the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) of 2015 began Tuesday, July 7th. In her opening remarks, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee stated, “Today marks the first day of debate on our bipartisan bill to strengthen our education system by reauthorizing the nation’s K-12 education law, the ESEA. This work is a chance to recommit ourselves to the promise of a quality education for every child. And it is an opportunity to finally fix the current law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB).”

The Native-specific provisions in the bill mark a huge victory for American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian education, reflecting years of hard work by tribes and Native education advocates. Some highlights include: Consultation, where states and local educational agencies must engage in meaningful consultation with tribes in the development of state plans for Title I grants, STEP Authorization, where grants are permanently authorized to promote tribal self-determination in order to improve Indian academic achievement, and the Preservation of Section 7131, which authorizes National Research Activities that have been critical to providing data on Indian student achievement.

While the Senate has ended voting for the week, several important amendments for Native education that have passed:

 Amendment to Improve Native American Education (#2085)

The amendment was introduced by Senator Rounds (R-SD) and Senator Udall (D-NM). This amendment calls for inter-agency collaboration between the Department of Interior (DOI) and Department of Education (DOE) to conduct a study of rural and poverty areas of Indian Country to identify:

  • Federal barriers that prevent tribes from implementing applicable policies over one-size fits all regulations dictated from Washington;
  • Recruitment and retention options for teachers and school administrators;
  • Limitations in funding sources and flexibility for such schools; and
  • Strategies on how to increase high school graduation rates.

Title VII Grant Programs for Indian Education Amendment (#2078)  

The amendment was introduced by Senator Tester (D-MT). This amendment restores vital grant programs in the Title VII of the ECAA, which “will help students in Indian Country develop the tools they need to succeed.” Senator Tester continued by saying that “the Senate took a step forward to live up to our moral and trust responsibility to ensure Native American students are getting the education and shot at success they deserve.” This amendment reinstates the following four programs:

  • In – Service Training for Teachers of Indian Children
  • Fellowships for Native Students Pursuing Social Beneficial Degrees
  • Gifted and Talented Programs to Nurture Native Excellence
  • Native Adult Literacy and GED Programs

The following amendments will be presented by Senator Heitkamp (D-ND) next week:

Grants for the Integration of Schools and Mental Health Systems (#2171)

The amendment introduces plans to reinstate and improve access to Mental Health Support Grants by reinstating the Integration Program- which provides five-year grants to States, school districts, and Indian tribes to increase student access to quality mental health care.

Tribal improvements included are:

  • Providing eligibility to Indian tribes or their education agencies, BIE schools, as well as Alaska Native communities;
  • Crisis Intervention and conflict resolution practices, such as those focused on decreasing rates of bullying, teen dating violence, suicide, trauma, and human trafficking;
  • Ensuring linguistically appropriate and culturally competent services;
  • Engage and utilizing expertise provided by institutions of higher education, such as a Tribal College or University, as defined in section 316(b) of the Higher Education Act of 1965; and
  • Assurances that tribes and their representatives are consulted and aware of the program and understand their eligibility.

Educational Equity under Land-Grant Status & Smith Lever Act (#2174)

The bipartisan amendment provides parity by allowing Tribal Colleges to compete for Children, Youth and Families at Risk and Federally Recognized Tribal Extension Grants. Co-sponsors of the amendment include Senators Thune (R-SD), Stabenow (D-MI), and Tester (D-MT).

Action Is Still Needed for Native Education

Now more than ever Native students need your support. Reach out to your state’s Senator and ask them to support these important and necessary amendments for Native education. Please contact Dimple Patel (dpatel@niea.org or at (202) 847-0034) with any questions.

  • To find the contact information for your Senator, please click here.

To call the general phone line for the Senate, please call (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak with the Senator from your state.

 

Whether you’re an educator, a student, or invested in increasing educational opportunities for Native students, NIEA members help advocate for better policies. Your  contribution will help us continue to be effective advocates, train educators that work with Native students, and close the achievement gap.  To donate, please 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.