Via Indian Country Today: A Lesson From the Miccosukee Tribe: Importance of Putting the ‘Native’ Back Into Native Education

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.

 

Via Edweek.org: Stakes High for Bureau of Indian Education’s Overhaul

An excerpt:

A U.S. Senate report from 1969 describes the federal government’s failure to provide an effective education for Native American children as a “national tragedy and a national disgrace” that has “condemned the [American Indian] to a life of poverty and despair.”

Nearly 50 years later, little has changed, in the view of advocates, lawmakers, and tribal leaders alike. Graduation rates in Indian Country are among the lowest of all student subgroups, and there’s a laundry list of schools in need of significant repairs, some of which lack essentials like heat and running water.

While the vast majority of Native American children attend traditional public schools run by local districts, members of Congress and the Obama administration—both of which have admitted to shouldering some blame for the current situation—are pressuring the Bureau of Indian Education to right its flailing operations at the schools the BIE oversees on or near American Indian reservations.

But since the bureau unveiled its blueprint for reorganizing last year, adjustments to its operations have been slow going, prompting some to question whether it will work. After all, the BIE, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of the Interior, has been beleaguered for decades by rampant staff turnover, lack of expertise, and financial mismanagement. In the last 36 years, it’s cycled through 33 directors.

“Questions have been raised about whether this will address the fundamental problems facing the system or simply rearrange the chairs at the department,” Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., said May 14 during a hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives that addressed the BIE’s shortcomings. “Questions have also been raised about whether this reorganization is being done in a timely manner or being delayed by the same bureaucratic wrangling that has plagued these schools for decades.”

Meanwhile, with Republicans in Congress focused on reducing the deficit and pruning the budget for federal agencies and programs, there’s little new money to be directed toward the problems.

To read the entire article, click here.

DOI, BIA: Request for Nominations of Members To Serve on the BIE Advisory Board for Exceptional Children

Members of the Advisory Board will provide guidance, advice and recommendations with respect to special education  and related services for children with disabilities in BIE-funded schools in accordance with the requirements of IDEA.

The Advisory Board will:

(1) Provide advice and recommendations for the coordination of services within the BIE and with other local, State and  Federal agencies;

(2) Provide advice and recommendations on a broad range of policy issues dealing with the provision of educational  services to American Indian children with disabilities;

(3) Serve as advocates for American Indian students with special education needs by providing advice and recommendations regarding best practices, effective program coordination strategies, and recommendations for improved educational programming;

(4) Provide advice and recommendations for the preparation of information required to be submitted to the Secretary of Education under 20U.S.C. 1411 (h)(2);

(5) Provide advice and recommend policies concerning effective inter- and intra- agency collaboration, including modifications to regulations, and the elimination of barriers to inter- and intra- agency programs and activities; and

(6) Will report and direct all correspondence to the Assistant Secretary—Indian Affairs through the Director, BIE with a courtesy copy to the DFO.

 

DATES:Please submit nominations by February 20, 2015.

ADDRESSES:Please submit nominations to Ms. Sue Bement, Designated Federal Officer (DFO), Bureau of Indian Education, Division of Performance and Accountability, 1011 Indian School Road NW., Suite 332, Albuquerque,New Mexico 87104 Telephone (505)563–5274Fax to (505) 563–5281.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:Ms.Sue Bement, DFO, at the address and telephone number listed above.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:The Advisory Board was established in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act, Public Law 92–463. The following provides information about the Committee, the membership and the nomination process.

For more information, click HERE.