The US Department of Education has released a report on the first-ever listening tour of Native American schools and communities in an effort to better meet the culturally-relevant academic needs of tribal students.
The report, announced at the 46th annual National Indian Education Association Convention, contained the results of nine listening sessions held in school environments in seven states across the country last year, which attracted over 1,000 attendees. Information included from participants pertains to a number of issues, including Native imagery and symbolism that could be perceived to be harmful, bullying, mental health issues, instructional content, and Native languages.
The report is broken up into sections, each including a short description of the theme as well as supporting data and testimonies given by youth, parents and teachers at the listening sessions. Following this are recommendations for improvement given by participants.
“If we are going to live up to our promise as a nation where every child truly has fair shot at success, we have to do more to improve opportunities and educational outcomes for Native youth. The listening tour revealed too many stories of school environments that rather than building on the strengths of Native youth, are stifling their potential,” said William Mendoza, executive director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education (WHIAIANE). “We need to ensure that every student has a supportive and a safe environment.”
WHIAIANE and the Department’s Office for Civil Rights worked with tribal leaders and communities for the listening sessions. Participants included area youth, teachers, parents and community advocates. The information will be used to shape future goals for WHIAIANE, who work to address the cultural needs of Native American tribes in order to ensure they receive a high quality education, writes Rebecca Klein for The Huffington Post.
President Obama recently announced the creation of the Gen-I Initiative, geared toward improving the lives of Native youth through education and economic development by removing barriers standing in their way. The initiative hopes to help all Native youth succeed through investments and increased engagement.
Obama has also included an increase in investments across Indian Country in his 2016 budget proposal, including a request of $20.8 billion in federal programs that will help tribes in several areas, which is a $1.5 billion increase from last year.
In addition, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently announced $3.5 million in grants to be given to Native American youth under the Native Youth Community Projects program. The goal of the program is to help ensure that Native American youth college and career-ready.