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California tribes stress education at policy summit


SACRAMENTO, Calif. ? Can tribes teach their youth to cope in the modern world and still preserve traditional culture?

This was one of the issues facing California tribes in their long awaited two-day Indian Education Summit in the California capitol on January 16 and 17.

Tule River Reservation chairman Phil Hunter set the tone by stressing the importance of education in combating reservation problems.

"If you're a young person and you get a higher education, you're going to come back to the reservation and view things a little differently," said Hunter. "You're not apt to go and pick up that gun or fall into a pattern of abuse." Hunter said that for the first time American Indians have a chance of synthesizing traditional and educational goals. He said it was a time in which young Indians are finding pride in their culture.

Cindy LaMarr, board member of the National Indian Education Association and meeting moderator, called for the adoption of a state Indian educational policy. She said it was an opportune time to push for one since the current state legislature is generally sympathetic to American Indian needs. She cited the success of recently passed Senate Bill 41, which called for development of a comprehensive Kindergarten through high school American Indian curriculum as well as a new native section at the state library.

University administrator and Hoopa tribal member Lois Risling, said that a prime reason for an education is to train people to become citizens of whatever body politic they happen to belong to.

"The education system trains kids to be citizens of the United States. We wanted to train our kids to be citizens of Hoopa."