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Educational efforts made at the National Indian Education Association convention

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HONOLULU - Every year, the National Indian Education Association Convention has been a showcase of the accumulation of educational efforts made by its membership. From meeting Annual Yearly Progress requirements to using best practice approaches to retention of language and culture, the convention hosts many ideas and topics concerning Indian education. The NIEA has made its name for almost 40 years promoting education equality and language and culture preservation to American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians.

The convention was recently held in Honolulu, which allowed for cultural exchanges and expression of knowledge of culturally-based curriculum. The goals of the host site were to express the attainable goals to bridging school and the community; establish a curriculum that works with Native students; make AYP based on a culture-based curriculum, learning, culture and context; and revitalize and maintain the Native languages of the United States.

More than 3,400 Indian education advocates presented and attended in excess of 220 workshops to express the concrete, statistical information of knowledge of Indian education. The ''Teaching Learners/Learners Teaching'' workshop, presented by Director of Ke Kula Ni'ihau O Kekaha, Haunani Seward, detailed the mission to strengthen and perpetuate the Ni'ihau dialect of Hawaiian by being instructed exclusively using the Ni'ihau dialect.

The ''Response to the Dropout Crisis: Arizona Native American Dropout Prevention Initiative First Year Accomplishments'' workshop, presented by the Arizona Department of Education Director of Native American Dropout Prevention Initiative Bonnie Talakte, Hopi, gave insight to tribal communities and school systems facing almost insurmountable challenges when it comes to keeping youth in school. This included first-year implementation plans and accomplishments of a three-year grant project designed to bring rural Native communities together with school districts to reduce dropout rates.

The workshop ''Preventing Bullying by Developing a School Wide Culture of Respect,'' presented by Teresa Iyall, Coeur d'Alene, used social skills as motivating factors to improve student behavior, reduce bullying and other forms of aggression, and strengthen the learning environment from the data collected from Tulalip Elementary School.

''Impacting Native Hawaiians in Enrollment, Retention and Graduation at the University of Hawai'i,'' was presented by David Sing, Native Hawaiian, director of Na Pua Noeau, University of Hawaii. This workshop provided an opportunity to see the work that Na Pua No'eau has been doing for the past 17 years with Hawaiian students in grades K - 12.

To address the issue of Native students to meet both cultural and No Child Left Behind standards, the ''Pedagogy of Aloha Meets Cultural and NCLB Standards'' workshop was presented by Ku Kahakalau, Native Hawaiian. These workshops provided key cohesive insight to address the issues of education in our schools.

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Moreover, the field trips provided by NIEA's local planning committee to the Kamehameha Schools was a key activity at the convention. Native educators of the continental United States and Alaska were allowed open access to the successes and best practices to the schools. Teachers, board members and tribal leaders, saw how Hawaiian immersion programs work along with the state and federal standards.

During the convention, three new members were elected to the NIEA board of directors: Shawn Malia Kana'iaupuni, Native Hawaiian, director, Public Education Support Division Kamehameha Schools; Namaka Rawlins, Native Hawaiian, director of the 'Aha Punana Leo Schools in Hawaii; and Ryan Wilson, Oglala Lakota, director of the Northern Arapaho Council of Elders. Willard Sakiestewa Gilbert, Hopi, professor of bilingual/multicultural education at Northern Arizona University, was sworn in as the 2007 - '08 NIEA president by Verlie Ann Malina-Wright, Native Hawaiian, 2006 - '07 NIEA president.

In her final speech, Malina-Wright gave a moving account that although 2 million Natives drop out per year, there is the ability to support policies that preserve our cultural identity through language, traditional practices, cultural studies and spirituality. As a Native Hawaiian, she stated that for the Hawaiians, there is one superintendent and one Native board of education in Hawaii.

The NIEA's executive director, Lillian Sparks, Oglala/Sicangu Lakota, reported new initiatives set forth by grants and policies. She announced the NIEA has been awarded a grant by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to focus on the redesign of the American high school. Over the course of two years, NIEA will focus on the promotion of instructional practices designed to meet the needs of diverse learners - specifically cultural-based education for American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students through national and state policy.

At the awards gala banquet, NIEA awards were handed out. Lifetime achievement awards were awarded to Eva Stokely, Navajo, and Grayson Noley, Choctaw. Elder of the Year was awarded to Emma Unap, Kiowa, and John McCoy, Tulalip. Parent of the Year was awarded to Angie Carney, Chickasaw. Educator of the Year was awarded to Larry Kimura, Native Hawaiian, and Teacher of Year was awarded to Joyce Bahe, enrolled White Mountain Apache and Navajo. These awards are given to NIEA members who show achievement in advocating the efforts of Indian education. Scholarships were awarded to students. Undergraduates included Rachel Byington, Choctaw; Matthew Wilson, Choctaw and Kiowa; and Naomi Miguel, Tohono O'odham. Master's students included Clarena Brockie, Gros Venture, and Sonya Oberly, Nez Perce. Doctoral students included Darlene Peters, S'Klallam, and Toni Lee Tsatoke, Kiowa.

The convention concluded with renewed support given by Gilbert, the NIEA board of directors and the NIEA membership.

The NIEA, a 501(c) (3) organization, was founded in 1969 to support traditional Native cultures and values, to enable Native learners to become contributing members of their communities, to promote Native control of educational institutions, and to improve educational opportunities and resources for American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians throughout the United States. For more information, e-mail mwoestehoff@niea.org.