A letter sent to tribal leaders April 16 by Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced four upcoming consultation sessions to continue work on the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education, an Executive Order signed by President Barack Obama on December 2, 2011.
Along with the letter, tribal leaders received a draft Memorandum of Understanding, which will provide a framework between the Interior and Education departments so they can work together to achieve the goals of the initiative, which seeks to close the achievement gap between Indian students and non-Indian students; decrease the alarmingly high dropout rates of all American Indian and Alaska Native students; and help preserve and revitalize Native languages, histories and cultures.
“Education is key to the fabric of healthy communities,” said Salazar, who co-chairs the president’s initiative, in a press release. “But we need to do better when it comes to meeting the academic and cultural needs of our American Indian and Alaska Native students across the nation. These tribal consultations will be critical in developing the most effective framework to raise the bar for Indian country education.”
In the letter, Duncan and Salazar state the purpose of the sessions is to discuss 1) the development and content of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of the Interior and the Department of Education and 2) the strategic implementation of the Initiative.
“The strength of tribes and our nation’s future prosperity are inextricably tied, and together we can dramatically improve the lives of our Native students,” Duncan said. “These consultations will be invaluable and will continue our efforts to listen to, and learn from, the tribal leaders who know these communities best.”
The upcoming tribal consultations build upon four recent roundtable discussions with federal officials, tribal leaders and Indian educators on best practices to improve Indian education.
The sessions will be held:
Thunder Valley Casino Resort
1200 Athens Avenue
Lincoln, California 95648
Northern Arizona University
Ashurst Hall Auditorium, Building 11
321 McMullen Circle
Flagstaff, Arizona 86001
BLN Office Park
Conference Room 3
2001 Killebrew Drive
Bloomington, Minnesota 55425
611 Commerce Street
Nashville, Tennessee 37203