U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell made what she said is her last official trip to Indian country on Thursday, December 8 with a visit to Acoma Pueblo, reported The Associated Press. Acoma Pueblo is a nearly 1,000-year-old village that is about 70 miles west of Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is the oldest continuously inhabited community in North America.
The AP report pointed out that under two Obama administration initiatives Acoma Pueblo, also known as “Sky City,” was able to expand its land base and is in the process of taking control of a federal school on its reservation.
During her visit, Jewell stopped at Sky City Community School, where the AP said Jewell highlighted the Interior’s efforts to overhaul the troubled federal school system that educates some 50,000 Native American students. Many of the Bureau of Indian Education schools, while located on rural reservations, are under the control of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Interior overhaul aims to give more control to tribes, which as the AP reported, Jewell said are in a better position to make decisions for tribal children and students than officials in Washington. Sky City Community School should transfer to Acoma Pueblo control next year, reported the AP. Part of the overhaul also includes upgrades to current school buildings and replacing rundown schools and dormitories.
“Of all the things I’ve done in my career, there’s no question this, in particular working in Indian country and on tribal education, has been the richest, the most important and the most difficult,” Jewell said.
The Associated Press reported that Jewell plans to continue advocating for Native education after President Obama’s term ends.