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Kennedy a 'tireless champion'

The National Indian Education Association extends our deepest condolences to the family and colleagues of Sen. Edward Kennedy. A tireless champion of education and opportunity for all people, Senator Kennedy was a powerful advocate for the education of Native children, always seeking ways to ensure that the U.S. government honored its legal, moral and ethical obligations to Native communities.

As chairman of the Senate subcommittee on Indian Education, Senator Kennedy oversaw the 1969 special report “Indian Education: A National Tragedy – A National Challenge,” calling for accountability for the failures of the federal government in Indian education, advocating for increased Native control, and leading to the establishment of the Office of Indian Education under the U.S. Department of Education.

His integral role in the passage of the Indian Education Act of 1972 paved the way for greater Native self-determination in education, a goal he continually supported and affirmed through multiple pieces of legislation and policy, including the 1978 Tribally Controlled College and University Assistance Act.

Over the years, Senator Kennedy always made the needs of Native students a top priority and responsibility; his door always open to tribal delegations, Native organizations, and Native people. And while his legacy of service and support for Native communities will be profoundly missed, the greatest legacy Senator Kennedy leaves us is our inheritance of his work in building a better future for Native children across generations. We share our deepest gratitude and sincerest grief in marking the passing of this extraordinary leader, advocate and person.

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“Clearly, effective education lies at the heart of any lasting solution. And that education should no longer be one which assumes that cultural differences mean cultural inferiority.” Sen. Edward Kennedy, foreword to “Indian Education: A National Tragedy – A National Challenge,” 1969.

National Indian Education Association

Washington, D.C.