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Washington in brief

Dakota Peacekeeper gets an extension

Operation Dakota Peacekeeper, a BIA initiative designed to bolster law enforcement on the Standing Rock lands that straddle the North and South Dakota border, earned a 30-day extension following favorable reviews that have stretched from the halls of Congress to the reservation itself, where the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held a field hearing Aug. 4.

The plan has increased the number of BIA personnel on the reservation and supplemented existing police and correctional officers, with dramatic effect on the security of reservation residents, according to Chairman Ron His Horse Is Thunder. But BIA top lawman W. Patrick Ragsdale has expressed doubts about the continuation of the program in view of BIA funding constraints.

Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., a member of the SCIA as well as the influential Senate Appropriations Committee, pledged to continue making law enforcement in Indian country a part of congressional funding packages.

;'The Operation Dakota Peacekeeper has taken drunk drivers off the streets, kept children safe and allowed people to finally sleep at night,'' Johnson said, as quoted in a release. ''Every tribe and surrounding community deserves the same peace of mind and commitment from the BIA.''

Higher education bill includes tribes

In addition to increasing Pell Grant amounts for low-income students, mandating that the Education Department monitor and publicize college tuition costs, and ordering universities to include the cost of textbooks in online catalogues, the Higher Education Reauthorization and College Opportunity Act of 2008 reauthorizes the Tribally Controlled College or University Assistance Act of 1978.

Additionally, it will authorize two tribally controlled postsecondary career and vocational technical institutions, United Tribes Technical College and Navajo Technical College, according to the office of Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.

Dorgan, a known supporter of tribal colleges and universities, described them as ''essential to their communities, often serving as community centers, libraries, tribal archives, career and business centers, economic development centers, public meeting places and childcare centers.''

He added that because most tribal colleges and universities are located on or near Indian reservations, ''they provide a greater level of access to higher education for a group of Native students who would otherwise be unable to attend college.''

Most students in that group are in their family's first generation to attend college, he said.

''Students attending these schools often come from geographically isolated communities with high unemployment rates where the average family income is $13,998. This is 27 percent below the federal poverty level. ... I am committed to finding ways to strengthen tribal colleges because they are truly a success story in Indian country. The reauthorization of the Tribally Controlled Colleges or University Assistance Act is a strong step in that direction.''