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News Release

Office of the Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Indigenous populations across the country, including among children. In response, the Bureau of Indian Education announced yesterday it is acquiring personal protective equipment to distribute to schools for the health and safety of the tribal communities it serves.

“Tribal communities have been seriously impacted by the pandemic and have taken proactive measures to protect their communities to stop or slow the spread of COVID for the past two years. With this initiative, we are leveraging our existing resources in rural and remote communities to improve access to protective masks and respirators,” said Bryan Newland – Assistant Secretary, Indian Affairs. “These are critical public health tools that teachers, administrators and students need to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.”

Bureau of Indian Education will distribute 600,000 surgical masks for K-12 students at all 183 Bureau of Indian Education-funded schools and 600,000 N95 respirators to K-12 schools for staff and adults in student’s households, as well as to Haskell Indian Nations University and Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute for students and staff.

“We must each do our part to protect ourselves and each other,” said Bureau of Indian Education Director Tony L. Dearman. “We are deploying every resource at our disposal to help protect our students, staff and tribal communities from this devastating global pandemic.”

By early February, the Biden-Harris administration is issuing 400 million free non-surgical N95 respirators to local pharmacies and community centers to stop the spread of COVID-19. In support of this effort, Bureau of Indian Education’s goal is to provide additional access to protective equipment in tribal communities it serves.

For more information about infection rates in Indian Country, visit the Indian Health Service at

The Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs advises the Secretary of the Interior on Indian Affairs policy issues, communicates policy to and oversees the programs of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Indian Education, and the Bureau of Trust Funds Administration, provides leadership in consultations with tribes, and serves as the U.S. Department of the Interior official for intra- and inter-departmental coordination and liaison within the Executive Branch on matters concerning American Indians and Alaska Natives and the federally recognized tribes in the United States.

The Bureau of Indian Education currently supports 183 bureau-funded elementary and secondary schools located on 64 reservations in 23 states that serve approximately 46,000 Indian students. Of these, 53 are Bureau of Indian Education-operated, and 130 are tribally controlled through Bureau of Indian Education contracts or grants. Additionally, the Bureau of Indian Education directly operates two postsecondary institutions: Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, and the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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