National Congress of American Indians and National Indian Education Association statement on Bureau of Indian Education school reopenings

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BIE intends to reopen its schools “to the maximum extent possible”

News Release

National Congress of American Indians

National Indian Education Association

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the National Indian Education Association (NIEA) express deep concern regarding reopening plans for Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools and the safety and health of all students, teachers, administrators, and community members.

On August 6, 2020, the Department of the Interior (DOI) released a ‘Dear Tribal Leader Letter’ expressing its intent to reopen Bureau of Indian Education schools “to the maximum extent possible.” National Congress of American Indians and National Indian Education Association strongly urge Department of the Interior to consult meaningfully with tribal nations before reopening Bureau of Indian Education schools. Department of the Interior must ensure it addresses tribal needs and concerns, such as guaranteeing remote education options, securing reliable personal protective equipment vendors, considering teacher willingness to return to in-person instruction, student transportation needs, and other critical issues.

National Congress of American Indians and National Indian Education Association firmly believe that schools should only reopen for in-classroom instruction if it can be done safely. Moreover, such decisions should only be made after meaningful consultation with, and input from, the local tribal community and its tribal administration. Given the risks to the safety and welfare of Native students and their families, great deference should be given to the local tribal communities’ opinions concerning reopening classrooms. We also believe that Bureau of Indian Education must be transparent with its reopening plan and give specific examples of measures it will take to ensure the safety and well-being of Native students and their families. In addition to in-person instruction, there must be an online instruction option, such that education continues seamlessly, especially for students receiving special education services.

National Congress of American Indians and National Indian Education Association are eager to see plans in the form of the Bureau of Indian Education “Toolkit” outlined in the August 6 letter. The swift dissemination of this information will demonstrate transparency and aid Indian Country and our Native families to understand the protocols and precautions Bureau of Indian Education is taking to ensure a safe educational environment for our most sacred beings   our children. 

About the National Congress of American Indians:

Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. National Congress of American Indians advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people, and rights. For more information, visit www.ncai.org.

About the National Indian Education Association:

National Indian Education Association is the nation’s most inclusive advocacy organization advancing comprehensive culture-based educational opportunities for American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. Formed by Native educators in 1969 to encourage a national discourse on education, National Indian Education Association adheres to the organization’s founding principles  to convene educators to explore ways to improve schools and the educational systems serving Native children; to promote the maintenance and continued development of language and cultural programs; and to develop and implement strategies for influencing local, state, and federal policy and decision makers. For more information, visit www.niea.org.

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(Image: National Congress of American Indians)
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