|The following story was written and reported by Brandon Ecoffey, Native Sun News Managing Editor. All content © Native Sun News.
NIEA 2013 Convention & Trade Show
By Brandon Ecoffey
Native Sun News Managing Editor
RAPID CITY – Today, Oct. 30, the National Indian Education Association Convention and Trade show will kick off in Rapid City and will run through Sunday, Nov. 2.
The event brings together tribal leaders, policy makers, students and educators and serves as an opportunity for these entities to share information and ideas about how to best address the issues impacting education in Indian Country.
Faced with some of the harshest and most demanding educational challenges in the entire country, Native communities and its advocates are working to find ways to both fund their schools and develop appropriate curriculum to best educate its students. Executive Director of NIEA Ahniwake Rose feels that this conference is an important step in bringing those concerned about education together.
“We are trying to accomplish a lot of things in Rapid City and one is for our membership to reengage with NIEA so they know what we are working towards,” she said.
Rose said that NIEA is urging law makers in Washington DC to include “Indian Country’s priorities throughout” the legislative process. With up to four major education bills up for reauthorization this year NIEA has its hands full with making sure that not only these bills are passed but that they address the unique needs of Native communities and have the appropriate funding attached to them.
A major concern amongst tribal leaders on the Northern Plains has been language revitalization. Just last year Oglala Sioux Tribal President Bryan Brewer declared the Lakota language to be in a State of Emergency and demanded federal funding and accountability to address the crisis. Rose said that NIEA understands that this is a major concern of communities in the area and that NIEA is not backing down from the challenge.
“Language, you cannot talk about NIEA without language. We know that is one of the first things tribal leaders ask about and we have to go to battle on it. Increased control of our schools and Language revitalization are the top priorities as far as what we are doing on the hill. We are asking for formula grant programs for immersion language learning and increased appropriations. We do not want language written that does include funds to implement it. NIEA will not back down from making sure that is included,” she said.
In addition to the state of traditional language in Indian Country one major concern has been the impact of federal sequestration on Reservation schools and Rose like many other tribal leaders are demanding that tribes be exempted from the process do to the treaty obligations the Federal government has with Native nations in the U.S.
“Right now you can see the crisis our schools are in due to budget cuts. The potential result of sequestration in Indian Country is that our schools will be devastated. That is not what sequestration is intended to do. We are so concerned by what the next round of sequestration means because impact aid is not forward funded. We want tribal budgets to be exempted. We want our schools to be exempted our schools should not have to suffer. We want tribes exempted across the board because of the treaty relationship with the Federal government,” she said.
Rose said that NIEA is revamping its efforts to work with other like-minded organizations including NCAI, NIHB, and NICWA to better protect Native students.
“It is important we provide blanket protection for our students from start to finish so that we can best protect them and their future,” she said.
The conference is taking place at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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