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Native Sun News: Oglala leader prods White House on education

The following story was written and reported by Brandon Ecoffey, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.

Oglala Sioux Tribal President Bryan Brewer pushes language initiative and calls on White House to take action.

Brewer demands action from White House
By Brandon Ecoffey
Native Sun News Staff Writer

RAPID CITY—Oglala Sioux Tribal President and longtime educator Bryan Brewer has called upon the Obama administration to fulfill its campaign promise to support Native American education and language revitalization.

In a letter to Jodi Gillete (Lakota) senior policy advisor for Native American affairs to President Obama, President Brewer implored the White House to take action.

“We (Oglala Sioux Tribe) are requesting support from the Obama Administration in ensuring that both appropriations and policies are advanced that will make real the promise of White House support for immersion schools in both the Bureau of Indian Affairs federal school system, tribally chartered schools and public schools operating in Indian country” said Brewer in the letter. “Existing authority/statutes allow for the Administration to request dedicated appropriations for immersion instruction in BIE schools as well as public schools. Sadly the Administration has yet in its life requested dedicated resources from the Interior and LHHS Appropriators for these schools,” added Brewer.

The letter from President Brewer is considered to be the strongest letter in recent memory from an executive member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe to a sitting US president.

In his first few weeks of office President Brewer declared a state of emergency on the status of the Lakota language, and announced an initiative to help revitalize and integrate it back in to the everyday lives of people living on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation.

“The Administration is moving with great force to restrict Bureau funded schools to Adequate Yearly Progress models that are based on Common Core Standards designed by States. While this is a laudable goal great care must be taken to create room for tribal innovations that include heritage language immersion schools and instruction,” Brewer said in the letter. “We do not consider the teaching of Lakota or any other Native language for 30 minutes a day or periodically throughout a school week to be consistent with the “promise” of opportunity to learn Native languages,” Brewer added.

Over the first few months in office President Brewer has quickly established himself as a strong advocate for causes that have been ignored by past administrations. He has recently taken to the streets to protest liquor sales in White Clay, addressed issues dealing with veteran affairs, and has taken on a number of other tough issues that he promised to work on during his campaign.

“It is important that we hold the Federal government accountable for their treaty and trust responsibilities,” he told Native Sun News. “This letter is just one small part of what we are doing to attempt to revitalize our language. We must act now,” he added.

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