Education | National

VOA: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe focuses on education for youth

Students from the Lakota Language Nest sing to President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the Cannon Ball Flag Day Powwow in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on June 13, 2014. Photo from Sitting Bull College / Facebook

Six months after his visit to their reservation, members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe want President Barack Obama to live up to his promise to improve education in Indian Country.
Barack Obama became only the fourth sitting U.S. president to visit a Native American reservation - when he traveled to Standing Rock, which stretches across more than 800,000 hectares (two million acres) of North and South Dakota on June 5 of this year. Some 40 percent of residents here live below the poverty level, and the unemployment rate is near 80 percent.

In his speech at Standing Rock, Obama touted his administration’s investments in job training, tribal colleges and infrastructure, as well as a commitment to improving the tribal justice system. The issues will also be a focus when administration officials meet with tribal leaders on December 3.

Above all, he pledged to strengthen tribal communities through economic development and education.

The president and the first lady met with tribal leaders and spoke to a group of young people at Cannon Ball Grade School about some of the challenges they face.

For school board member Sue Isbell, some of those challenges are more apparent. As she walks through the school that was built in the 1930s, Isbell points to mold, leaky ceilings and cramped, cold classrooms as stumbling blocks for Native American students, who already struggle with among the highest high school drop out rates in the nation.

“We need more funding for a new school. These kids have already been through so much," she said. "With a better facility, we can recruit more teachers, and give students a fighting chance.”

Get the Story:
For Native Americans, One President’s Efforts Spark Hope (Voice of America 12/1)

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