Courtesy Pete Souza/White House
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attend the Cannon Ball Flag Day Powwow in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, June 13, 2014.

President Obama Follows Visit With Strong Action Plan for Indian Country

Suzette Brewer

In the wake of Friday’s visit by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, the White House released an action plan to help strengthen and sustain at least two of Obama’s biggest initiatives in Indian country: Education and Economic Development.

Acknowledging the “crisis” in Indian education, including low educational attainment rates of Native high school students and the even lower number of college graduates in Indian country, the departments of Interior and Indian Education released a “Blueprint for Reform,” a comprehensive plan “to redesign the BIE to achieve one overarching goal: for tribes to deliver a world-class education to all students attending BIE schools,” according the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

On Friday, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell signed a secretarial order to start the transformation of the Bureau of Indian Education into a “School Improvement Organization,” authorizing the shift of the BIE into a “resource provider” to tribally controlled schools. In doing so, administration officials say that the department will provide customized technical assistance by developing the schools’ educational leadership skills and delivering resources informed by best practices in student support, instruction, financial management, organizational management, teacher training, recruitment, and retention.

“We are very encouraged by the President’s remarks and his commitment to improving education for Native American youth,” said Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II, whose tribe hosted the President and First Lady at Friday’s Flag Day Wacipi Celebration. “We are pleased that the President has demonstrated his dedication to strengthening the Bureau of Indian Education, through additional funding and policy improvements, which we remain hopeful will include the opportunity for tribes to pursue charter schools while utilizing BIE assistance. The tribe looks forward to working with the Administration on this important issue.”

The plan was developed by a “study group” of more than 400 stakeholders in Indian education after a series of tribal consultations around the country earlier this year, which included Lone Man Day School in Oglala, South Dakota; Riverside Indian School in Anadarko, Oklahoma; Muckleshoot School in Auburn, Washington; and Gila River Head Start Building in Sacaton, Arizona.

Additionally, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held an oversight hearing on May 21 in which Melvin Monette, President of the National Indian Education Association and a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, testified that the current crisis in Indian education was due in part to the federal government’s “inability” to uphold its trust responsibilities and obligations in regards to Native education.


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Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
Now what I want to know is this. If this was organized on the rez, why in the world were American flags all over the place? Why not have Sioux Nation flag & the flags of the various branches of the Sioux Nation all over the event? Why did these folks want to parade the flag of their ancestors murderers & the land thieves all over the event? I REFUSE to promote a symbol of our MANY Peoples destruction by these land thieves & murderers of OUR ancestors all across Turtle Island!

curtj's picture
Submitted by curtj on
What a farce. I had hopes of Obama creating a change but the neo cons are too entrenched into every aspect of the government. He can't change a thing without bringing danger to hisself and others by the neo cons who depend on other peoples and countries resources and lands and don't care how many people die as a result of their theft. Obama finally signed onto the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the middle of the night with the signing statement that we have rights as long as it doesn't interfere with Americas policies of colonialism that it foists on us and other countries to allow foreign owned conglomerates to go in and steal their resources.