Money for American Indian Tribes

Obama Administration Announces $2.5 Million for Tribes to Take Over Schools

The Obama administration is moving ahead with its plans to improve the federally funded schools that serve tens of thousands of American Indian students with an announcement of $2.5 million in grants to entice tribes to take more control over educating their children.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell—whose agency is responsible for the 47,000 students who are enrolled in Bureau of Indian Education schools—announced the competitive grants.

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Last month, President Barack Obama rolled out his vision for a new and improved BIE, a long-troubled agency that directly operates 57 schools for Native American students and oversees 126 others run under contract by tribes. That “Blueprint for Reform” lays out steps to reorient the BIE from an agency that operates schools from Washington to a “school improvement organization” that provides resources and support services to schools that are controlled by tribes.

The competitive grants are the first concrete step in that direction.

Ranging from $100,000 to $200,000 per fiscal year, the grants are meant to assist federally recognized tribes that want to assume control over BIE schools that operate on their reservations. Interior Department officials said the grant funds will help tribes develop school reform plans that are tied to goals for improving academic achievement and operational efficiencies.

Tribal education departments that have three or more Bureau of Indian Education schools on their reservations are eligible for the grants. The administration’s overall plan to improve BIE faces strong skepticism in some parts of Indian Country, where distrust toward the agency runs deep among tribal leaders and educators.

Tribes won’t have long to put their proposals together. The deadline for the first grant cycle is Sept. 14.

Source: Education Week

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Thanksgiving Factoid


Thanksgiving fact brought to you by our United States Census Bureau. Nice of them to include an American Indian group with only 6,500 members at the time!


Number of members of the Wampanoag American Indian tribal grouping, as of 2010, roughly half of whom reside in Massachusetts. The Wampanoag, the American Indians in attendance, played a lead role in this historic encounter, and they had been essential to the survival of the colonists during the newcomers’ first year. The Wampanoag are a people with a sophisticated society who have occupied the region for thousands of years. They have their own government, their own religious and philosophical beliefs, their own knowledge system, and their own culture. They are also a people for whom giving thanks was a part of daily life.

Ban American Indian Mascots

Ban American Indian School Mascots, Mich. Dept. of Civil Rights Says

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights filed a complaint Friday with the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights (OCR) asking for a ban on the use of American Indian mascots and imagery in K-12 schools that receive federal funds.
The department’s complaint claims that the use of American Indian imagery denies equal rights to American Indian students. It highlights 35 schools in Michigan with American Indian mascots or imagery as the basis of the complaint.

In a supporting argument by Daniel M. Levy, the department’s director of law and policy, the department cites a host of recent research that finds the use of American Indian mascots and imagery result in “actual harm” to current and future American Indian students.

“A growing and unrebutted body of evidence now establishes that the use of American Indian imagery reinforces stereotypes in a way that negatively impacts the potential for achievement by students with American-Indian ancestry,” the supporting argument claims.

The department argues that the sanctioned use of American Indian imagery suggests that stereotyping is acceptable, which “has an indirect negative impact on all students.” It also claims that the use of such imagery “denies equal learning opportunities for some students,” which would violate the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.

“Continued use of American Indian mascots, names, nicknames, logos, slogans, chants and/or other imagery creates a hostile environment and denies equal rights to all current and future American Indian students and must therefore cease,” the department writes in the supporting argument.

The department singled out the use of “Redskins” as a particularly egregious offender, a move that could upset certain football fans in the District of Columbia. It compares the term to the ” ‘N-word’ for African-Americans,” saying that the ” ‘R-word’ should never be accepted in common usage, or be seen as anything other than an affront.” (The filing does later clarify, however, that it isn’t targeting the Washington Redskins, Atlanta Braves, or any other professional sports teams with American Indian mascots.)

The department argues that the harm done to American Indian students through the use of American Indian mascots should be sufficient for the OCR to ban their usage in K-12 schools that receive federal funds, except in extremely limited circumstances. If a school can use an American Indian image “in a way that is respectful” and “not reinforce any singular limiting image of Indian Peoples,” the department suggests it could be allowed, “but only within guidelines provided by OCR.”

However, the department once again singles out the term “Redskins” as one that is “always impermissible” in K-12 schools that receive federal funds.

I’ve reached out to OCR for an official statement on the Michigan department’s filing, and will update this post if/when I hear anything. Back in 1995, OCR decided that an American Indian mascot at a high school in Quincy, Mass., did not constitute a violation of a federal civil-rights law, as it found no evidence of students being denied any services on the basis of race or ethnicity.

That ruling didn’t, however, bar the possibility of finding other schools’ mascots to be in violation of civil-rights law, according to Michael Burns, the then-deputy regional director of the OCR’s Boston office.

Back in 2001, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights urged non-Indian schools that used American Indian imagery to end the practice.

A few states have taken matters into their own hands in this regard. In 2010, Wisconsin enacted a law that allows residents of a school district to challenge mascot names that allegedly promote a negative racial stereotype. This past May, the Oregon state board of education voted 5-1 to ban K-12 public schools from using American Indian mascots or imagery, giving any school affected by the policy five years to make the change.

Source: Education Week/bBryan Toporek 

Multiracial American Indian Population

Census releases data on American Indian population

Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Almost half of American Indians and Alaska Natives identify with multiple races, representing a group that grew by 39 percent over a decade, according to U.S. Census data released Wednesday.

Of the 5.2 million people counted as Natives in 2010, nearly 2.3 million reported being Native in combination with one or more of six other race categories, showcasing a growing diversity among Natives. Those who added black, white or both as a personal identifier made up 84 percent of the multi-racial group.

Tribal officials and organizations look to Census data for funding, to plan communities, to foster solidarity among tribes and for accountability from federal agencies that have a trust responsibility with tribal members.

The bump in the multi-racial group from 1.6 million in 2000 to nearly 2.3 million in 2010 was higher than that of those who reported being solely of Native descent. “When information comes out and is available for our tribes and tribal communities, we have a lot of issues going back to identity,” said Mellor Willie, executive director of the National American Indian Housing Council. “Who is Indian?”

The Census figures, released during a presentation at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., also include people living in the United States who consider themselves indigenous to Central and South America. Tribal officials say it’s the best snapshot of Native people available, but the data is often supplemented with tribal enrollment figures or other surveys and studies.

Amber Ebarb, with the National Congress of American Indians’ Policy Research Center, said the data also is used to track trends among states and regions, determine the mobility patterns of Natives and figure out how best to deliver services to Natives or conduct outreach.
“It’s kind of a function of geography,” she said. “There’s this trend where single-race American Indians live in tribal communities and multi-race Natives live farther.”

The Blackfeet Nation in Montana had the highest proportion of people who reported being part of more than one racial group or tribe at 74 percent. Among Alaska Native groups, the Tlingit-Haida had the highest proportion of mixed-race Natives at 42 percent. The number of Natives identifying with at least one other race increased in all but three states from 2000 to 2010, according to the Census.

Some tribes were less diverse. Of the 34,000 people who identify as Yup’ik, an Alaska Native tribe, 29,000 said they were affiliated with no other race. The Navajo Nation, whose reservation stretches into New Mexico, Utah and Arizona, had the highest proportion of people who identified as Native and nothing else at 86 percent of its 332,000 population, Census officials said.

The Navajo Nation comes in second in population behind the Cherokee’s 819,000 population, 65 percent of whom identify with another race.Census Director Robert Groves said the bureau has projected that the overall Native population will increase to 6.8 million in 2030 and about 8.6 million in 2050. Both multiracial Natives and Natives alone grew at a rate higher from 2000 to 2010 than the U.S. population at large.

Among other findings:
—Seventy-eight percent of Natives live off tribal reservations but many live in counties close to reservations, particularly throughout the West, including Oklahoma.
—The majority of Natives live in 10 states: Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington.
—The population of multi-racial Natives jumped by more than 50 percent in 18 states, and by more than 70 percent in North Carolina, Delaware and South Dakota.

Sources: The Associated Press.and Reznet News


Census: Few among Arizona’s tribes claimed to be multiracial

WASHINGTON – The number of American Indians who claimed to be multiracial jumped sharply over the last decade, but not so much in Arizona, the Census Bureau reported Wednesday.
The bureau said the total number of American Indian or Alaska Natives grew from 4.1 million in 2000 to 5.2 million in 2010, a 27 percent increase. Of those, 2.3 million people, or 44 percent of the total, claimed to be Indian and at least one other race, the report said.

But Arizona saw relatively higher numbers of people claiming to be Indian only.
“There’s a common trend in the state of Arizona that is different from other states,” said Mellor Willie, executive director of the National American Indian Housing Council.

“That will definitely have an effect when you’re working with raw federal policy that has to meet the needs of all Indian people,” Willie said. “Tribes have to take that into consideration, especially the tribes in Arizona.”
The Census Bureau said the Navajo Nation, which has a significant presence in Arizona, had the largest number of single-race members of any tribal group in the country, with 287,000 of the tribe’s 332,129 people claiming to be single-race. That means just 13 percent of Navajo claim to be multiracial.
Nationally, four of the five reservations reporting the highest numbers of single-race members were in Arizona: the Navajo were followed by Fort Apache, San Carlos and Gila River tribes.
The Census also reported that 78 percent of all
American Indians lived outside of tribal lands in 2010.

Simon Boyce, deputy director of the Navajo Nation Washington Office, said the tribe has seen a widespread move off the reservation. The tribal administration is trying to create more opportunities to keep people on the land.

That shift away from tribal lands is frightening for the Navajo, he said, which is why news of an overall population increase is welcome.

“I think you really need to be concerned about how many people are leaving the reservation and what that means not only for the Navajo – Navajo culture and Navajo identity – but also what it means for the surrounding areas,” Boyce said. “They’re becoming separated from their land, separated from their identity, and separated from their Navajo culture.”

Panelists who spoke Wednesday on the release of the data at the National Museum of the American Indian said the shifting number can have real impact.

Malia Vilegas, director of the Policy Resource Center for the National Congress of American Indians, said it could affect federal and state funding, which is based on population counts, as well as community planning and education.

“Small differences in counts can make large differences,” she said.

Willie said later that because so much of Arizona is tribal land, the Census data could shape federal and state funding and policy decisions, as well as policies of counties and municipalities on the border of tribal lands.
Colin Kippen, executive director of the National Indian Education Association, expressed concern about federal money that is distributed to states for Native American education. He said the money “gets washed” and does not reach the people it is intended for.

“Better data would really help us to highlight the fact that this … is occurring,” Kippen said.
The panel of advocates cautioned that the Census numbers should not be considered alone, but should be looked at along with censuses being developed by tribes and other information.
“This is only a snapshot,” Willie said of the Census figures.

Kippen said the numbers can continue to tell the “absolutely crucial … story of the Indian population, but tribes need to be careful with how they move forward from there.
“They have provided us with the tip of the iceberg,” Kippen said of the federal data
 Wednesday, Jan. 25By Victoria Pelham
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