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Native American Equity Initiative Planned to Strengthen Tribal Education

October 13, 2021 by Reece Nations
The Michel Building at Salish Kootenai College, a private tribal land-grant community college in Pablo, Montana. It serves the Bitterroot Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d'Oreilles tribes. (Photo by Djembayz, Wikimedia Commons)

WASHINGTON — The White House will institute a new federal policy initiative to help advance educational equity and economic opportunity for Native Americans by vitalizing tribal colleges and universities.

The executive order, signed by President Joe Biden on Monday, designates the secretary of the Department of Education to appoint an executive director of the initiative while working in tandem with the secretary of the Interior and the secretary of Labor as co-chairs.

Once appointed, the group will collaborate with tribal nations, Alaska Native entities, tribal colleges and universities, and other educational departments to expand “the understanding of systemic causes of educational challenges faced by Native American students” and work to address those challenges.

Other measures directed under the initiative include enhancing the collection of data related to Native American students and implementing evidence-based strategies to boost participation and the success of Native American students across all education levels, according to the text of the order. 

The initiative also aims to increase the participation of Native American children and families in early childhood programs that affirm their cultural and linguistic identity, and stave off barriers of access to higher education institutions.

The executive director will work alongside the director of the Bureau of Indian Education, the commissioner of the Administration for Native Americans, and the director of the Indian Health Service to develop separate memorandums of agreement between each entity to collaborate and carry out the policy. Within 180 days of the executive order’s institution, each memorandum of agreement will address how the agencies intend to carry out the policy.

The agencies on the White House committee will be required to submit assessments on a “regular basis” to the initiative’s co-chairs regarding the implementation of their plan. Biden’s executive order directs the Department of Education to accommodate the initiative by providing funding and administrative support.

Biden’s order also encourages the agencies tapped by the initiative to collaborate with groups such as the governing bodies of tribal nations, Native Hawaiian and Native American Pacific Islander organizations, and other Native American groups as well as private philanthropic and nonprofit stakeholders to improve the advancement of the policy. The initiative’s co-chairs are set to report to Biden on the progress made under the program “no later than one year after the date of [the executive] order and annually thereafter.”

Reece can be reached at [email protected].

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