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First-ever School Environment White House Listening Tours Are Underway

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Nov. 12, 14 -

First-ever School Environment White House Listening Tours Are Underway

On June 13, 2014, President Obama and the first lady made an historic visit to Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota, where he affirmed the administration’s commitment to the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education (WHIAIANE), which was signed into Executive Order on December 2, 2011. The WHIAIANEinitiative’s objective is to work closely with tribal governments to close the achievement gap between Indian students and non-Indian students, decrease the alarmingly high dropout rates of all American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students, and help preserve and revitalize Native languages. 

2014 Listening Tour

The goal of this first-ever school environment listening tour is to hear from students, schools, and communities on ways to better meet the unique educational and culturally-related academic needs of AI/AN students. The listening sessions will focus on school environments, such as bullying, student discipline, and offensive imagery and symbolism. WHIAIANE will gather feedback during the tour and consider how it can inform future actions to ensure AI/AN students receive high quality education.

The first stop on the tour was held on October 10, 2014, in Franklin, WI, at the Indian Community School of Milwaukee. Future sessions will be held in Lacrosse, WI; Seattle, WA; East Lansing, MI; Tulsa, OK; Oklahoma City, OK; Troy, NY, and Los Angeles, CA.

Troy Student Testimonials

Alizah Smith (Mohawk) and Hau’olihiwahiwa Moinz (Native Hawaiian), shared their stories recently at the Troy listening session held on November 5, 2014. They talked about the challenges of being indigenous students in a society where many have flawed perceptions of what it means to be Native.

When talking about the ways in which students do not understand Native identity within the school climate, Moinz said, “Native issues are not just a niche interest group.” Students alsodiscussed challenges in their schools and provided solutions to eliminate bullying and offensive imagery, and create positive school community culture for all students. “I see something I want for my future, I now want to reach out and grab it,” stated Smith.

Student testimonials provided by Hau’olihiwahiwa Moniz (left) and Alizah Smith (right)

Share your Story

If you are not able to attend a listening session in person, you can submit a written version of your comments and experiences to tribalconsultation@ed.gov. Stories are being collected to better understand the challenges and opportunities facing AI/AN students and their school environments.

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