Executive Director of White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education to Discuss Successes and Challenges of Preserving Tribal Languages at Sitting Bull College’s Lakhotiyapi Summer Institute

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William Mendoza, executive director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education, will participate in Sitting Bull College’s seventh annual Lakhotiyapi (Lakota language) Summer Institute and will convene a roundtable of tribal leaders, students, educators, higher education officials and others to discuss successes and challenges in language preservation. The roundtable will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 14, in the Science and Technology Center on campus. Mendoza will hear about the tribal education department’s efforts to leverage tribal, local and federal resources to preserve the Lakota language.

The reoccurring concern that Mendoza and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have heard during numerous tribal consultations with leaders in the American Indian and Alaska Native education communities was the importance of language preservation. According to feedback from these sessions, tribal communities believe that it is a fundamental right of people everywhere to be able to speak their native tongue, and there should be no difference for Native people.

Administration officials and Secretary Duncan have engaged directly with tribal officials on a range of educational issues important to Indian Country. Today, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell issued a Secretarial Order that calls for the restructuring of the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). The BIE will become a provider of education services and resources to tribal communities operating the schools rather than being a school operator itself, and all BIE-funded schools will become tribally operated. The move will help ensure that American Indian and Alaska Native children are prepared for college and careers, while also giving them more access to language and history classes that honor their heritage. The new organizational changes also will give tribal communities a stronger voice in policy decisions that will affect their students’ educational future. In addition, President Obama’s Opportunity for All: My Brother’s Keeper Blueprint for Action report was released recently, outlining a set of initial recommendations and a blueprint for action to expand opportunities for boys and young men of color and help all young people succeed, including Native boys and young men.