Native American needs to be met

At the White House Tribal Nations Conference earlier this month, President Barack Obama announced the launch of Generation Indigenous, a new initiative meant to address the needs of Native American youth. Education will be the focus of the initiative, which includes programs to address college and career preparation and leadership skills. Currently, about two-thirds of Native American students graduate from high school, well below the national average of about 80 percent.

Poverty, substance abuse and other problems plague American Indian communities, contributing to the barriers to education that exist for their youth. A report accompanying the president’s announcement cited “a history of deeply troubling and destructive federal policies” as largely responsible for these problems.

Concurrently, a series of editorials in the Star Tribune have highlighted the infrastructure problems within many schools on reservations or schools that serve predominantly Native American students. These schools are federally funded but have been neglected for many years. On the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota, for example, Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig High School has roofing and electrical problems and a lack of supplies, among other issues.

Generation Indigenous, if successful, should begin to address the obvious need for better federal policies and provide support for Native American communities. Consequently, we are glad to see that the needs of these communities are being recognized at the federal level, and we hope to see true improvements resulting from this initiative.