Anchorage, AK Consultation
The Department participated in a consultation with regional Tribal Leaders in Anchorage, Alaska, on April 16, 2010. This consultation was hosted by the Cook Inlet Tribal Council.
Fifty-nine people attended the event, which was moderated by the Cook Inlet Tribal Council's Director, Gloria O'Neil, and the Department of Education's Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, Thelma Melendez. The Department's Jenelle Leonard, Acting Director of the Office of Indian Education, and Greg Darnieder, Advisor to the Secretary on College Access, were also in attendance, as was Tracie Stevens, Policy Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior.
The consultation began with an open forum. Participants were then invited to attend one of two breakout sessions ("Language and Cultural Inclusion," moderated by Thelma Melendez, and "Increasing College Access," moderated by Greg Darnieder).
Many Tribal Leaders commented that the federal government should reinstate Bureau of Indian Affairs education funding for Alaska Native tribes and villages. (This funding was discontinued following Alaska's consolidation of its Bureau of Indian Education schools and public schools into a single, state-operated school system.) In general, requests for increased funding for education were common at the consultation.
Another topic that garnered a lot of discussion was concern about American Indian and Alaska Native language and culture. Many Tribal Leaders expressed concern that these topics are, according to those leaders, rarely, if ever, included in public school curricula. One community member compared traditional languages to jewels, saying that people did not want to hide their mother tongues in favor of English, but rather wear them proudly for all to see and appreciate. On a related note, some Tribal Officials also recommended that teachers undergo better cultural sensitivity training.