Pine Ridge, SD Consultation
The Department of Education participated in a consultation with regional Tribal Leaders in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, on April 28, 2010. This consultation was hosted by the Oglala Sioux Nation at Pine Ridge High School.
The event, which attracted more than 100 participants, was moderated by Oglala Sioux Tribe President Theresa Two Bulls and Department of Education General Counsel Charles P. Rose. The Department was also represented by Jenelle Leonard, Acting Director of the Office of Indian Education; Frank Chong, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education; and Carl Harris, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education. Wizipan Garriott and Tracie Stevens, Policy Advisors to the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, represented the Department of the Interior.
While the Tribal Leaders at the consultation spoke on many issues ranging from incorporating American Indian and Alaska Native language and culture into curricula to Tribal education agencies' difficulties in working with state educational agencies and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the perceived need for more cultural sensitivity training for educators, the most-discussed topic was Tribal participants' perception of a lack of resources for tribes and the parallel financial, health, and education crises to which it leads.
In Pine Ridge, funding is scarce and the teenage suicide rate is 150 percent higher than the national average. The infant mortality rate is the highest in North America (at around 300 percent of the national average). The rates at which residents of Pine Ridge contract diseases are elevated, as well; cervical cancer is 500 percent more common than in the rest of the country, while diabetes and tuberculosis are 800 percent more common. Furthermore, a substantial majority (at least 60 percent) of Pine Ridge homes are infested with black mold. Thus, Tribal Leaders urged federal representatives at the consultation to increase funding for child health services.