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Head of the BIA visits United Tribes
25 September 2009

BISMARCK (UTN) - The newly appointed Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs spent the better part of two days in Bismarck September 8-9 visiting United Tribes Technical College and meeting with tribal leaders.

      Larry Echo Hawk toured the tribal college campus and its K-8 elementary school and joined fourth through eighth grade students in viewing President Barack Obama’s address about the importance of learning.

Larry Echo Hawk addressed tribal leaders in Bismarck.

      Since taking office, the President has emphasized the critical role of education in building a new foundation for the American economy and in improving the lives of all Americans.

      In his nationally televised speech, he challenged the nation’s students to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their learning.

      He also called for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible – one that will bolster America’s competitiveness in the global economy and prepare individuals to become productive members of their communities and the nation.

TJES fourth grade student, McKenzie Small, 9, offers a comment to Assistant Interior Secretary Larry Echo Hawk after she and her classmates watched President Obama’s speech about education. United Tribes News photos Dennis J. Neumann

      After watching the President’s message with students of Theodore Jamerson Elementary School, Echo Hawk related the importance of education in his own life.

      “I come from a family that places a high value on education,” he said. “The path through the school door led me on a journey of learning and experience that I enjoyed. It has led me to being here with you today as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. I know that same path leads through every school door. With hard work and dedication, it, too, can take you on a journey as rewarding as mine has been.”

      TJES is a K-8 day school, funded by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Education. It has served the children of college students attending United Tribes Technical College since 1973.

      The school follows the North Dakota standards of learning for instruction and assessing student performance. The current school year enrolled student population of 175 represents 20 tribes from Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota and Wyoming.

      Echo Hawk oversees the Bureau of Indian Education, which operates one of two federal school systems (the other belongs to the Department of Defense). The Bureau funds 183 elementary and secondary day and boarding schools located on 64 federal Indian reservations in 23 states serving approximately 42,000 American Indian and Alaska Native students. The Bureau also serves American Indian and Alaska Native post secondary students through higher education scholarships and supports funding to 26 tribal colleges and universities, including UTTC, and directly operates two institutions: Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan., and Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque, N.M.

      While in Bismarck, Echo Hawk also met with Great Plains tribal leaders and presented a keynote address during the 13th Annual Tribal Leaders Summit. In his talk, he described his experience earlier this year being called on to serve in the Obama Administration. He emphasized how important it is for committed tribal leaders to become involved in the renewal underway in Indian Country.

      “Mark my words, it will not come easy unless you are the driving force,” he said. “Renewal in Indian Country is what must occur, through the leadership of tribal nations.”

      Echo Hawk said education is his top priority and that he believes in the power of education to help transform and bless the lives of Indian people. He said the students at TJES “touched his heart.”

This report includes information supplied by the public information division of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.