Newsletter                                                                                                              June 22, 2015
Message from the Director 

This is a period of major change and also an exciting time for the BIE. Over the past two years, the BIE has engaged in over 20 tribal consultations and listening sessions throughout Indian Country to identify challenges facing the BIE and solutions to create a new BIE that provides improved educational opportunities for our students. The feedback and recommendations made by tribal leaders, educators, employees, parents and students were heard and are shaping a new BIE. The new BIE will move away from a culture of blame to an organization of action and responsiveness that provides the resources and support tribes need for their schools and students to be successful. As we move forward, it is our responsibility to create and sustain the new BIE. 


Dr. Charles M. Roessel 
U.S. Departments of Education and Interior Announce Grant to Assist Pine Ridge School Recovery Efforts
WASHINGTON, D.C. - William Mendoza, Director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education at the U.S. Department of Education, and Dr. Charles M. "Monty" Roessel, Director of the Bureau of Indian Education, today announced that the Pine Ridge School in South Dakota has received $218,000 at their request under the U.S. Department of Education's Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant program to aid in recovery from student suicides and suicide attempts.

The Pine Ridge School, which serves the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation, requested assistance after experiencing a significant increase in the number of counseling referrals, suicide ideations, and suicide attempts between August 2014 and April 2015. Two of the students who committed suicide were high school students and two were middle-school age.

"We are heartbroken about the tragic loss of life and are committed to working with the Pine Ridge community as it heals. These funds will help Pine Ridge School's continued efforts to restore the learning environment in the face of these great tragedies," said Mendoza. "This Administration is committed to supporting tribes in their work to meet the needs of their students. We all must do more to address the challenges across Indian Country."

"Children and youth need help in seeing that their lives have meaning and that they, too, have the power to create promising futures for themselves. No tribe can long endure the loss of its lifeblood, its children and youth, to suicide," said Roessel. "Thanks to the Department of Education and the SERV Program, the Pine Ridge School will be able to begin to help its students and their families onto healthier life paths that lead to more positive outcomes."

In line with the Obama Administration's Generation Indigenous ("Gen-I") initiative to improve the lives of Native youth by removing the barriers for their progress and academic success, the SERV grant will support a culturally appropriate approach to the recovery of Native youth at Pine Ridge School. The grant will enable the Pine Ridge School to hire additional counselors and social workers to help students during the summer school session and the next school year. It also will support implementation of a multi-faceted and holistic approach to healing that is based on Lakota traditional culture and relevant to Pine Ridge School students, who have dealt with the sudden loss of classmates to suicide or know those who have attempted suicide.

Pine Ridge School is a BIE-operated, on-reservation boarding school comprised of a high school and an elementary school, which together serve a total of nearly 800 students from the Oglala Sioux Tribe in grades K-12, and a dormitory which houses approximately 150 students during the school year. The Pine Ridge Reservation is home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe whose 30,000 members living on or near the reservation suffer from continually high rates of poor health, poor infrastructure, lack of opportunity, and higher than average suicide rates in all age groups.

Project SERV funds short-term and long-term education-related services for school districts, colleges and universities to help them recover from a violent or traumatic event in which the learning environment has been disrupted. Project SERV is administered by the Department's Office of Safe and Healthy Students. The Department makes two types of Project SERV awards - Immediate Services and Extended Services. Immediate Services grants provide emergency, short-term assistance to affected school districts, colleges and universities. Extended Services assist school districts, colleges and universities in carrying out the long-term recovery efforts that may be needed following a significant, traumatic event.

The Obama Administration is committed to finding solutions to the pressing problems that confront Native youth, with an emphasis on education, economic development, and health. The President's FY 2016 budget proposal calls for increased investments across Indian Country, including a total request of $20.8 billion for a range of federal programs that serve tribes - a $1.5 billion increase over the 2015-enacted level. The budget proposal includes $53 million for fiscal year 2016 - a $50 million increase from this year - to significantly expand the Native Youth Community Projects program.

More information on this grant and Project SERV can be found in the Department of Education Press Release.

BIA Tribal Climate Change Photo Contest 
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has announced their First Tribal Climate Change Photo Contest for American Indian and Alaska Native students grades K-12. The purpose of this photo contest is to help students understand climate change and allow them to identify culture, economic, physical, ecosystem, and other vulnerabilities in the world around them through the lens of climate change. As a result, students will be given the opportunity showcase
to their artistic skills while expressing what is valued in their culture and community. 

Photos submitted by students will be judged by grade (K-3, 4-5, 6-8, and 9-12) and the caption that describes how a changing climate affects what is featured in the photograph. Winning photos with their caption will be displayed at the Department of the Interior headquarters in Washington, D.C. A matching framed copy will be sent to the school along with a certificate of recognition for students.

BIA will provide 20 cameras per school, for up to 18 schools that wish to participate in the photo contest. Eligibility is based on a first-come-first-serve basis. The deadline to submit photos is Sunday, August 16, 2015. Winners will be announced within 30 days of submission.

For more information on this photo contest, please review the BIA Tribal Climate Change Photo Contest Flyer. Schools interested in participating and receiving cameras should email:
21st Century Community Learning Center's STEM Pilot Program 
Students from the Quileute Tribal School at Olympic National Park in Washington are participating in BIE's 21st Century Community Learning Center's STEM pilot program with the U.S. Department of Education and National Park Service (NPS) this summer. As part of this program, 11 BIE schools are working with NPS Rangers and Hands on the Land, a national network of classrooms and resources that connect students to public lands, to provide hands-on STEM learning opportunities to students during after-school and out-of-school time.

Save the Date: Safety and Risk Management Webinar 

BIE in partnership with the BIA Division of Safety and Risk Management (DSRM) will conduct a webinar on Thursday, June 25, 2015 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. EDT to provide an overview of DSRM and the Office of Facilities, Property, and Safety Management (OFPSM). During this one-hour webinar, Thomas Kerstetter, Safety and Occupational Health Specialist, will discuss the roles and responsibilities, major activities and day-to-day operations of DSRM and OFPSM as well as the importance of establishing Safety and Health Committees. We welcome your questions and comments during this webinar. 


Date: June 25, 2015, 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. EDT

Presenter: Thomas Kerstetter, Safety and Occupational Health Specialist

To participate: Webinar registration

Conference call: 877-917-5412/3759933

Event Contact: Kim Vigue at

National Safety Month
The Department of the Interior and Indian Affairs join the National Safety Council (NSC) in celebrating National Safety Month as a time to bring attention to key safety issues.  The June 2015 National Safety Month theme, "What I Live For," is inspired by the idea that "everyone has something they live to see or experience." 

Employees are encouraged to participate in activities in observance of National Safety Month and to join the NSC and thousands of organizations across the country in managing risk to reduce the likelihood of injury or illness. The NSC offers materials you can use to engage employees, co-workers, family and friends in safety.  Although June is set aside as National Safety Month, Indian Affairs will conduct safety awareness activities throughout the months of June, July and August.

For more information or questions about National Safety Month, please contact the appropriate BIA Regional Safety Office or visit the National Safety Council's website.

SIPI Student Selected for NASA Internship 

Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI) engineering student Jasamaine Martinez has been selected to participate in the NASA Pathways Internship Employment Program at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. This paid internship helps students gain work experience in engineering, science or business on an alternating semester basis and prepares them for future full-time employment. Martinez started her internship in early June and will continue to work alongside NASA scientists to support the construction of a Mars rover and help build a Mars yard at the Johnson Space Center over the summer. 

 American Indian Educators Help Drive Graduation Gains
23 states have high populations of American Indian students, and reservations see high turnover rates of teachers and administrators

By: Alison  DeNisco
American Indian students consistently trail all other minority groups on standardized tests. But this population had the largest reported graduation rate gain of any demographic between 2010-11 and 2012-13, rising from 65 percent to nearly 70 percent in two years.

The jump is perhaps due in part to greater numbers of native teachers and administrators returning to reservation districts, some experts say.

"It's hard to find a good principal anywhere-add in these other issues in Indian Country, such as lack of housing,  salary,  and socioeconomics, it makes it even more challenging," Roessel says.

Understanding the community

But American Indian teachers and administrators tend to train and come back to their communities to work more than any other definable population of new educators, says Joyce Silverthorne, director of the Office of Indian Education, part of the U.S. Department of Education.
"For our very small rural communities, it's challenging for a new teacher or administrator to come into an area that is both isolated and interconnected," Silverthorne says. "With our Native administrators and teachers, they understand the community, the other activities outside of school, and have that connection that is hard to train someone to build."

Such educators may also have a better understanding of the living conditions on reservations that can hinder students' ability to complete homework such as the great distances between homes and school and the lack of running water and electricity in some areas, she adds.

Fremont County School District #14, mostly populated with Indian students on a reservation in central Wyoming, named its first-ever American Indian school chief in March. The new superintendent, Owen St. Clair, is currently an elementary school principal in the district, and will take the job in July. He told local news outlets that he hopes to inspire students to eventually seek teaching as a career.

"Those who do come back [as teachers or administrators] make a huge improvement because they show what can happen through education," Roessel says. "The opportunity to have these role models at our schools is something you can't put a dollar figure or test score on. The value added is really important for Indian Country."

Roessel recommends that non-Indian educators spend time in the community and ride the bus with students to see how far away and in what conditions they live. Learning about the historical trauma American Indians have suffered can provide newcomers with a better understanding of how education is viewed in the community and the challenges students and their families continue to face.
Bureau of Indian Education | 1849 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20240
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