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10/17/14 - Voting, Congressional inaction discussed at National Indian Education Assoc. conference

Native Americans could change the outcome of the upcoming general election... if they would turn out and vote

The National Indian Education Association conference underway in Anchorage began with discussions about the power of social media, the disproportionate impact Native voters could have, and bills U.S. Sen. John Tester, of Montana, and Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, both Democrats, are working on. Two legislative measures address Native language preservation, and language immersion programs. Tester is drafting a bill that would cut down on the red tape involved in tribes accessing federal grants for early  child education, help recruit and retain talented teachers, and create incentives for American Indian and Alaska Native students to enter the field of education then return home to teach the next generation.    

Begich says the No Child Left Behind act is a poor fit for Alaska. He described approaches that are working. For example, he says, he talked with a high school student in Kiana who learned basket making from elders in the morning, and used computer aided design software in the afternoon to create a 3-D model of the basket, in a healthy mix of the traditional and the modern. Kiana is a village of 350 or so people in the Arctic outside of Kotzebue.

The conference continues at the Dena'Ina Center in Anchorage through Saturday.


The Sitka Tribe of Alaska is planning to build a laboratory to test shellfish for naturally occurring toxins that could pose a health threat to subsistence harvesters. The Lab is being funded by a $527,000 grant from the Administration for Native Americans, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.