The New Millennium: will the goals be met this time?
In 1998, President Clinton held a two-day conference on building economic self-determination in Indian communities. During the conference the Executive Order on American Indian and Alaskan Native Education was signed. The six goals of the order are to:
- improve reading and mathematics
- increase high school completion and post secondary attendance rate
- reduce the influence of long standing factors that impede educational performance, such as poverty and substance abuse
- create strong, safe, and drug-free school environments
- improve science education
- expand the use of educational technology
Karen Gayton Swisher (Standing Rock Sioux), a highly respected Indian educator, has described the Native understanding of the government's responsibility:
"In exchange for nearly one billion acres of land certain services, protection against invasion, and self-government were to be provided in perpetuity.... More than 400 treaties solemnized the transactions--land in exchange for promises--between sovereigns... thus creating a special relationship between Indian people and the federal government."
If the past is any indicator of the future, those committed to helping improve the lives of Indian people must continue to pressure the U.S. government to meet its responsibility in the area of education.