United Native America update on
Wolf Point MT schools District Indian children abuse
Date: 02/21/2003 9:31:46 PM Central Standard Time
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Iris Allrunner)
To: email@example.com (mike cherokee)
Hello Mike, Christine Rose and Delores Huff came to Montana for the conference and we had a great visit. We are sending you this story about the conference which was printed in our tribal newspaper on Thursday. We will follow up this story with another more complete report of the specifics of our three days at the conference. Hope everything is well with you and yours. Iris
Below is an article that reports on the first day of the conference. Subsequent days focused on specific issues that parents were facing in the schools. Many parents arrived at the conference looking for an explanation of why so many children in the Wolf Point Schools District were being prescribed Ritalin. Recommendations were being made to the parents for the use of the drug by teachers and psychologists, neither of which has the authority to prescribe medication. As a result of the conference, investigations will be made into the amount of children being prescribed this medication.
The other prominent issue was the discussion of the use of the Behavior Learning Center and the padded rooms, which are in use in both the elementary and middle schools. One mother who attended the conference alleged that her 7 year-old daughter had been placed inside the padded room because her foot extended beyond her desk. The mother was also told that her daughter was disruptive and needed to be on Ritalin. However, under the advice of a physician who observed the child in the classroom on several occasions over a three-month period of time, she was not placed on the medication. Iris Allrunner, Delores Huff and myself spent time in the North side Middle School over two days and observed many discrepancies between what the principal said was happening in the school and what we actually saw. More information and possibly photos to follow in the following days.
Tribes need to control the education of Indian Students
By Richard Petterson
Feb 20, 2003
Wolf Point-If American Indians want to successfully educate their own, a tribal school is the most likely solution to a long time problem.
That's the advice of Delores Huff, an author who was one of the key speakers at the Education Forum and Strategic Planning conference in Wolf Point through Friday.
"Tribal schools are the best solution for tribes," said Huff. "Its time for you to take over."
Huff was one of several educators who are speaking at the conference, which carries the theme, "Education shall be for the people, of the people, by the people. You are the people." Wolf Point City Police Officer Brian Irwin spoke on the drug Ritalin and Native American Rights Fund Attorneys Lorna Babby (Lakota) and Tracy Labin (Mohawk) spoke about dealing with school boards and administrators, as well as school policies and laws.
Huff came to a concluding theory on tribal schools after evaluating the Harlem school district. What surprised her the most was the two races of people who lived in the same area but never communicated. And that led to racial tension in the community.
"How can two communities, who live within miles of each other, know so little about each other?" she asked.
She said in most schools where there is a prominent Indian student body, the mostly white teachers have low expectations of children. "If you tell a kid he's going to be a dumb little Indian, he's going to be a dumb little Indian," Huff said.
In many of these cases, the teachers are ill equipped to teach Indian children and what works for the mainstream, may not work in Indian schools.
"I would bet students at Wolf Point are an age/grade lower than their counterparts in Montana," she said.
She also blames the textbook companies who have "dumbed down" the curriculum over the years and teachers have come to rely solely on books.
Its up to the tribes education department to get into every grade at every school to improve its curriculum. "Who knows better than anyone your culture, your values, and your history? They certainly don't," Huff said.
Building a tribal school certainly seems like a Herculean effort but it can be done when the tribes and community get together. She laid out her version of a "blueprint" for implementing a tribal school on a reservation.
Huff, who has worked with tribal schools, recommends starting slow. Start with first through fifth grades-the critical learning years-and add a grade every year, she said.
"The ability to amass information comes during those years. The first, fifth and eighth grades are critical to development," she said. "They acquire the ability to abstract."
Huff, Harvard University alumni, said the tribal schools should take advantage of curriculum programs developed at universities such as Stanford, Harvard and other top-notch schools.
"Pick a school that has the clout and expertise to help you," she said. "I say this knowing that I don't think racism is going to disappear."
Mistakes will be made but she said to remember that a tribal school is not a short-term fix, it's a 20-year investment into the community. "There is no reason to settle for mediocrity. And you have settled for is mediocrity."
Ritalin a popular drug
Wolf Point Police Officer and Big Muddy Drug Task Force member Brian Irwin informed the audience of the widely prescribed drug Ritalin, which basically is a form of methamphetamine used to help school kids focus in the classroom.
Although it's popular for schools to give some kids with ADD and ADHD a dose of Ritalin each day, the downside is that some people seek it out as a recreation drug.
Ritalin has the opposite effect on people who don't need the drug, Irwin said. Several people on the reservation have been convicted for the illegal distribution of Ritalin, he said.
For a drug dealer, a 10 mg pill of Ritalin can go for $5.00 Once purchased, someone could swallow the pill, crush and snort it or dilute and inject it.
The side effects could lead to a stroke or heart attack. The pills appeal to children because in DARE classes, they learn that alcohol, marijuana and cocaine are bad, but pills were never addressed.
"In this region, we have one of the highest rates of Ritalin prescriptions," Irwin said.
But while the drug may be dangerous if its misused, it can be a big help for schools trying to educate our kids. "I'm a believe in the drug but I'm worried about the catch-all philosophy that's taken over," he said.
Native American Rights Fund attorneys Lorna Babby and Tracy Lubin talked with the audience about legal issues and working effectively with school boards.
Since 1994, NARF has worked with the Fort Peck Tribes to implement the Tribal Education Code into the school curriculums on the reservation. While some schools have been open to the move, others have resisted, they said.
NARF was rewarded with a grant to help five reservations in the country implement their education codes into their school districts. Among them: Rosebud, Fort Bert hold, Jicarilla Apache, an Alaskan village and Fort Peck.
"We're starting small and building relationships and information gathering," Labin said. "We need to all get into the same room, and find out what each other is doing and do something."
Negotiations and meetings are the best way to address schools resistant to Indian curriculum, they said. In the case of education, people think the best way to handle it is to bring forth a lawsuit, said Babby, whose father Wyman served as the Fort Peck Agency BIA superintendent in the 1990's.
"Courts are not a good place to be right now and there's too large of a risk of losing more than you started out with," she said.
A federal law requires that schools must share information with tribes, or risk losing some funding, Babby said. Another problem experienced by Indian schools are that Indian parents are reluctant to turn over information or statistics to schools or tribes.
Options for parents are to lobby congress for tighter ordinances or influence the awarding of federal funding to schools. Huff reminded the audience that if a school is not teaching Indian studies, they are violating the law. Teachers must also be scrutinized more, she said.
"Teachers need to be evaluated from the outside. Inside evaluations are a joke and should not be tolerated," she added.
Huff said when she became principal at a tribal school she was told that she had 103 "slow learners". She told the teachers that if the students weren't up to age/gradelevels by the end of the year, they would be fired. "We were able to do that because we were a tribal school," she recalled.
"What happened was that I expected the teachers to teach and they expected the kids to learn," she said.
The conference begins at 8:30 a.m. and concludes in the afternoon. Registration is free and open to the public. Lunch and a continental breakfast are provided.
The conference is sponsored by the Wolf Point Community Organization, WPCO Education Committee, The Fort Peck Tribes, Fort Peck Education Department, Silver wolf Casino, Gear Up, Wolf Point and Frazer Indian Education Committees, Wolf Point Elders and the Americorps Volunteers.
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