Equity & Diversity

Education in Indian Country: An Education Week Multimedia Package

By Lesli A. Maxwell — December 04, 2013 2 min read
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For the last two months, I, and two of my visual colleagues, Swikar Patel and Megan Garner, have been traveling, reporting, interviewing, writing, shooting photos, shooting video, recording sound, and editing, editing, editing, to bring you a special report from Indian Country on a population of students that rarely gets a close look.

Education in Indian Country: Obstacles and Opportunity was published this morning on edweek.org.

This multimedia package will take you to the Oglala Lakota Nation on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and the Morongo Nation in Southern California, two distinctive Native communities with very different education stories to tell.

We set out to try and peel back the layers to understand why American Indian students, on the whole, have not shown the same incremental improvement in schooling outcomes that every other major racial and ethnic subgroup of students has in recent years. There are many different ways we could have told the story, many parts of Indian Country we could have visited to report important dimensions to this issue. We settled on South Dakota, home to some of the most challenged Native communities in the country, and California, where thriving tribal casinos and other business enterprises have dramatically altered the economic circumstances of some tribes like the Morongo Band of Mission Indians.

On the Pine Ridge reservation, we met extraordinary educators, students, and families who were generous with their time and willingness to share personal details of their lives and experiences—both positive and negative—with education. One family—the Tobaccos, and especially, 10-year-old Legend Tell Tobacco—became the central focus of our story. In California, we encountered parents who had had little success themselves with education, but have newfound hope that their children will have an entirely difference experience in a new tribal school that provides traditional academics and meaningful connections to their history, traditions, and tribal language.

I encourage you to take time to dig into this package. It’s rich with photos, videos, audio, interactive data, and authentic American Indian voices sharing their views, perspectives, and experiences on education issues. We also were very fortunate to get four Native American educators to write original commentaries that highlight their hopes and ideas for how to improve schooling outcomes for Native children.

And please share this package far and wide on social media.

Photo: Ten-year-old Legend Tell Tobacco, right, races his friend Jose Hernandez, 8, after school on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. --Swikar Patel/Education Week

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.