North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp has introduced a bill to create a Commission on Native Children. The Commission’s goal is to investigate problems specific to Native children and make recommendations for improving them.
Mortality has increased for Native children since 2000, and they're overrepresented in foster care, have high suicide rates, and lower graduation rates than white students. On the Wind River Indian Reservation the graduation rate for students is around 50 percent. The statewide graduation for all students is closer to 80 percent.
David Holbrook is in the Wyoming Department of Education and one of his responsibilities is Native American education. He says any effort to focus on Native children is welcome.
“There’s historical trauma related to education, and so creating a positive attitude towards education and creating positive momentum that encourages kids to stay in school and get their diplomas and even go on to higher education, anything that can promulgate that is going to be a positive thing for the communities,” says Holbrook.
The bill also establishes a Subcommittee made up of young Native people to weigh in on the issues.