The Wyoming Department of Education will hold its fifth annual Native American Education Conference this week in Riverton. The goals of the conference including boosting communication between schools and the Native American families they serve—and integrating tribal culture into curriculum.
Last year, the high school graduation rate for Native American students in Wyoming was 42 percent, compared to 78 percent for all students. Conference coordinator Keja Whiteman says that gap signals the need for this event.
“If you look at test scores, if you look at graduation data, if you look at attendance rates, Native American students are currently struggling,” Whiteman said. “There is a large achievement gap between Native American students and their counterparts in the state.”
That achievement gap, Whiteman says, can be traced back to a recent history of injustice in Native American education—including the forced removal of Native children from their homes to attend boarding schools.
The conference will be held at Central Wyoming College on Tuesday and Wednesday. Whiteman says prior to this conference, there was no such event in Wyoming for decades.