Professor Looks At Evolution Of American Indian Education

 

By Samantha Sonner, KRWG.org

New Mexico is a state rich in American Indian culture and history, but the way American Indian children are educated has changed drastically over the years. This was the topic of a recent discussion at the Branigan Cultural Center.

Tad Conner, Assistant Professor of Government at New Mexico State University says when most people think of American Indian Education they remember the boarding school era that tried to force assimilation. He says a lot has changed since then.

“Tribes kind of reasserted themselves,” Conner said. “Preserving their languages, preserving their traditions and their customs, but also to try to create positive change and reform in public schools and in public education. And so today I think that’s why we’ve seen sort of a role reversal, away from assimilationist policies but more toward this era of self-determination.”

He says New Mexico is a good example of American Indian history and culture being taught in the classroom.

“I think New Mexico is actually one of those states that’s really kind of taken a lead,” Conner said. “In trying to create at the state level some type of coherent image of instituting an American Indian education curriculum, and traditional kind of cultural programs in public schools that are not only going to benefit native children but are also going to benefit non-native students as well.”

He says it’s important for non-native children to learn more about native culture.

“It’s never a bad thing to learn more,” Conner said. “Especially about your state, and especially in New Mexico when the history of the pueblos, and tribes, and apaches are intimately connected with the experience of non-Indians in this state. So, I think it’s really important for New Mexico’s students in terms of learning the history of the state to be familiar with the history of the tribes, the tribes that are in this particular region and the rights of those particular groups.”

He says there are a growing number of schools on American Indian territory.

“With the tribally controlled schools it gives the tribes a little bit more control over the curriculum,” Conner said. “In terms of being able to bring into the classroom things that are unique. Not only to American Indians as a whole, but unique to their particular groups historical experience as well, especially with regards to the language.

He says there is still a long way to go in the evolution of American Indian Education.

Johnson Legislation Helps Indian Country Adoption Tax Credit

By Mark Brown, KELO.com

Washington D.C. (KELO AM) – U.S. Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD), James Inhofe (R-OK), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) today introduced the Tribal Adoption Parity Act. The legislation ensures parents adopting American Indian and Alaskan Native children through tribal courts are treated fairly under our nation’s tax code by making it easier for adoptive parents across Indian Country to claim the full adoption tax credit for “special needs” children.

“The Tribal Adoption Parity Act will provide financial relief for families in South Dakota by making it easier for adoptive parents in Indian Country to claim the full adoption tax credit,” Johnson said. “It is unacceptable that parents who adopt an Indian child through a tribal court are prevented from accessing the financial relief that is provided to adoptive families in non-tribal areas. This bill addresses an oversight in our tax code by ensuring that adoptive parents throughout Indian Country receive fair tax treatment.”

Under current law, parents adopting a child who has been determined by a State as “special needs” can claim the full adoption tax credit regardless of their qualified adoption expenses.  Congress created the “special needs” determination to provide an added incentive for parents adopting children who might otherwise be difficult to place in adoptive homes.  In Fiscal Year 2011, 84 percent of the nearly 50,000 children adopted through public agencies were designated as having “special needs.”  Parents adopting children through tribal courts, however, are currently ineligible for the special needs adoption tax credit.  This unfortunately results in parents and children throughout Indian Country unfairly missing out on an important tax credit that would make a significant difference in their day-to-day lives.  Becoming eligible for the special needs adoption tax credit would help further reduce the financial costs associated with adoption and lessen administrative burdens.

In 1978, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act that gives Indian tribes exclusive jurisdiction over custody proceedings involving Indian children within a reservation.  The special needs adoption tax credit currently fails to recognize the authority that tribal governments have over adoption proceedings of Indian children. The Tribal Adoption Parity Act would amend the Internal Revenue Code to provide fair tax treatment to parents adopting Indian children through tribal courts.  As a result, a tribal government would be permitted to designate an adoptive Indian child as having “special needs.” This legislation would ensure that families in Indian Country are treated fairly by providing the same financial relief that adoptive families currently receive across the nation.

The bill has been endorsed by organizations such as the National Indian Child Welfare Association, the Child Welfare League of America, Voice for Adoption, the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, the Donaldson Adoption Institute, and the Joint Council for International Children’s Services.

In 1996, Congress created the adoption tax credit to ease the initial financial burden for adoptive parents.  The adoption tax credit provides a tax credit of up to $10,000 and is adjusted for inflation. The credit was $12,970 for tax year 2013. Since 2003, families adopting children with “special needs” are allowed to claim the full adoption tax credit regardless of their qualified adoption expenses. The definition of “special needs” varies from state to state. Examples of factors that can qualify a child for the “special needs” determination include: age; membership in a minority or sibling group; ethnic background; medical condition; or physical, mental, and emotional handicaps.

The National Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent organization within the Internal Revenue Service, recommended the adoption tax credit be amended to recognize tribal governments in its 2012 Annual Report to Congress, which can be accessed here.

 

Fatter Wallets = Skinnier Kids: Casinos Associated With Lower Obesity Rates

New research shows that opening a new or expanding an existing tribal casino is associated with a reduction in childhood obesity. The finding is extremely important, according to researchers, because overweight/obesity is a significant problem among American Indian children and adults and because being overweight or obese in childhood has impacts that can eventually become life-threatening.

The research does not prove a causal relationship between casino development and fewer overweight/obese kids, but it does strongly suggest that such a relationship exists. Johns Hopkins’ Department of International Health’s Jessica C. Jones-Smith, lead investigator for the project, says, “This is a strong study that is not as methodologically rigorous as a randomized control trial but that offers better evidence towards causality than most other observational designs.”

The research also shows that the reduction in overweight/obese children associated with casino development appears to be long-lasting. Jones-Smith says, “In this time period of 2001 to 2012 different tribes opened their casinos at different times, and we did look at whether the time that you opened the casino had any impact on our estimate of the casino’s impact on obesity. It didn’t, so it looks like throughout this time whenever you opened the casino you still experienced a decrease in the risk for obesity.” Thus, a tribe that opened a casino in the early 2000s showed the same reduction in overweight/obese children as one that opened a casino five or six years later.

Researchers looked at a total of 117 California school districts that encompassed tribal lands, based on information from the U.S. Census Bureau. Of those school districts, “57 gained or expanded a casino, 24 had a preexisting casino but did not expand, and 36 never had a casino.” Then they looked at BMI (body-mass index) for the children in those districts based on information supplied by the California Department of Education. Forty-eight percent of the BMI measurements for children whose parents identified the child’s race as American Indian or Alaska Native were classified as overweight/obese.

In school districts that encompassed tribal lands where a new casino had been built or an existing casino expanded between the years 2001 and 2012, the risk of being an overweight/obese AI/AN child dropped 0.19 percent per new slot machine. Since there were on average 13 new slots per capita, the total reduction in the risk of being overweight or obese averaged 2.47 percent. Each new slot represented a per capita increase in annual income of $541 and a decrease in the number of people living in poverty. For the average of 13 new slots per capita, this would mean a 7.8-percent reduction in the number of people living in poverty.

The investigators concluded that the most plausible explanation for their findings is that opening a new or expanding an existing casino increased families’ and communities’ economic resources and that in turn led to a decrease in the risk of children being overweight or obese.

Jones-Smith is an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The other investigators on the project were William H. Dow from the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, and Kristal Chichlowska, an independent consultant in Sacramento. The paper, “Association Between Casino Opening or Expansion and Risk of Childhood Overweight and Obesity,” was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in early March. The project was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/03/10/fatter-wallets-skinnier-kids-casinos-associated-lower-obesity-rates-153929