May 11, 1999

For Further Information Contact: NARF, (303) 447-8760



BOULDER, CO – A recent evaluation report cites major improvements in education on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota, and attributes the improvements to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe's Education Department and Education Code. The evaluation, conducted by RJS & Associates, Inc., is the first-ever independent and formal assessment of a tribal education department and code. The evaluation was funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York which in the past has funded the Native American Rights Fund's (NARF) work in Indian education.

Highlights of the report's findings include a substantial decline in drop-out rates and a major increase in graduation rates for students in grades nine through twelve. In St. Francis, South Dakota, where 99% of the student population is Indian, the drop-out rate went from 36.5% in 1989-90 to 7% in 1997-98. At the same time, the graduation rate increased from 24% to 69%. The report credits this progress largely to a tribally-funded and administered truancy program.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has over 31,000 members making it among the five largest tribes in the United States. Over 18,000 members live on or near the Reservation. Most tribal elementary and secondary students attend state public schools. The Tribe operates a grades K-12 school, too.

Sherry Red Owl (Rosebud Sioux), the first and only Director of the Tribe's Education Department, says "When I began in 1990, truancy at both public and tribal schools had reached a crisis level. We knew that our kids would never succeed 'in school' if they were not 'in' school."

The Tribe took some immediate steps, but ultimately focused on a long-range Truancy Intervention Program (TIP). The TIP devotes enormous financial and human resources to addressing the root causes of student absenteeism -- disabilities, low self-esteem, and poverty -- and stresses the advantages of a formal education within a tribal community.

Melody McCoy (Cherokee), NARF staff attorney, notes that "The Rosebud Sioux Tribe saw the role of the Tribal Government in improving education. That is gathering data and identifying and tracking problems and progress. That is focusing and coordinating available resources on specific needs. We helped the Tribe get going and they have just run with it." McCoy adds that NARF has represented the Tribe since 1987 in its pioneering effort to improve education for tribal students in all schools through direct governmental involvement.

Since the Rosebud Sioux Tribe started its Education Department, other tribes have begun to follow suit. The efforts of about ninety tribes are centered on the over 500,000 American Indian and Alaska Native students in this country who consistently suffer disproportionately high drop-out rates and low educational achievement and attainment levels.

The Carnegie Corporation funded the evaluation of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe's Education Department to determine how well the tribes are doing at addressing these chronic symptoms. The evaluation report shows that tribal education departments and codes can have a positive impact on tribal student educational opportunities. The report urges increased funding for tribal education departments so that their impact can be expanded.

Since the 1980s, NARF has been bringing its unique expertise and experiences in successfully advancing Indian sovereign rights to the educational arena. NARF's efforts with tribes in South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and New Mexico, and its work with the National Congress of American Indians, the National Indian Education Association, and the National Indian School Board Association have been funded by the Carnegie Corporation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Northwest Area Foundation, Bush Foundation, and Coca-Cola Foundation.

The Native American Rights Fund is a non-profit organization that provides legal advice and representation to Indian tribes, individuals and organizations nationwide in the areas of: the preservation of tribal existence; the protection of tribal natural resources; the promotion of human rights; the accountability of governments to Native Americans; and the development of Indian law. NARF is headquartered in Boulder, Colorado with offices in Washington, DC and Anchorage, Alaska.