The meeting convened on the Fifth Floor Board Chambers at the offices of the Chicago Public Schools, 125 South Clark Street, IL on June 8, 20012 at 9:00 a.m. with William Mendoza, Executive Director, White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education and Joyce Silverthorne, Director, Office of Indian Education presiding and Ian Stroud facilitating.
MR. STROUD: Good morning everybody. I'm not used to using a microphone because I work in student activities over at Northeastern Illinois. By the way, let me introduce myself, I got a little ahead of myself. My name is Ian T. Stroud. I'm Navajo, Cherokee and Creek, originally from a small town in Oklahoma called Tahlequah. So if you've ever been there, come by and talk, we'll chitchat, talk about the old days.
All right, welcome today, welcome to this little session we have going on today on the U.S. Department of Education, the Urban Natives Education Learning Session here today. We have many, we have a jam-packed day today. We want to go ahead and start off by having Susan Power come over here and do kind of a welcoming, from then on we'll proceed from there. But if we all can give a round of applause for Susan Power.
MS. POWER: Good morning and welcome. First of all, change the L to a D on Dakota, and I want to, first I want to thank the Board of Ed for re-acknowledging the existence of the Native American in the city of Chicago. We haven't been acknowledged since about somewhere in the 70's. And I am the last founding member of the American Indian Center breathing, and the last, one of the early members of the National Congress of American Indians, and I'm grateful to be here.
I fell yesterday and, I live in South Shore and I fell, but I realized growing up on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation across from Sitting Bull's original grave, Sorry, South Dakota, he was buried in North Dakota on the north, my reservation runs in North and South Dakota, and I realized that before vitamins we were getting D, so these old bones didn't break yesterday. And I'm winking at 88, and I'm a lover of history, I'm a natural historian. As my new young friend here, Sheila, will acknowledge, I'm already telling her about the first African American state senator here, that his grandson hates to run into me because I tell, write his story, write his story. I'm constantly, so I sat down and wrote three pages of my memories for him. So I told him, no more excuses, quit Twittering, quit looking at TV, sit down and write one page a month even, you'll have 12 pages.
There is another historian that I hoped would show up here, Sharon Skullneck, who is doing the history of our American Indian Center. And I want to acknowledge a few people here who, Dorene, Jolieen, Alex, where are you, anyway, Jolieen, and I want to acknowledge Dorene Wiese who I met way back in the late 60's, a young girl with unusual eyes. She still has unusual eyes. She's Ojibwa and Dakota, I remind her each time, and, who has never taken her foot out of the, trying to see that Indians realize that education is out there and it's needed.
And it may be, as my mother would say, intelligence is what you're born with, wisdom is how you use it. But right now we need that paper to show, and if we're going to get our foot in any door to help our people, we need that education. And she will get people who have been on the street, encouraging them, and now we've got two in the education field and that's Dorene and Jolieen, and I wish one of them would change their name because I'm, I keep confusing them.
Now, I want to tell for, I live in a predominantly African American community of South Shore, I wan to tell you a couple stories to show that we all have, we all need to be more aware of each other. People are not aware of us as Native Americans for some reason. A couple, not too long ago there was an article in the Tribune, and they happened to run out of people to write about I guess so they asked, did a little, we were having a big conference at the University of Chicago commemorating an important conference of 1961. And so they talked to me, and at the end I mentioned how my neighbors are always shocked that I walk to the library, South Shore Library, oh, you have all those people standing down there, about five or six African men, African American men stand down there. I said yes, I pass them. And, well aren't you afraid, I won't go down there, these are African Americans telling me this. And I said, well why? I said, they're helpful to me, come on momma, they'll help me.
And they have, one of them happened to see that article, so one day I'm going by and there was five of them there, and he said, would you stop a minute? So I stopped and he said, look, see, I told you this is her, they had my picture. And I said yes, that's me, and he said, at the bottom here when you said how you care for all the people on the street and what is happening, that's us, right? I said yes, that's you. And it made me feel so bad because you see, we tend to look at people just ourselves, whether it's our color or economic situation or whatever our ties are, we've got to look at each other, always each other.
And I want to tell you another little story if I may, it concerns a Native American woman who happens to be the first American, I keep going back to the American Indian because that's what was said at once, first Native American woman who was head of the tribe. This was before all the grants and all of the, never media attention, nothing. But she was, she was, Indians had their leadership after the Indian Reorganization Act, which killed our old time leadership, we had our leadership, but the Indian Reorganization Act established our councils. Anyways, she became the leader of the council. How many of you know who the first, this is for my African American friends, who was the first Pulitzer African American journalist? You all have -- his name was Carl T. Rowan. I met him in Indianapolis one time at National Congress of American Indians, way back, and he said you're Josephine's daughter. I said yes, Josephine's daughter. I want to tell you something, he said, I went out to your reservation, and he told me the year, like I said, 88 is winking at me so I forget dates, so you pardon me, and he said, I went up to the agency and the agent, who was white, he took me around, he showed me the new homes he was building for his employees, who at that time were all non-Native. He took me by Sitting Bull's grave and he took me back up to the agency. So I thanked him for his tour, but I said I had come out there to interview a Josephine, before I could say her last name the only Indian I saw in the agency said, Josephine, I'll take you there, that's my friend, Josephine. So he took me there.
I went to this little tar paper shack, two rooms, and I shook the door, screen door, someone said, come in, I went in, and this wonderful old woman was sitting there with a dishpan full of choke cherries on her lap, preparing them for winter. So I could see she had gotten me the best chair, the best cup, the best saucer, and she gave me coffee and biscuits.
And she said, he said I asked her, at the end I found she was easy to talk to, so I said you live like this, you're the head of this reservation and you live like this. You should be living in one of those new, white homes, those new buildings, they were all white, you should be having one of those nice homes with electricity and running water, you have nothing here and I feel concerned.
And she thanked him, and she said, thank you for your concern. Now, I don't want to hurt your feelings, through no fault of yours or you ancestors, I want to tell you something. You know one culture, through no fault of yours, that's the white man's culture, we, and that's a materialistic culture. We know one culture, it's a non-materialistic. So I'm sitting out here in my prairie, we're trying to hold onto that, because that will be the lasting culture.
And she said, and thank you for my concern, for your concern, but when all of my people have homes, nice homes with electricity and running water, then I will consider it. He said, I never forgot that. And that's what we must get back to in the urban areas now too, because we're drifting. Since we're the smallest number of citizens, apparently, we are so forgotten, that's why I'm so grateful that the Board of Ed is re-supporting us, acknowledging us. That's very important.
And I want to tell you a little about, today we're having a memorial at our American Indian Center, which is the first and oldest in the city. There's a lot of things going to be happening there this coming, this month, for the betterment of the community. Our oldest male Indian in the city, I think he's the oldest, unless Carlos is, he's, his wife passed away, so we're having a memorial there. And we are the, nobody gets things mixed up as we do, but we end up getting all together and being good to each other.
And this is what, what bothers me with my African American neighbors, I tell them when I came here, you guys were so good to each other. We were so good to each other, what's happening? Why aren't we good to each other now? What is happening to us, to all of us? It just isn't us brown people, it's all of the people.
And I could go on and on and on, but time is of the essence. But I want to thank you all so very much, and always remember, we do exist, we're still here, and I'm looking at Jolieen back there who called me this morning, we're last minute people, and I got here, I got my, the taxi driver was from Ghana, and he said, you're Native American. He said, he was curious, I said yes, I am. First one I've ever met, I'm so honored, I'm so proud, Native American, I'm so proud. So I said, you know, I'm glad you met me now because I'm a cancer survivor, I'm a, you name it, I'm a survivor and I'll be 88 before you blink your eyes. I might not be here in another two years.
But I want to say something about the education. I'm grateful that you push people. You can always go to school. When I came here 70 years ago next month, we all went to school, night school, night school. We didn't have people encouraging us, we had no grants, we had no one to apply to, but we went to night school. We didn't know what we were doing half the time, I'm sure, but we went to night school.
When I was 70 years old, I became a paralegal. I'm so proud of my, my paralegal certificate. And I learned to sail at 70, and I wanted to open an office in the uptown area and do what is within the realm of a paralegal's duties. But cancer hit, but I still do a lot, you know, as long as the brain still operates. So, we have to say yes, we can be intelligently born, and we can use it wisely, but we need those pieces of paper, right? We need them, all of you.
And thank you so much. And special thanks to, I have to say this to Jolieen Alex, first tribal member of her tribe here, and Dr., Dr. Dorene Wiese, and she's going to help me get the first stamp for our Native American women. Thank you. God bless all of you. I didn't write it out, because if I wrote it out I would have, it would have been a polished, sharp speech, I'd rather ramble. Thank you.
MR. STROUD: Thank you, Susan, thank you. Everyone give a round of applause for Ms. Power. Thank you. Inspirational, I think that's a great segue. We're going to continue on. We're going to go ahead and post our colors, so if everyone will please rise. Today's color posting is by the Chicago Vocational Academy High School ROTC program, and we'll let them march in. Please, post the colors.
(Whereupon, the colors were presented.)
Okay. If you all will please remain standing. Thank you, color guard, that's one of our premier vocational high schools in the city. We're going to go ahead and present to our, one of our elders from the Kateri Center, to kind of go ahead and open a prayer for us, Sarah Calabaza. I am so sorry.
MS. CALABAZA: This is a prayer, Four Directions prayer we use for our services. And if you would like to could you turn to the east, please?
Great Spirit who comes out of the east, come to us with the power of the east, the light of the rising sun. Let there be light on the path we walk. Let us remember always that you give the gift of a new day, and let us never be burdened with sorrow by not starting over.
And we face the south. Spirit of Creation, send us warm and soothing winds from the south to comfort us and caress us when we are tired and cold. Unfold us as your gentle breezes unfold the leaves on the trees. And as you give to all the earth your warm, moving wind, give to us warmth so that we may grow close to you.
And we face the west. Great Life Giving Spirit, we face the west, the direction of sundown. Let us remember every day that the moment will come when our sun will go down. Never let us forget that we must fade into you. Give us beautiful color. Give us a great sky for setting, so that when it is time to meet you, we come with glory.
And we face the north. Come to us with the power of the north. Make us courageous when the cold winds of life fall upon us. Give us strength and endurance for everything that is harsh, everything that hurts. Let us move through life ready to take what comes from the north.
We look up to the sky. Lift us up to you that our hearts may worship you and come to you in glory. Hold in our memory that you are our creator, greater than we, eager for a good life. Let everything that is in the world lift our minds and our hearts and our lives to you, so that we may come to you always, in truth and in heart, giver of all life we pray to you from the earth, you are able to touch the earth. Help us to remember as we touch the earth that we are little and need your pity. Help us to be thankful for the gift of the earth, and never to walk hurtfully on the world. Bless us with eyes to love what comes from Mother Earth, and teach us how to use well your gifts. Amen and thank you.
MR. STROUD: Thank you, thank you for that prayer. That helps us kind of set the tone for the day, kind of helps us bring into us a little bit more open mind, plus our hearts, plus our spirit, try and keep us focused on what we want to accomplish today. All right, so without further ado we're going to go ahead and start off with, we have some distinguished guests here today. I'll go ahead and introduce our panel that we're going to have up at front, starting to my right hand side, facing you, so, all right, we have Ms. Cara Krantz from the, she's Deputy Chief of Staff for the CPS Board of Education. We'll go ahead and, would you please rise and just wave to the crowd? There you go, all right. And continuing on, we have Ms. Joyce Silverthorne, she is the Director of the Office of Indian Education, Ms. Silverthorne, there you go.
And continuing on, we have Mr. William, would you prefer to be called Bill or William?
MR. MENDOZA: Either.
MR. STROUD: He said either or, so Mr. William Mendoza, he's the Executive Director for the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaskan Native Education.
And continuing on we have Sheila Chalmers, she's the Senior Policy Advisor for the Office of the Lieutenant Governor in the Educational Committee. All right.
On behalf of Chicago, Ms. Silverthorne and Mr. Mendoza, welcome. As a person who's been your transplant for two years, welcome, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask.
So, all right, we're going to go ahead and continue on with our kind of introductions and welcoming remarks. We'll go ahead and go to Mrs. Chalmers over here, and proceed.
MS. CHALMERS: Good morning. I'm Sheila Chalmers-Currin, I'm with the Lieutenant Governor's Office. Sheila Simon has been traveling through Illinois talking with all individuals in regards to education. So I'm here today on a fact-finding mission again, and hoping to gather information to take back to the Lieutenant Governor.
My new best friend is now Susan Power, and of which I'll be contacting her to get some more history, African American history, Indian history, I'll be reaching out to you.
I want to say that the Lieutenant Governor is very focused on education in Illinois, and she understands the importance and value in honoring and sharing the rich cultural heritage as part of a well rounded education.
As you know or may not know, we spent the last year traveling throughout Illinois gathering information regarding education. When you have the opportunity, please go to her website and look at Focus on the Finish. So today what I'll be here to do, today, is gather additional information to take back to the Lieutenant Governor.
Again, thank you for inviting me. I look forward to working with your organization, and I look forward to meeting again with you, Susan. Thank you.
MR. STROUD: All right, thank you. Now we're going to have some remarks from Ms. Krantz.
MS. KRANTZ: Good morning. I'm Cara Krantz and I'm here on behalf of David Vitale who is the Chicago Board of Education's President, and we welcome you. We find this unique and wonderful learning experience to be just what Chicago Public Schools is trying to achieve. And we know that this is vital to help us meet our goal that every child in every school is college and career ready.
When just the notification that this event was coming through the Board office, I said I want to go, can I go? I can't stay the whole day, but I have a special connection that I'd like to share with you, sort of in the spirit of Ms. Power's storytelling. When I was in high school, I grew up in Blue Earth County, Minnesota. And my high school American History teacher brought in a Native American woman to speak to the class. And as she spoke, I was feeling something inside me stirring, just something awakening, the words that she was using, the power she had, so quietly communicating to the class. And she made me want to speak to her more.
So after the class I went up to her and asked her a question. Now, that's 25 years ago, I don't remember what I asked her, honestly, but I remember her answer. And her answer, or her response to my question, has stayed with me for, will for the rest of my life.
And she said something like this, she said, were your words your own that you just spoke, or were your words something that your parents gave you, or something that history has given you? And do you know if your words are true? And I didn't. I don't know what I said, but I didn't know if they were truth. And inside of me at the moment she gave me a gift that said, you can question. Not everything has to be as was told to you.
And I feel like I've taken that message into my teaching career, as I was a teacher for 10 years, into raising my children, into how I am as a professional, and in my character. And that is profound. And if I knew who she was, I'd write a thank you now, but unfortunately I don't have that connection.
But I'm giving it to you in hopes that the work that you do carries that forward. Because this is vital, this is vital for us to share unique history, and for us to give children a chance for future success. And this is 40 years history long with Chicago Public Schools and the Department of Education. That's significant and we recognize that.
So, unfortunately like I said, I won't be able to stay the course of your day, but I know that you'll have great things come out of this, and I wish everyone the best of success, and keep carrying the message. Thank you.
MR. STROUD: Thank you again, thank you for those remarks. We'll go ahead and hear from our distinguished guest here, Mr. Mendoza.
MR. MENDOZA: Good morning everyone, and thank you for being with us. I especially want to thank Ian, Jolieen and Dorene and Debra and all of the staff that we haven't had the privilege to meet who've really made it possible for us to be here. It is, of course, important that we are here, particularly in these critical times.
I have the privilege of representing some pretty important people in regards to what we are trying to accomplish in education. Far most, President Barack Obama, Secretary Duncan, and Secretary Salazar who each serve as co-chairs of the White House Initiative, guided by Executive Order 13592, improving American Indian Educational Opportunities, and strengthening tribal colleges and universities.
This is a paradigm shift, if you will, in education. Those of you, I see a number of experts in this room whom, you know, I had the privilege of meeting in other, other venues, other capacities, know that we have historically approached Indian education in very isolated and siloed ways, namely, you know, through some of the lenses which, although they're critical to how we are looking at education, speaking in particular of the Bureau of Indian Education, and their 180-some schools and 30,000 students, that is but a fraction of our student base when we look at, not only our population numbers, and we know that we have many issues when we're talking about identity of American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, federally recognized, state recognized, et cetera. So there's a lot there, but even under the most conservative definitions, that 30,000 represents but a fraction of the students that we need to be considering when we're thinking of cradle to career impact on our communities, namely our tribal nations.
We also look at it through tribal colleges and universities, and that has been a big part of why the President and the Secretaries have approached this issue in a very careful way, knowing that, you know, we cannot just embark upon change for change's sake in regards to these issues, that there is a lot of dynamics that we do not know about, much less a course of action that we need to take immediately.
We know a lot about these contexts as we draw a light on them, and that's a big part of why we are here today. We in the Department of Education have a broad area of interests, through the Office of Indian Education, through our Alaska Native programming and Native Hawaiian programming, and we in many respects include within many of our programs state-recognized tribes as well. And so what that has done for us in an unprecedented era of consultation, and listening and learning to these communities, by the end of, the conclusion of today we will have done approximately 18 consultations and our listening and learning sessions, since 2010. And that is again, something that the Department of Education has never done before. We did the first six in 2010, and from that tribes said, our students are attending schools which we feel like we do not have a meaningful role in the education of those students. We want to have a better connection to them, our students in public schools. We need to hear from those communities.
And so we began to embark upon Urban Native listening and learning sessions. And our process within the Department of Education has been evolving in that sense. We had a lot to learn from the agency standpoint from our partners in the Department of Interior, and Health and Human Services, who have been engaging in formal consultation with tribes for, you know, the establishment of those relationships to varying degrees, of course.