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Tribes convene for two-day education summit in Red Lake

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Tribes convene for two-day education summit in Red Lake
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

A summit dedicated to American Indian education and Ojibwe language preservation will be held today and Thursday at the Seven Clans Casino in Red Lake.

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The two-day summit brings together members from the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and White Earth Band of Ojibwe, with an education-related agreement to be signed by the three tribes Thursday.

The summit follows in the footsteps of the economic summit held Aug. 11-12 in Red Lake, a consortium that also involved the collaboration of the three tribes.

A welcoming by Red Lake Tribal Chairman Floyd "Buck" Jourdain Jr. will signal the start of the education summit today after an opening prayer is given by Red Lake Elder Larry Stillday. Bemidji State University professor Anton Treuer is the first speaker scheduled and will give an overview of the Ojibwe language survival project.

Wednesday afternoon Dean Chavers, a nationally-known expert in American Indian education, will speak on the turnaround of low-performing schools into top performers. Following his talk will be the Red Lake School district, which will report on its current school reform and improvements.

On Thursday, the Red Lake Nation College will host a college fair for tribal members, many of whom are high school students. Local colleges, universities, military services and other career-oriented organizations will be present to provide information and answer questions on post-high school career options.

Dan King, president of the Red Lake Nation College, and Leah Carpenter, a BSU professor and past president of Leech Lake Tribal College, will present a program titled "The Value of a College Education."

"If you think about it, in the 1950s, someone could go to high school, graduate and do just fine," King said in an earlier interview. "Nowadays, most new jobs require post-secondary training. I think the high school kids today have it a little tougher."

King said students can earn a two-year degree from the Red Lake Tribal College as a starting point.

"That's our motto here at the college - 'A great place to start,'" King said. "We want to encourage students to start here, build up their confidence and skill levels and then move to the next level."

Ginny Carney, current president of the LLTC, and Wannetta Bennet, president of the White Earth Tribal & Community College, will be involved in a panel during King's program at the summit.

Carney said approximately 30 Ojibwe language students and instructors from LLTC will be attending the first day of the summit. She said she sees the reason for the summit is to reach out to youth.

"I feel (the summit) will have an effect of helping three local reservations to work together more effectively," she added.

Chavers will speak again on Thursday on how students can attain college scholarships. For a mid-morning break, a local Red Lake Tribal member and rap artist will perform for summit attendees.

Culminating the summit will be a ceremony in which Red Lake Chairman Jourdain, Leech Lake Chairman Arthur "Archie" LaRose and White Earth Chairwoman Erma Vizenor will sign an educational agreement, pledging to cooperate and work together on education and Ojibwe language preservation issues.

Also signing the agreement will be the presidents of the three tribal colleges, Red Lake School District Superintendent Brent Gish, and the tribal education directors from the Leech Lake and White Earth reservations.

The education agreement states the three tribes have historically close ties, since all are members of the Ojibwe Nation, and share the same Ojibwe language. It also states all three tribes have similar educational challenges. It states the tribal college presidents will work together, and that the tribal education directors or superintendents will also work together on issues affecting American Indian education and Ojibwe language preservation.

"I think it's a huge benefit for all of us, sharing, cooperating and working together," King said of the first-ever summit.

He added that other tribes, such as the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Minnesota and tribes from North Dakota have also expressed interest in joining the education consortium.

"I can see this consortium getting really big," he added.

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