Saturday, September 6, 2008

Examining American Indian Perspectives in the Central Region on Parent Involvement in Children’s Education

This study examines American Indian parents’ perceptions of parent involvement in their children’s education and factors that may encourage or discourage involvement.

A better understanding of American Indian parent involvement was considered as a possible solution to narrow the achievement gap for American Indian students. Five focus groups, consisting of 47 self-selected parents, were conducted in one state in the Central Region. Factors perceived to encourage parent involvement included a caring, supportive, and communicative school staff and culturally respectful environment; access to American Indian programs, resource centers, after school activities, and clubs; and the presence of an advocate or liaison in each school. Factors perceived to discourage parent involvement included feeling unwelcome or intimidated at the school and perceptions of racism and discrimination; experiencing scheduling, transportation, childcare, and financial difficulties; and having prior negative experiences in their own or their children’s education.

Parent involvement is recognized as an important factor in encouraging student achievement (No Child Left Behind Act 2002). However, a survey by the National Center for Education Statistics found that in public schools with 25 percent or more American Indian students, teachers identified lack of parent involvement as one of their schools’ three most serious problems (Freeman and Fox 2005). In the Central Regional Educational Laboratory seven-state service region (Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming), where American Indian students’ performance on state and national assessments lags behind that of their White peers, policymakers and educators have acknowledged the need for research-based assistance in understanding how to effectively involve American Indian parents in improving education outcomes for their children. The Mid-continent Regional Advisory Committee (2005) identified parent involvement as a priority in areas where cultural issues impede student achievement.

At an August 2007 meeting state-level policymakers identified as a high priority the need for research-based assistance on American Indian education and ways to close the achievement gaps among ethnic groups. To begin to address the regional need to close the achievement gap for American Indian students and specifically to effectively engage American Indian parents in their children’s education, parent perceptions about involvement are needed. This study starts with parent perceptions because of the history of American Indian education, which alienated many parents from schools, and because of the lack of relevant current research in this area.

The purposes of the study were to examine how Central Region American Indian parents perceived parent involvement and to understand what encourages or discourages their involvement. Two Central Region communities were selected for data collection, based on the expressed interest of the state education administrator and the support of the state Office of Indian Affairs. Additional criteria for selection included high populations of American Indian students (American Indian student enrollment exceeding 2 percent of the student population) and permission from school district administrators. Recruitment letters were sent to 200 eligible American Indian parents from their school district’s office of Indian education. Forty-seven self-selected American Indian parents, reflecting seven tribes from nine reservations, participated in five focus groups. An interview protocol guided focus group discussions around four main research questions:

What do American Indian parents perceive as parent involvement in their children’s

Why do American Indian parents get involved?

What do parents perceive as barriers to involvement?

Which school strategies do parents perceive encourage involvement

Researchers audiotaped the focus group discussions, transcribed the tapes, and checked the transcripts against the tapes. They identified and organized key themes within and across focus groups and then developed the findings from those themes. The process was repeated several times to ensure that the findings accurately reflected the focus group discussions. Researchers used data from the demographics database, field notes, transcripts, coded themes, and sample quotations.

Findings were organized into key themes around the research questions as follows:

What do American Indian parents perceive as parent involvement?

  • School-oriented involvement
  • Communicating about children
  • Attending student-centered events
  • Volunteering
  • Advocating for their children
  • Home-oriented involvement
  • Showing interest in children’s education and life.
  • Helping with school work.
  • Encouraging and rewarding children to do their best.
  • Reading with children.
  • Meeting children’s needs.
  • Involving the extended family and community.

Why do American Indian parents get involved?
  • To help children succeed and build confidence
  • To stay connected with the school.
  • To monitor children’s progress.
  • To address a problem.
  • To respond to schools’ invitation or welcoming environment.

What do parents perceive as barriers to involvement?
  • School-oriented barriers
  • Unwelcoming school environment (feeling unwelcome or intimidated at the school)
  • Previous negative experience with education (parents’ own or their children’s)
  • Perceptions of a school’s lack of cultural sensitivity
  • Different styles of interpersonal communication
  • Home-oriented barriers
  • Experiencing scheduling, transportation, childcare, and financial difficulties

Which school strategies do parents perceive encourage involvement?
  • Printed and electronic correspondence
  • Communications about children
  • School staff respectful of parents’ educational and cultural values
  • Open-door policy
  • Culturally respectful environment
  • Cultural activities and resources, including American Indian programs, resource centers, after school activities, clubs for children and families, and an advocate or liaison at the school to welcome and assist American Indian parents and children

Many aspects of American Indian parent involvement were largely consistent with the literature on parent involvement in the general population as well as in other minority cultures. This study found that parent involvement was additionally influenced by parent-school differences in values and communication styles, perceptions of cultural competency in the staff and curricula, and a history of American Indian education policy of coercive assimilation that continues to influence parents.

The challenges of increasing American Indian parent involvement are complex, residing in the overlay—and sometimes clash—of cultures in the public schools. This study provides an initial step toward understanding American Indian parent involvement. It is important to keep in mind that this study reflects the perspectives of American Indian parents; it does not include the perspectives of school personnel or their responses to these findings.

This report is intended for researchers, educators, and parents of American Indian students, as a basis for further research and informed dialogue to increase American Indian parent involvement and student academic achievement.

Download the entire report here.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

August 28 - September 2, 2008: Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues

Five Important Indigenous People's Issues for the Weeks of August 28 - September 2, 2008

Unease Over Guatemalan Gold Rush

With gold prices skyrocketing, the Mayans of Guatemala find themselves caught up in a new rush for the precious metal.

Mario Tema sits across from me, a Mayan with a mission.

We are in the town of Sipacapa in the Western Highlands of Guatemala, washing down a breakfast of tamale and beans with a cup of freshly brewed coffee.

As he tells me of the town's fight against a huge open pit gold mine, that famous picture of Che Guevara gazes at us from the wall. Here in Sipacapa, Mario Tema is an anti-mining icon.

Last year he travelled to Vancouver, where the mine's Canadian owner, Goldcorp, has its headquarters. He went to speak out against the mine at the company's annual shareholders meeting.

"After I spoke at the meeting," he says, "a shareholder approached me and he told me 'I don't care about your cause, all I care about is the money in my pocket."

Mr Tema tells me the story with a shake of his head. Do shareholders not know that his country was wracked by decades of civil war that saw more than 200,000 people killed, one million displaced, and that most of the victims were Mayan? Read more about the Guatemala gold rush here....

Indigenous Rights Group Organizes

The Indigenous Rights Group has begun organizational work headed by former Speaker Oscar C. Rasa and other members of the Northern Marianas community. As of this writing, over 3,000 people have registered as members of the local organization. It is a purpose-driven non-partisan group focusing on educating local governance of their inalienable rights to a greater degree of self-government.

Personally, I admire their dedicated efforts to renew the indigenous community's understanding of its right to self-government, reconnect them with their ancestral past and rights, including time-honored traditions revolving around the land and the sea; overcome the legacy of neo-colonialism and the old assumption of white supremacy and to find a way of life that is both modern yet true to the traditions of the indigenous people.

The emergence of this group was prompted by the apparent negligence of elected public officials (over the last two decades) to hold the United States responsible to its commitment. That commitment is an inherent provision of law (48 USC Section 1801). It mandates the federal government to provide “for a progressively higher standard of living” for the people of these isles. But most local leadership must have been snoozing, acquiescing the sale not of items on the shelf, but the store itself. Read more about the indigenous rights group here....

BRAZIL: Setting an Important Precedent for Indigenous Lands

An imminent decision by Brazil’s Supreme Court on the demarcation of the Raposa Serra do Sol indigenous reservation in the Amazon jungle region has the country’s native communities on edge, because of the precedent it will set.

Raposa Serra do Sol is in the Amazon jungle state of Roraima at the northwestern tip of Brazil, a land of water and abundance.

The 1.7 million hectare reserve was officially demarcated by the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2005, after judicial appeals and debates that dragged on for nearly two decades. The decision was based on the principles laid down in the 1988 constitution.

The Supreme Court is set to decide next week whether or not to uphold the demarcation of the reservation as a single, unbroken territory.

The reservation is home to more than 19,000 members of the Macuxí, Wapixana, Taurepang, Patamona and Ingarikó indigenous communities.

But since 1992, invasions of indigenous land by large-scale rice producers have become frequent, and in just 13 years, rice plantations in the area covered by the reservation grew sevenfold, to 14,000 hectares. Read more about indigenous lands in Brazil here....

Peru Throws Out Amazon Land Laws

Peru's Congress has voted to repeal two land laws aimed at opening up Amazonian tribal areas to development, which led to protests by indigenous groups.

Correspondents say the repeal of the laws is a blow to President Alan Garcia, who had approved the legislation by decree.

Mr Garcia had described the initiative as pivotal to the improvement of life in Peru's poorest regions.

A leading indigenous rights campaigner welcomed the repeal of the laws.

Alberto Pizango called it a new dawn for the country's indigenous peoples.

During the protests, which lasted more than 10 days, indigenous groups took several police officers hostage, and took control of both a major natural gas field in southern Peru and an oil pipeline. Read more about Peru and indigenous peoples here....

Fiji Chiefs Say No

THE traditional heads of the three confederacies have reiterated that the Draft People’s Charter “is unconstitutional” and they do not recognize the document.

Kubuna High Chief, Ratu Apenisa Cakobau, the Roko Tui Dreketi, Ro Teimumu Kepa and Tui Cakau Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu yesterday released a joint statement which highlighted their concerns that the December 2006 coup had undermined the rights and protection of the Fijian people.

The statement’s release coincided with the high ranking chiefs’ representation and show of support to the Methodist Church at the church’s conference at the Centenary Church in Suva yesterday.

The chiefs’ statement cites Clause 4 and 7 of the 1874 Deed of Cession which amongst other things protected the rights of indigenous to self determination.

The chiefs highlighted five key issues of concern with the charter – the use of the term ‘Fijian’; integration of the provincial and advisory councils; attempts to weaken the Fijian administration; militarization of the civil service and; the return to democracy and the rule of law.

On the use of ‘Fijian’ as a common name, the chiefs say the name is “deeply embedded in the Fijian psyche” since colonization and has been used in the Deed of Cession, and three Constitutions “to refer to the first people of this country or i taukei.” Read more about indigenous Fijians here....

Last weeks Five Key Indigenous People's Issues can be found here.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hurricane Gustav and Indigenous Peoples Along the Gulf Coast

Below are two communiqués put out by Brenda Dardar Robichaux, Principal Chief of the United Houma Nation (a State recognized Tribe with communities within Terreboone and Lafourche parish). The first dated Friday, August 29, 2008, and the second today, September 1.

It is not exactly known what damage the Houma Nation communities have experienced by hurricane Gustav. The last message from Principle Chief Brenda Dardar Robichaux indicated strong winds were starting to come in. Some tree branches were breaking. This was around 6-7 a.m. this morning. They are still recovering from the Katrina and Rita hurricanes of 2005 and I assume they will welcome any donations for those recovery costs, as well as any damages they will have from hurricane Gustav. All national TV new stations are only focusing in on the city of New Orleans with very little coverage of the rural bayou areas. The Houma people are bayou people and I am sure are experiencing damages that will take money to repair.

At the end of this press release we have listed the name and contact information of the United Houma Nation Relief Fund. This Relief Fund was created in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which helped thousands of tribal members return home and re-build their communities. Even though it is unpredictable on what level of impact hurricane Gustav will have, we are looking at reports from television news stations that hurricane Gustav could hit New Orleans with some mapping evidence that appears it could impact the region west of New Orleans. If this is so, people must know that the communities of the Houma Nation are located west of New Orleans, in the bayou coastal area of Louisiana. We are posting Principle Chief Dardar-Robichaux's statement and contact information. - Thank you for your support of the Houma Peoples, Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director, IEN


Message from the Principal Chief
Brenda Dardar Robichaux

It's difficult to imagine that on the third anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, we are threatened with the possibility of being in the same position that we were three years ago. But please be assured we have learned many lessons, and we are better prepared than we were then. We are all keeping a watchful eye on Gustav and are aware of the impact he could have on our communities. We would urge each and everyone of you in the threat zone to evacuate if you are able to on your own or contact your local officials immediately if you need assistance. We have reached out and are coordinating with the local offices of emergency preparedness in all of our communities to ensure that they are aware of your needs. We are four days from expected landfall and realize that Hurricane Gustav's track can change many times. Please continue to check the web site. We will do our best to keep you updated and provide you with information as thing progress.

I pray the Creator blesses us with strength and courage during these difficult times.


Message from the Principal Chief
Brenda Dardar Robichaux

About 20 of my family and friends has chosen to ride out Hurricane Gustav with us at our home in Raceland. Our home is on a high ridge right across from Bayou Lafourche. Last night was a relatively calm night with little wind and rain. But that soon changed. We lost electricity at 6:05 AM and are using batteries and a generator to stay in touch with what is happening throughout our communities. The wind has picked up considerably here to about 85 MPH. Some of us are sitting on the back porch watching in amazement how huge oak trees can bend and not break while magnolia tree branches fall. Others are glued to the TV listening intently for word of where Gustav is headed and the impact he is having. The lastest update is my worst fear for the Houma People as it is learned that he is approaching the bayous in Terrebonne and Lafourche parish. I feel we have done our best to make sure everyone has evacuated safely. The rest is out of our hands.

Hurricane Katrina and Rita left Plaquemine and St. Bernard Parishes with barely a home left standing or liveable. It has been a challenge to assist our People in these communities when there is nothing left to start with. Some are still living in FEMA trailers, with family and friends and a few are finally returning to a home. Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes have been on the road to recovery for the past 3 years with lives just getting back to normal. My fear for the past three years has been “What if Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes suffered total devestation as Plaquemine and St. Bernard Parishes? These are the communities with the highest concentration of Houma People. How would we recover knowing the challenges we still face in Plaquemine and St. Bernard?" I am paralized in fear that this is what is happening. The great people of the Houma Nation that I am so honored to represent, who have faced many challenges over the years are about to face one of our greatest challenges.

As I sit and write the winds are blowing and Gustav is approaching. I pray for protection, strength and courage to face what lies ahead.

United Houma Nation
20986 Highway 1
Golden Meadow, LA 70357
Office: (985) 537-8867
Fax: (985) 537-8812

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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Indigenous Peoples, Development, Natural Resources, and the United Nations

As a conceptual framework based on international human rights standards, a human rights–based approach to development aims to promote and protect human rights through operational processes. It seeks to analyze root causes of inequalities and redress discriminatory practices and unjust distributions of power, which impede development. Within this framework, policies, plans and processes for development and human rights share a common preoccupation with the necessary outcomes for improving peoples’ daily lives.

When addressing the specific situation of indigenous peoples, recognition of their collective rights can provide the framework for adopting a human rights–based and culturally sensitive approach. Such an approach should also take several key elements into consideration. These elements are: the significance of lands, territories and natural resources; respect for the principles of participation and free, prior and informed consent; and the need for disaggregated data and culturally sensitive indicators.

Indigenous Peoples’ Lands, Territories and Natural Resources

Land rights, access to land and control over it and its resources are central to indigenous peoples throughout the world . Territories and land have material, cultural and spiritual dimensions for indigenous communities and, through their deep understanding of and connection with the land, they have managed their environments sustainability for generations. In order to survive as distinct peoples, indigenous peoples and their communities need to be able to own, conserve and manage their territories, lands and resources on the basis of their collective rights. This is why protection of their collective right to lands, territories and natural resources has always been a key demand of the international indigenous peoples’ movement and of indigenous peoples and organizations everywhere—and this is why it is an issue that must be given priority when dealing with indigenous people.

Today, several international instruments recognize the strong ties that exist between indigenous peoples and their ancestral lands. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (articles 25 and 26) and ILO Convention No. 169 (article 14) recognize the right of indigenous peoples to own and control their land and, to differing degrees, their right to own, use and manage the natural resources on those lands. Several other articles within the Declaration also recognize a number of related rights, including the right to free and informed consent prior to approval of interventions affecting their lands.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (negotiated in 1992 and ratified by 190 State parties) is another important international instrument that acknowledges the close and traditional dependence of many indigenous and local communities on biological resources, and the contribution that traditional knowledge can make to both the conservation and the sustainable use of biological diversity, two fundamental objectives of the Convention.

At the national level, many countries have in recent decades reformed their constitutional and legal systems in response to calls from indigenous movements for legal recognition of their right to protection and control of their lands, territories and natural resources. Latin America has led the way with such constitutional reforms taking place in most countries, a number of which go as far as to acknowledge the collective nature of indigenous peoples (an essential element of land rights). In Asia, the Philippines has a Constitution (1987) that “recognizes and promotes the rights of indigenous cultural communities within the framework of national unity and development” and a law—the 1997 Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act—that recognizes the right of indigenous peoples to their ancestral domains and lands.

Despite these important advances, indigenous peoples worldwide continue to suffer from policies and actions that undermine and discriminate against their customary land tenure and resource management systems, expropriate their lands, extract their resources without their consent and result in displacement from and dispossession of their territories. In his March 2007 report, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people stated:
“Although in recent years many countries have adopted laws recognizing the indigenous communities’ collective and inalienable right to ownership of their lands, land-titling procedures have been slow and complex and, in many cases, the titles awarded to the communities are not respected in practice”.

Indigenous peoples’ land rights are also threatened by development processes. As pointed out by Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the chair of the UNPFII, “The term ‘development’ has acquired a negative connotation for indigenous peoples even if this is called ‘sustainable’, because their histories are replete with traumatic experiences with development projects, policies and programmes. In fact, mainstream development is regarded as one of the root causes of their problems.” Such mainstream development includes, inter alia, the creation of protected areas and natural parks, infrastructural construction works (roads, dams, etc .) and all types of extractive activities (mining, logging, agri-business, etc.). The UNDG Guidelines note: “Indigenous peoples’ lands have been disproportionately affected by national development activities because they often contain valuable natural resources including timber, minerals, biodiversity resources, water and oil, among others”.

Access to and ownership and development of these resources remains a contentious issue, and concern has been expressed by the IASG that the effort to meet the targets laid down for the MDGs could in fact have harmful effects on indigenous and tribal peoples, such as an accelerated loss of lands and natural resources or displacement from those lands. The MDGs have also often been criticized by indigenous peoples for not reflecting their relationship with the land. Indigenous peoples see a clear relationship between loss of their lands and their communities’ situations of marginalization, discrimination and underdevelopment.

According to Erica-Irene Daes, a UN Special Rapporteur in 2001, “The gradual deterioration of indigenous societies can be traced to the non-recognition of the profound relation that indigenous peoples have to their lands, territories and resources.” Income inequalities and social heterogeneity are often the result of land alienation. Indigenous peoples are also acutely aware of the relationship between the environmental impacts of various types of development on their lands and the environmental and subsequent health impacts on their peoples. Indigenous well-being is therefore often seen as inextricably linked with their relationship to lands and traditional practices.

The Permanent Forum has, over the years, issued a number of recommendations regarding indigenous rights to lands, territories and natural resources, and this subject was the focus of its sixth session (2007). On that occasion, the Forum stressed the fundamental importance of indigenous peoples’ security of land use and access, as well as the importance of land rights for broader processes of poverty reduction, good governance and conflict prevention. One recommendation was therefore to urge States to take measures to halt land alienation in indigenous territories through, for example, a moratorium on the sale and registration of land—including the granting of land and other concessions—in areas occupied by indigenous peoples; and further to support indigenous peoples in preparing their claims for collective title.

As Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz observed: “One of the key reasons why indigenous peoples are being disenfranchised from their lands and territories is the existence of discriminatory laws, policies and programmes that do not recognize indigenous peoples’ land tenure systems and give more priority to claims being put by corporations—both state and private”.

The Permanent Forum further recommended that: “Governments, bilateral and multilateral donor and development agencies and other development partners responsible for, or assisting in the implementation of sectoral strategies or other programmes affecting lands owned, occupied or otherwise used by indigenous peoples, review the consistency of such strategies and programmes with internationally recognized standards for the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples and the impact of such strategies and programmes on indigenous communities”. This recommendation should be seen in the light of the fact that, although the United Nations agencies, the World Bank and the regional development banks (ADB, IDB) all acknowledge indigenous peoples’ special ties to their lands, territories and resources, their operational policies and guidelines do not have a clear commitment to protect the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples. Instead, they recommend “special considerations” or “specific safeguards” to be taken if operations directly or indirectly affect lands, territories or natural resources traditionally occupied or used by indigenous peoples. In its annual report presented during the Forum meeting, the IASG noted, however, that “development activities, including those carried out by multilateral and bilateral agencies, can sometimes unwittingly dispossess indigenous peoples from their lands and territories” and suggested therefore that members take up this issue with their country teams.

The Forum finally reaffirmed the central role of indigenous peoples in decision making with regard to their lands and resources by referring to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which states that land and resource related projects “shall not be implemented without the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples” (article 32). The UNDG Guidelines include a number of guiding principles related to land, territories and natural resources.

Some Guiding Principles Related to Land, Territories and Natural Resources

  • Indigenous peoples’ lands and territories should be largely recognized, demarcated and protected from outside pressures;
  • All efforts should be made to ensure that indigenous peoples determine the activities that take place on their lands and in particular that impacts on the environment
  • and sacred and cultural sites are avoided;
  • Indigenous peoples’ rights to resources that are necessary for their subsistence and development should be respected;
  • In the case of state owned sub-surface resources on indigenous peoples’ lands, indigenous peoples still have the right to free, prior and informed consent for the
  • exploration and exploitation of those resources, and have a right to any benefitsharing arrangements.

Source: Resource Kit on Indigenous Peoples, United Nations.

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