The United States Federal Government is failing to provide its Native American students with access to equal educational opportunities. Although “tribal sovereignty” provides tribes with the right to self-govern, a “trust relationship” is maintained between the sovereign nations and the federal government. This duality results in tribes being viewed as “domestic dependent nations” by the federal government. Due to this relationship, the federal government has long recognized not only a right, but a duty to utilize its plenary powers to develop necessary legislative and executive authority in order to support the nation’s tribes. Encompassed in this duty is the responsibility, put both on the federal government and state governments, to ensure that Native American children are provided the same educational opportunities as any other racial or ethnic group. However, the statistical discrepancies between Native American students and their non-Native peers is identifiable early on in their academic careers and becomes even more vividly apparent as they transition from primary school to secondary school. This results in less Native students seeking higher education opportunities, which subsequently leads to Native American children struggling to see commonalities between themselves and their teachers, their politicians, and their doctors; a phenomenon that, when present, has been identified as a key component in students’ academic success. Currently, the support provided by the federal government to the tribes comes in the form of financial funding–however money alone will not suffice to make the needed impact. Meaningful change will require the federal, state, and tribal governments to put their heads together to develop a plan. The State of Maine and the Wabanaki Confederacy are well-suited to lead the charge: The governments should work together to develop hands-on programing to create life-long learners and promote educational success for their Wabanaki students, while also maintaining tribal sovereignty and preserving cultural traditions.
Jordan T. Ramharter,
A Meeting of the Minds: Utilizing Maine’s State Education System to Promote the Success of Its Native Students While Maintaining Tribal Sovereignty,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol72/iss2/6