Sept. 28, 1998

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



BOULDER, CO – The W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan has awarded a $189,000 grant to the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) of Boulder, Colorado in support of its legal work to improve student attendance, academic performance, and educational attainment levels of over 600,000 American Indian and Alaska Native students. The grant will enable NARF to continue providing Indian tribes with the necessary technical assistance and leadership to establish and enforce their rights to control the education of their tribal members. In particular, NARF will use the funding to promote cooperative agreements between tribes, states, federal agencies and public schools, and to develop tribal education codes that address curricula development, education standards, staffing, funding, and parental and community involvement.

"Indian schools are underfunded, dilapidated and unsafe," says John Echohawk, NARF Executive Director. "Indian students are dropping out of public schools even before high school, let alone college. Tribes want to turn this around by reforming curricula, training tribal teachers and even starting their own school systems. As the only legal organization advocating the education rights of Indian people, NARF must focus on providing the legal infrastructure and ensuring federal and state cooperation in tribal efforts.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota and the Assiniboine-Sioux Tribe of the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana have already developed and are implementing tribal education codes with NARF's assistance. Like most Indian students nationwide, about 90% of the elementary and secondary students of these tribes are served by public schools.

On a national level, NARF recently represented the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) in developing the "Executive Order on American Indian and Alaska Native Education."

The Executive Order, signed by President Clinton on August 6, 1998, is an unprecedented directive from the White House to marshall federal resources for Indian education.

"Education is critical to the future of Indian tribes - politically, economically, and culturally," continues Echohawk. "The federal government and public schools have largely ignored scores of research and reports that call for tribes to play active roles in decisionmaking and to be accountable in the education of tribal students. With NARF's assistance and support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, these recommendations can be realized."

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was established in 1930 "to help people help themselves through the practical application of knowledge and resources to improve their quality of life and that of future generations." Its programming activities center around the common visions of a world in which each person has a sense of worth; accepts responsibility for self, family, community, and societal well-being; and has the capacity to be productive, and to help create nurturing families, responsive institutions, and healthy communities. To achieve the greatest impact, the Foundation targets its grants toward specific focal points or areas. These include: health; food systems and rural development; youth and education, and higher education; and philanthropy and volunteerism. When woven throughout these areas, funding also is provided for leadership; information systems/technology; efforts to capitalize on diversity; and family, neighborhood, and community development programming. Grants are concentrated in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and southern Africa.

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.