The Leech Lake Band Reservation Business Committee is encouraging schools to re-open with maximum caution. A recent statement says tribal schools will use distance learning and that protecting both elders and future generations is a core tenet of Anishinabe identity.
On the White Earth Nation, Education director Ronald Buckanaga says he has been saying the same thing in meetings with more than a dozen school districts that enroll tribal members.
“Native people here on the White Earth Reservation would prefer long-distance right now. I think they don’t want to get their families infected because usually you got grandparents taking care of the grandkids and they don’t want them to get sick. I think that’s the number one cause here. I would recommend schools right now do long distance and then see where this virus is going.” said Buckanaga
As they prepare for distance learning, White Earth is also trying to address problems that arose when schools closed in the spring. More wireless hotspots, for instance, more training for families on how to reach the internet – and more training for teachers on how to reach families for whom internet access is tough.
“One thing’s for sure, this long distance education points out disparities in education for American Indian children. Maybe we’re going to start doing educational parts or training our parents will become give them some curriculum, start training them so they can help their children. And those are the kinds of things and people are listening to me because the regular education system here in Minnesota hasn’t, hasn’t worked at all.” said Buckanaga.
As a reminder, state education officials are asking educators and families to prepare for three possibilities: distance learning, in-person learning and hybrid, or a mix of the two. They suggest local decision-makers rely on the latest local data to come up with their plans.