Editorial: Obama's Cabinet meets Indian Country

"Two members of President Barack Obama's Cabinet got a taste of rural and Native American culture this week. Their visit to Billings, Busby and Lame Deer showed the secretaries things that they wouldn't see on their urban home turf.

A tepee outside the public school building. Northern Cheyenne dancers swirling in beautifully beaded, fringed dresses. A town 41 miles from the nearest hospital. An elementary school that's celebrating 100 years of educating children but with no help in sight to upgrade to 2009 facility standards.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, a New Yorker, visited a Busby couple whose home is one of the first that HUD built on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in 1965. They look forward to the first renovation of their home, a project made possible by a new HUD grant the tribe recently secured. Donovan also saw a senior-citizen housing complex where renovations are under way, thanks new HUD funding.

When U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan asked a Lame Deer High School freshman what's needed to get more students to graduate, the Junior ROTC member didn't ask for more money, teachers or computers. Instead, he said: "We need to have somebody come in and say every day 'You can make it.' ""

Get the Story:
Gazette Opinion: Secretaries get lessons in rural reality (The Billings Gazette 5/29)

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