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Interview: Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Native youth focus

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell with youth from the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona. Photo from Twitter

Indian Country Today interviews Interior Secretary Sally Jewell about the Obama administration's focus on Native youth issues:
ICT: Can you talk about the success of last year's White House tribal Nations conference and the Obama administration's support for Native American youth to include your recent efforts for the good of Native young people?

Secretary Jewell: It's very exciting. We have been working within the Department of the Interior on doing a better job for Native American youth than we ever have before. This is one of those circumstances that you can't keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results.

As we have looked at the performance of Native American kids particularly in schools that we fund or operate, they are worse even than state schools. Indian kids overall in the United States do not fare as well as their peers in different groups. We have got to do better.

The president's visit to Standing Rock In June with Mrs. Obama in which they sat down with six tribal youth – the president did a brilliant job in a short period of time to create an environment where they could open up. He was shocked by what he heard. He heard about suicide, he heard about reality. It is a very sad reality that we play a role in helping to turn around.

Indian Country Today: A Conversation with Sally Jewell
Tribal leaders play a part too – this has got to be an all hands on deck approach.

The president has said to his cabinet, 'I want all of you engaged in this.' He said to me as chair of the White House Council on Native American Affairs, 'I am holding you accountable…' He took me by both shoulders and said, 'I expect you to do something.' Because he really cares and this administration really cares.

YouTube: Sec. Jewell Kicks Off Native Youth Listening Tour
As my colleagues and I on the cabinet have looked at how easy or not easy it is to do business with us, we recognize we do not make it easy. We need to have more of a clearinghouse so people can figure out what the programs are that are available to them. We need to knock down some of those complicated barriers that in some cases benefit the tribes that are wealthier and more sophisticated – and those who need it most are less able to apply for grants and services. These are the realities.

Part of the initiative that the White House is supporting is called Generation Indigenous, which is working with organizations like Unity, the Center for Native American Youth, to engage young people to say act like these five champions for change, share what you're learning, engage others in this process and inspire others through your work. We are trying to create a platform to shine a spotlight on a lot of these issues. Shining that spotlight is going to help to hold us accountable for doing a better job.

Get the Story:
Sec. Jewell Feels the Pressure of Time When Dealing With Native Issues (Indian Country Today 3/11)

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