On January 30th, 2017 the American Enterprise Institute hosted a panel discussion entitled, How federal policy affects Native Americans: Naomi Schafer Riley on her book, ‘The New Trail of Tears: How Washington is Destroying American Indians.’ A video of the panel can be found here. On the panel with Naomi Schafer Riley (NSR) were Congressman Rob Bishop R-Utah, the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee which oversees Indian Affairs in the House of Representatives, Chris Edwards from the Cato Institute, and Keith Moore a former director of the Bureau of Indian Education.
The panel began with a talk from NSR regarding her book The New Trail of Tears (TNToT). The book has already been discussed at length here on Turtle Talk, Professor Fletcher’s commentary can be found here. The discussion at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) was disheartening and alarming. NSR began by attacking the community at Pine Ridge for its poor retention of teachers, and went onto blast a former principal of a school for firing all of the Teach for America (TFA) teachers at that school because they “were too white.” While this may have once been true it is simply not the case anymore. What NSR fails to mention is that several of the Tribes in South Dakota have partnered with TFA to bring TFA to Indian reservations in South Dakota. For example in 2015, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe formed a partnership with TFA to recruit tribal members to become teachers in reservation schools. In 2013, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe passed a resolution supporting TFA and its efforts on their reservation; this followed a similar resolution passed by the Ogalala Sioux Tribal Council as well, supporting TFA’s efforts on Pine Ridge. Just over a year ago, the Rapid City Journal documented the ongoing relationship between TFA on Rosebud and Standing Rock, as well as at the Red Cloud Indian School on Pine Ridge. Rather than giving her audience all of the information regarding the decisions that Tribal leaders are making to support the development of their youth, NSR retreats to portraying reservations as bleak and hopeless places where no child has a chance at receiving a decent education. Her claim that Tribes in South Dakota are unable or unwilling to partner with organizations like TFA does not stand on its merits, and is likely confined to the one incident in her talk, in which she cites an unnamed source. Continue reading