Educators, community leaders and students gathered this week for the 8th annual Native American Education Conference at the St. Stephen’s Indian School outside Riverton. The two-day event focused on promoting understanding, building relationships and generating ideas about how to best support Native American students.
Rob Black is the Native American liaison for the Wyoming Department of Education, and he helped organize the conference. He said while the conference focuses on solutions, it doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff.
“We know that Native American students are amongst the least likely to graduate from college,” Black said. “We know the test scores are lower than many of their counter parts.”
But Black said he has seen graduation rates go up in the last couple years due to collaborative efforts like the Native American Education Conference.
Dr. Avis Garcia is Northern Arapaho, and she researches Native American university students’ strategies for success. She said the conference promotes the open exchange of ideas.
“We have Native American educators, and they can share their knowledge with everyone here.”
Garcia said that includes “people who aren’t Native” but who work with Native American students.
In addition to teaching skills, the conference focused on history and culture. It covered topics ranging from how to get kids excited about reading to the impact of racism on educational outcomes to the way indigenous language acquisition helps decrease suicide rates.