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New White House Council on Native American Affairs Could Boost Native Students

A new council dedicated to Native Americans should help strengthen the federal government's efforts on behalf of Native students and their education, according to the leader of a Native student advocacy group.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order Wednesday creating the White House Council on Native American Affairs. One of the council's goals is to ensure the federal government works with federally recognized tribes in a more coordinated and effective manner.

Establishing this council has been a top priority for tribal leaders, and it is significant for Native communities, which are a significantly rural population. Heather Shotton, president of the National Indian Education Association, released a statement in response saying it signified a strong commitment to tribes, and she looked forward to working with the council to improve Native students' educational opportunities.

The order acknowledges "a history of mistreatment and destructive policies that have hurt tribal communities." Native advocates say that's one reason their children's education is in crisis and lags the rest of the country. The graduation rate for American Indian and Alaska Native students was 69 percent, which was well below the national average of 78.6 percent.

The new council has some education specific directives, such as "respecting tribal demands to increase capacity and authority to administer educational programs that better address the needs of our Native students," according to the NIEA.

The White House also has a council dedicated to rural students, the White House Rural Council, which was created about two years ago.

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