Tribal Consultation Toolkit

New Resources Help Strengthen State-Tribal Relationships and Promote Native Student Success

The Native Education Collaborative, operated by the National Comprehensive Center, has just released the Tribal Consultation Toolkit, developed with input from Tribal and community leaders. The resource is relevant to recent federal legislation. The American Rescue Plan calls for intentional inclusion of and collaboration with Tribal leaders and officials by state and local education stakeholders in efforts to respond to the unique needs of students resulting from the global pandemic.

"Tribal consultation helps to ensure that federal funds address the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Native students and their communities," says Mandy Smoker Broaddus, a member of the Native Education Collaborative and a practice expert in Native Education at Education Northwest, which operates the Region 17 Comprehensive Center. "It's especially important because Native education experts and practitioners tell us that Tribal consultation is often misunderstood by non-Native state and local educators, and thus is weakly implemented."

Guidance in The American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARP ESSER) reaffirms the requirement for "timely and meaningful" consultation between education stakeholders and Tribes that was established in the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2016. The consultation requirement is intended to jointly address issues affecting American Indian and Alaska Native students and is an important step in honoring Tribal sovereignty—the inherent right of Tribes to determine their own futures and to exercise autonomy over many aspects of Tribal members' lives, including education. This autonomy can take many forms depending on local contexts.

The National Comprehensive Center developed the resources in the toolkit to guide effective, inclusive, and culturally responsive consultation that respects Tribal self-determination and advances collaborative discussion and action between state and local education agencies, schools, and Tribes.

What's in the Toolkit?

The Tribal Consultation Toolkit includes the following resources:

  • An issue brief with accompanying resources to help educators understand Tribal consultation and sovereignty. The brief provides an overview and timeline of major events regarding Indian education and covers the evolution of the current tri-lateral responsibility for Tribal education and current policy recommendations to strengthen state-Tribal relationships in education.
  • A collection of Native education resources developed by Indigenous education experts working with the National Comprehensive Center. These resources can build state education agency staff members' capacity to serve Indigenous children and youth and enhance their effectiveness in collaborating with Tribal education agencies, Tribal representatives, and local education agencies. Also included are resources related to state monitoring of Tribal consultation and Tribal management of schools. These resources can help state and local education agency staff members implement best practices when engaging in Tribal consultation.
  • A 35-minute webinar presentation on Tribal consultation as a foundation for meaningful and authentic partnership.
  • A reflection tool to support collaborative discussions between state education agencies, local education agencies, and Tribes that are reflective, honest, and timely. The worksheets in the tool establish a starting point for discussion and are meant to be reviewed as a group or individually by participants in Tribal consultation settings.

How Will the Toolkit Be Used?

Best practice in Tribal consultation is not yet the norm in the United States. According to Johanna Jones, Indian education coordinator at the Idaho State Department of Education, no national standard is recognized across the country. "The knowledge and skill needed to take action on behalf of American Indian students vary greatly depending on the region," she explains. "While Montana, Oregon, and Washington are far ahead, others are struggling to move the dial."

Jones believes the toolkit has the potential to increase support for equity in education for American Indian students and their communities. "This toolkit strips away the trepidation of the unknown, particularly for those unfamiliar with Tribal consultation. It provides expert advice on how to create, maintain, and sustain professional practices to be inclusive of Tribal collaboration. It also addresses the funds of knowledge our Indigenous students bring to the systems of academia. It's a great roadmap on how to fully welcome, engage, and collaborate with our local Tribal communities. And it provides an opportunity to create a more robust, codified national baseline in Indian education so that we can authentically and courageously address the gaps in learning opportunities and outcomes for American Indian students nationwide."

One resource Jones cites is the Building Relationships with Tribes consultation guide. "It goes beyond just providing information," says Jones. "The tool pulls you in and helps you realize that we have more to do, then illustrates how to plan and carry out a Tribal consultation meeting. It's also easy to use."

Smoker-Broaddus says the toolkit outlines a coordinated approach for educators to use in addressing the needs of American Indian and Alaska Native students and educators. "This is a well-designed resource that can help all educators engage the community and honor the relationship between states, schools, and Tribes in improving outcomes for Native students."

For more information on the work of the Native Education Collaborative and how it can support your state or district, please reach out to Mandy Smoker-Broaddus.

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