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Native American youth gather at White House for inaugural summit

By Amy R. Connolly
Native American youth gather at White House for inaugural summit
President Barack Obama chats during lunch with Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Youth at WeThe Pizza/Good Stuff Eatery following an Oval Office greeting in Washington on Nov. 20, 2014. This visit was a follow up to a youth roundtable hosted by the president in June during a trip to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannonball, N.D. Thursday, the White House hosted the first-ever Tribal Youth Gathering in conjunction with the United National Indian Tribal Youth conference. File Photo by Martin H.Simon/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, July 9 (UPI) -- Hundreds of Native American youths from across the country are gathering Thursday at the White House for a first-ever summit aimed at opening a discussion about cultural issues, economic opportunities and education.

The Tribal Youth Gathering, in conjunction with the United National Indian Tribal Youth conference, is bringing some 875 Native teens representing 230 Indian nations from 42 states to speak with first lady Michelle Obama, the White House Council on Native American Affairs and Cabinet officials. The youth gathering is part of President Obama's Generation Indigenous, or Gen-I, initiative to fund and expand health, employment and education opportunities.

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The gathering comes after Obama visited the the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on the border of North and South Dakota and weeks after Congress created the Commission on Native Children, an 11-person board that will find ways to aid Alaska Native, American Indian, and Native Hawaiian children.

Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell said it is vital to improve education opportunities. Wednesday, the Department of the Interior announced grants totaling $1.45 million to seven tribes -- the Hopi, Navajo, Acoma and Santa Clara Pueblos, Oglala Lakota, Rosebud and Standing Rock Sioux -- that operate Bureau of Indian Education schools in the Southwest and Midwest. In addition, the DOI will issue $995,000 to the American Indian Higher Education Consortium for 20 tribal colleges and universities to work with 45 feeder schools.

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"My commitment -- and it's consistent with the president's commitment when he visited Standing Rock -- is that we have got to change up Indian education if we are going to uphold our trust and treaty obligations to our nation's first people in the future," Jewell said. "The status quo is not acceptable. You can't keep doing the same thing and expect a different result."

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