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Statement of Support: Providing equal opportunities for native children

Kathy Reincke, 269-969-2148

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. Brian Cladoosby, president of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), today articulated in his State of Indian Nations address that progress is being made in implementing policies that are strengthening tribal economies and justice systems, improving the quality of life of American Indian and Alaska Native peoples and modernizing the trust relationship between tribal nations and the federal government. Yet, Cladoosby emphasizes that much more must be done. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) fully endorses his declaration that “we must tear down barriers to growth” that are hindering opportunities for Native Americans.

Most importantly, we must address the obstacles and realities faced by American Indian and Alaska Native children – many of which are frequently overlooked, or even ignored. Twenty-five percent of native children live in poverty; approximately half graduate from high school; suicide is the leading cause of death for native children and youths; and they are twice as likely as any other race to die before the age of 24. Many of the inequities and barriers native children face are the result of racism, poverty, under-resourced schools and unhealthy living environments.

The Kellogg Foundation applauds this commitment and all efforts that make the challenges and successes of native children a visible and central part of our public discourse. WKKF believes every child, regardless of race or income, deserves an equal opportunity to thrive. By modernizing the trust relationship and empowering tribes, as President Cladoosby advocates, tribal-led solutions can be developed to ensure that native children can succeed in school, work and life. A critical component of these efforts is and will be emphasizing cultural relevance, with parents, families and native communities playing essential roles in their children’s development and care.

The Wakanyeja “Sacred Little Ones” Early Childhood Education Initiative of the American Indian College Fund is an example of a program that is strengthening and improving the quality of early childhood education in native communities. Funded by WKKF and others, the program empowers parents and families to become strong advocates for their preschool-aged children, while incorporating native languages and culture into its curriculum. It exemplifies a tribal-led solution that creates space for authentic participation and tribal sovereignty.

WKKF applauds Cladoosby for citing the success of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, which helped create the nation’s first dental health therapist workforce more than a decade ago, which has expanded access to dental care to more than 40,000 children and families. By age 2, nearly 80 percent of native children will have tooth decay. Gone untreated, decay can affect a child’s general health and cause her to lose valuable time in school. These effective mid-level dental providers have first-hand knowledge of their communities’ needs and provide affordable, high-quality, culturally competent and responsive care to those who need it. Building on this successful model, WKKF has been a leader in supporting the broader use of dental therapists to increase access to dental care where it’s needed most. 

Every child has promise and potential.  Federal, tribal, state and local governments along with nonprofits and the private sector must build trust and work in partnership to ensure that Native American children have equal opportunities to succeed.  For too long the challenges and accomplishments of native children have been invisible to most Americans. WKKF hopes that this year will see a national bipartisan focus on all children and their families, and growing support for more tribal-led solutions to help each and every native child thrive.


About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti.

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