American Indian Caucus

Calsie Sockyma and Porscha Greymountain, along with staff Sylvia Nielson, attended American Indian Caucus Day on Monday, February 8th, at the Utah State Capitol.  High students had the opportunity to shadow a representative for the day and meet Utah tribal leaders. Calsie shadowed Rep. Kay L. McIff and Porscha shadowed Rep. Jack R. Draxler.  The tribal leaders shared concerns in an open forum with Governor Gary Herbert and Lt. Governor Spencer J. Cox.  Navajo Nation Vice-President Jonathan Nez also addressed the governor.  Other members of the Navajo Nation government that was also present:  LoRenzo Bates, Speaker of the House; Nathaniel Brown, Council Delegate & Health, Education, & Human Services Committee; and Dr. Tommy Lewis, Superintendent of Schools, Department of Dine Education.  Sponsoring the Caucus from the Utah Division Affairs were Shirlee Silversmith, Division Director; James Toledo, Program Manager; and Dominique Talahaftewa, Administrative Assistant.  Representing the Utah State Office of Education was Chuck Foster, Education Specialist American Indian Education, he worked with Title VII coordinators to ensure that students were involved in shadowing legislature members.  Calsie, Porscha, and Mrs. Nielson attended a general session where Senator Kevin T. Van Tassell and Rep. Jack R. Draxler presented a bill that highlighted the creation of a pilot program to fund stipend, recruitment, and retention of teachers who teach in American Indian and Alaskan Native concentrated schools & creates a pilot program for regional service centers to fund individuals facilitating Title VII, Elementary & Secondary Education Act.  Addressed was the need to have native languages taught in Utah schools and that high school students receive credit as students do who earn credit for learning an additional language and that the native languages may need to be taught by a member of the tribe fluent in the native language but is not a certified teacher.  Schools in the state of Utah with a native population of least 29% could apply for a grant to participate in the pilot study.  Details can be found under Utah Legislature SB0014.  Calsie Sockyma said, “I didn’t know that the state of Utah had a Native American Legislative Liaison Committee.  It was exciting to meet some of the committee members and see them in action on our behalf.”  Porscha Greymountain said, “I really enjoyed shadowing Rep. Draxler.  He taught me a lot and even quizzed me to see if I remembered what he told me.  It’s cool he is on the Native American Legislative Liaison Committee and meeting the Vice-President of the Navajo Nation was really awesome too!”

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