Native American Issues

The Pandemic Has Widened Gaps in Native Communities—Now Is Our Chance to Close Them

September 9, 2020  • Kristina Saccone

This post is part of the In Focus: Equity in Education multimedia series. 

As the school year begins in the pandemic, the equity gap is widening, a problem particularly apparent on reservations. Dr. Billie Jo Kipp is the associate director of research and evaluation at the Institute’s Center for Native American Youth, where she advocates for better school structures, community coordination, and overall policies to improve the lives of Native youth. In this series of videos, she talks about the impact of the pandemic on these communities—as well as the opportunity for change moving forward.

More than one in three Native children live in poverty, according to the most recent census. Health disparities and an economic divide amplify the equity gap for young people (read more fast facts from CNAY here). All these challenges lead to an increase in depression and anxiety for children. Dr. Kipp describes how the school system and the broader community are critical supports for students—and how that is at even greater risk due to the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic is compounding past trauma for Native American young people and communities, says Dr. Kipp, and suffer from a lack of funding to manage these increasing challenges.

Dr. Kipp says, despite the challenges, she hopes the pandemic may bring opportunities for tribes and schools to collaborate on solutions that benefit children. This could include integrating mental health services within the community and better funding schools to do the work of providing culturally aligned mental health support.

Dr. Kipp says that educational equity for the Native American community means providing access to quality education and education that understands and honors their unique culture and history. Describing her vision here, she says it should be determined by the tribe and the local community to address the needs and values of that specific place.

In Focus is a new multimedia series from the Aspen Institute that brings clear, diverse perspectives to the challenges shaping our society during a historic period of change and uncertainty. This series unites the Aspen Institute’s leading policy experts with our networks that span grassroots organizers, CEOs, student activists, and national lawmakers. Together, we’re showcasing new ideas, untold stories, and bringing the issues behind the headlines into focus. Join us online and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

K-12 Education
What the Pandemic Has Revealed About the Role of Schools
September 8, 2020 • David K. Gibson