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President Obama reveals plan to help young American Indians


President Barack Obama announced Wednesday plans to improve education for American Indian and Alaska Native youth, which could help the thousands who live in Minnesota and the Dakotas.

American Indian and Alaska Native youth, which represent 42 percent of the American Indian population, have the lowest high school graduation rate of students across all schools and more than one-third of tribal youth live in poverty, Red Lake Nation News reports.

Because of these startling numbers and after visiting the poverty-stricken Standing Rock Indian Reservation in the Dakotas in June, Obama was inspired to launch the Generation Indigenous initiative, the Washington Post reports.

The initiative, which was announced during the sixth annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, calls for programs to help prepare tribal youth for college and careers. It will include the launch of the National Tribal Youth Network, which will provide youth peer support, as well as a conference on the challenge facing American Indian youth held at the White House next year, The Associated Press says.

The White House also released a new Native Youth Report, which outlines "a history of deeply troubling and destructive federal policies and actions," which have harmed American Indian communities and "exacerbated inequality," The Hill reports.

The report labels American Indian youth as the nation's most vulnerable population, placing the blame partly on federal education policies that have a "devastating and continuing effect on Native peoples," Education Week reports.

The report recommends strengthening tribal control of the education system on reservations, and officials are working to overhaul the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), The AP notes. The BIE is responsible for educating roughly 41,051 American Indian and Alaska Native youth on 64 reservations in 23 states, including Minnesota and the Dakotas, according to the BIE website.

There are 11 tribal nations in Minnesota and about 70,000 American Indians live in the state, making up roughly 1.3 percent of the population, the U.S. Census notes.

American Indians have one of the lowest average household incomes in the state and the highest unemployment rates (16 percent), with roughly one-third of Minnesota's American Indian population living in poverty, according to the Minnesota State Demographic Center.

According to the 2013 U.S. Census, there were roughly 5.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives living in the United States, which represents roughly 1.2 percent of the total U.S. population.

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