Tribal Sub-Chief named to NYSED’s Indigenous Education Commissioner’s Advisory Council
From the left are New York State Department of Education Indigenous Education Coordinator Clarissa Jacobs-Roraback, NYSED Commissioner Betty Rosa, and SRMT Tribal Sub-Chief Agnes Sweets Jacobs at the inaugural convening of the NYSED’s Indigenous Education Commissioner’s Advisory Council in Albany, New York on Tsiothohrkó:wa/Jan. 18. Submitted Photo.AKWESASNE - The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council extends appreciation, as well as a well-deserved congratulation, to two educational leaders for taking part in a new partnership with the New York State Department of Education (NYSED). Tribal Sub-Chief Agnes Sweets Jacobs and Director of Education Stephanie Cook have been named to the NYSED’s inaugural Indigenous Education Commissioner’s Advisory Council (CAC).
“Niawenkó:wa/Thank you very much to NYSED’s Board of Regents Chancellor Lester Young and State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa for helping foster a new partnership that gives tribal governments a stronger voice in our children’s education,” shared Tribal Chief Michael Conners. Chief Conners noted, “Our children represent our future and representation on the Commissioner’s Advisory Council will help ensure that supportive educational environments will be provided to all Indigenous students across New York State.”
On Tsiothohrkó:wa/January 18th, the inaugural Indigenous Education Commissioner’s Advisory Council convened its first meeting in Albany, New York to discuss challenges and opportunities to work together to reach shared goals. They discussed the need to create and maintain a permanent forum within the State Government to address the unique educational needs of Indigenous students.
The most compelling matter discussed was Native mascots and its impact on the ability for Indigenous students to receive an equal education in non-discriminatory environments. In response, the NYSED issued a memo on Kentenhkó:wa/November 17, 2022 that directed public schools and districts to cease usage of Native American mascots. For guidance, the Indigenous Education CAC will help determine when a mascot or imagery is appropriate or not, particularly in situations that may not be clear to the NYSED.
“For years, we have been raising awareness on the derogatory and harmful manner in which Native mascots are often used by public schools and other entities across the state,” noted Tribal Chief Ron LaFrance. Chief LaFrance added, “I commend Chancellor Young and Commissioner Rosa for establishing the new Commissioner’s Advisory Council and for the role that Sub-Chief Jacobs and Stephanie will have in ensuring that Tribal Nations are included as equal partners in the education of Native students.”
Additionally, the Indigenous Education Commissioner’s Advisory Council will work towards providing state certification for Indigenous Culture and Language Studies. To support this effort the Tribal Council passed TCR 2020-46 permitting the Education Division to develop a two-year Mohawk Language “Kanien’kéha” Certification Program under the Tribe’s jurisdiction. It is a shared goal with the NYSED to create tenured teaching positions for Indigenous language instructors in public schools across the State.
“I offer my sincerest congratulations to Sub-Chief Agnes Sweets Jacobs and Stephanie Cook on your selection and recognition of your years of work on behalf of Indigenous students, as a school board member and educational leaders,” noted Tribal Chief Beverly Cook. Chief Cook further noted, “We are pleased that your position on the Indigenous Education Commissioner’s Advisory Council will give tribal communities across the State a greater voice and more active role in our children’s education.”
The next convening of the NYSED’s Indigenous Education Commissioner’s Advisory Council will take place this summer, with a location to be identified.