Jaimie Gua-Rohrer (South Dakota '12), an enrolled member of the Colville Confederated Tribes of Washington State, is now the Talented and Gifted Coordinator at Crazy Horse School on the Pineridge Reservation.

Teach For America Celebrates Native American Heritage Month

From our classrooms to the Dakota Access Pipeline, Native Alliance Initiative director Robert Cook reflects on how Teach For America remains committed to supporting Native students, families and communities.


Monday, November 14, 2016
Robert Cook, director of TFA’s Native Alliance Initiative, recently spent time at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, site of the stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Hau Mitakuyapi, Anpetu waste. Robert Cook emaciyapi yelo, Oglala Lakota hemaca yelo. Na iyuha cante wasteya nape ciyuzapi yelo. 

Good day, relatives. My name is Robert Cook. I’m from the Oglala Lakota Nation, and I shake your hand with a good heart.

On behalf of the Native Alliance Initiative, we’re sending this special message to honor November 2016 as Native American Heritage Month. Now and each coming day is time to reflect and celebrate the rich heritage and cultural contributions of this country’s indigenous nations and people as we dedicate ourselves and our commitment to supporting tribal sovereignty and self-determination for American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawai'ian students, families and communities.  

There are 566 federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Native Villages in the United States with over 2 million enrolled members and nearly 5 million U.S. citizens who identify in part as American Indian or Alaska Native. Although we only comprise one percent of the total U.S. population, our nations make up a tremendously diverse 50 percent of the Nation’s languages.

Today, Indian Country and allies across the country and world are engaged in a historic stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in North Dakota near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Tribes, once historic enemies, have come together by the hundreds to halt the DAPL pipeline’s construction under the Missouri River, potentially impacting the water system for nearly 20 million people who rely on this water for life.

I had the honor to visit the camp and help raise awareness to this education and environmental issue through social media. I witnessed people coming together in a community that has been ignored and marginalized for over 125 years. It is powerful, beautiful, and inspiring to see the next generation of young Native leaders support this movement though heroism and activism.

The leaders of the camp have started their own school, the Oceti Sakowin School (Seven Council Fires of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota), to ensure the camp provides a holistic approach to education and real life activism/training as Protectors of Unci Maka (Mother Earth). McLaughlin School, located 30 minutes from the construction site and where TFA–South Dakota corps members and alumni teach, has been actively involved at the school and camp.

TFA remains committed to recruiting more Native recent college graduates and professionals, utilizing culturally responsive teaching methods, and developing a critical pipeline of leaders committed to advocating for and building coalitions and partnerships with others like Gila River Reservation Schools to ensure every Native student has options and opportunities leading to career options and the next generations of tribal leadership.

And finally, we continue to build and work to expand our partnerships with tribal organizations like the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, College Fund, National Indian Education Association, American Indian Higher Education Consortium, Bureau of Indian Education and Tribal Education National Assembly to ensure our work and advocacy aligns with our national and local stakeholders. 


Here’s how you can help celebrate Native Heritage Month:

  • Follow us on Slack using #nativealliance, Facebook @ Teach For America's Native Alliance Initiative, and Twitter #NativeHeritageMonth where we’re engaging staff, alumni and corps on critical issues like Columbus Day, racist sport mascots (#NotYourMascot), the truth about Thanksgiving, and #NativeLivesMatter.
  • Visit www.teachforamerica.org/nai to learn more about the NAI’s recruitment efforts, our work in Native regions, national partnerships, and getting more involved.  We encourage to you take action by recommending a leader you know to the corps and the NAI.
  • To Learn More about Stand at Standing Rock and Mni Wiconi Water is Life, follow sacredstonecamp.org.


Hecetu Yelo,

Robert Cook and the NAI team



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