Utah celebrates decade of progress at 10th Native American Summit

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Standing before a large crowd of Utah’s tribal leaders, government officials and community organizers at Utah Valley University (UVU), Gov. Gary Herbert celebrated a decade of progress at the 10th annual Native American Summit on Thursday.

“The 2015 Native American Summit represents ten years of ongoing friendship and the progress we have made by working together,” said Gov. Herbert. “It also represents a new beginning as we chart a course for an even brighter tomorrow for Native Americans.”

Gov. Herbert launched the Native American Summit in 2005 as lieutenant governor. The purpose of the Summit was to improve government-to-government relations with Utah’s eight sovereign tribes and to find ways to improve long-standing issues on reservations, such as education, economic opportunity and quality of life. The Summit began with approximately 60 people and has now grown to almost 600.

The 2015 Summit marks the third anniversary of the Youth Track, a program focused on exposing Native American youth to career possibilities and the importance of higher education. More than 100 Native American students currently participate in the program.

“High school graduation rates for Native American students have increased from 50 percent to 65 percent over the past several years,” Gov. Herbert said. “But we still have work to do. Far too many Native students are not graduating; and a high school diploma is only the beginning. In today’s marketplace, most jobs require a post-secondary degree or certificate.”

That’s not to say progress has not been made. During the last legislative session, Gov. Herbert supported the passage of the HB33, a Native American education bill, which created a commission comprised of tribal officials, educators, legislators and other state officials to form a statewide plan for Native American education in Utah – exploring different approaches to learning and finding ways to integrate culture and traditional learning into the curriculum for Native students.

Gov. Herbert also signed an executive order in 2014, instructing all state agencies to formally report on how they assist and interact with Utah’s tribes. This was done to ensure productive and respectful partnerships between the State and Utah’s sovereign tribes. All state agencies have submitted their consultation policies which were reported at the conference.

The governor is committed to continue working with Utah’s tribes and has directed the Lieutenant Governor, his cabinet and staff, the Department of Heritage & Arts, the Division of Indian Affairs, and other state officials to be engaged as well.

“We will continue to engage and look forward to even greater success as the State and tribes work together for prosperity,” he said.