As a parent and a grandmother, Marilyn Bread hopes real change will come from next week's White House Conference on Indian Education.
Change has to be made for children, said Bread, education development specialist at Haskell Indian Junior College and president of the Kansas Association for Native American Education.
About 22,000 Native Americans live in Kansas, and their concerns will be expressed by Bread and the state's other delegates to the White House conference, which President Bush is expected to attend.
Bread, one of 234 delegates to the meeting, thinks the conference will be the vehicle for defining "where we are in the development of Indian education, where we need to be and where we are doing."
SHE SAID "only history will tell" whether the conference will result in significant changes. Bread said the state's representatives to the conference are hopeful that the meeting, which kicks off Wednesday, will make a difference.
Bread, Julie Clouse, who served as Kansas' liaison to the conference, and Sharon McLane, director of education for the Potawatomie tribe, were approved to be delegates by the president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate. Verna Finch, tribal council secretary of the Kickapoos, was approved by the White House.
Bob Martin, president of Haskell, also will represent Kansas at the conference through his role as a member of the White House Conference on Indian Education Advisory Board.
BREAD AND Martin said they were pleased that Kansas will have five representatives at the meeting. Originally, Kansas was expected to receive only two delegates in addition to Martin. But Bread said the state's congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., secured additional representatives for Kansas.
Federal officials, Bread said, are "trying to get a good feel" about Native Americans' concerns. As pointed out by the Indian Nations at Risk Task Force, Bread said there is a "real recognition that time is crucial."
Bread hopes cultural awareness and spirituality will be emphasized at the conference. She thinks too many native students have lost their cultural identity.
"WE HAVE not made any formal attempts to retain culture," Bread said. "As a total race of people, we do have a contribution to make to the United States, particularly to the role of education."
Martin said the conference will be dedicated to implementing plans of action. He said problems in Indian education already have been identified.
"We don't want to dwell on the problems," Martin said. "We don't want to dwell on the recommendations per se" but on action.
Bread said Kansas' delegates, who will caucus throughout the conference, "hope to get our state on the map as a state that is interested in improving Indian education."