Two More Native Communities Chosen as Promise Zones

Posted By Toyacoyah Brown June 7th, 2016 Last Updated on: June 7th, 2016


Back in January of 2014, the White House announced the creation of the Promise Zones initiative, which is President Obama’s plan to create a better bargain for the middle-class by partnering with local communities and businesses to create jobs, increase economic security, expand educational opportunities, increase access to quality, affordable housing and improve public safety. One of the first five Zones that was helped by this initiative was the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

Today it was announced that President Obama and his Administration have chosen the third and final round of new Promise Zone designations, two of which are in tribal communities.

Spokane Tribe of Indians, Washington

The Spokane Tribe of Indians Promise Zone (STIPZ) includes the Spokane Indian Reservation (160,000 square acres) and all lands held in trust by the federal government on behalf of the Spokane Tribe, which include 180 square acres near Chewelah, WA, and another 145 square acres in Airway Heights, WA. The STIPZ shall build a stronger nation building sovereignty and a commitment from all of Spokane Tribe of Indian’s 2,874 citizens. The STIPZ is battling a poverty rate of 32.57 percent and 25 percent unemployment. Among other goals, the STIPZ plan includes creating jobs through investments in renewable energy, housing construction, and technology centers, and reducing crime by revising its antiquated Law and Order Code and implementing a community policing strategy.

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, North Dakota

The proposed Pride of the Great Plains Promise Zone (PGPPZ) will include two reservations, tribal trust/owned lands, and Rolette County, North Dakota. Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, will serve as the lead applicant organization committed to improving this persistently impoverished region, which suffers from a poverty rate of 38.93 percent, high unemployment, overcrowded housing, insufficient education (36.9 percent drop out), poor health/nutrition, and escalating crime with drug trafficking/border challenges. This Promise Zone’s plan focuses on improving availability of affordable housing, expanding energy infrastructure and developing a regional food hub for agricultural production, among other strategies.

Today’s announcement builds on the Administration’s commitment to work collaboratively with communities to realize their priorities. With a focus on building trust at the local level, and leveraging and aligning resources across agencies to support what works, the Federal government is supporting progress being made at the local level.

Round I Promise Zones, Designated January 2014

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The Promise Zone is providing internet access, computer and technical skills training, and educational opportunities to its residents through the ConnectHome initiative. Cherokee Communications, Pine Telephone, Suddenlink Communications, and Vyve Broadband will work together to ensure that over 425 of Choctaw’s public housing residents have access to low-cost, high-speed internet. Southeastern Oklahoma State University and the Durant Independent School District will provide free digital literacy courses for public housing residents, and College Board, in partnership with Khan Academy, will offer students and families free, online SAT practice resources, and contribute $200,000 over three years to fund digital literacy and personalized college readiness and planning training. Residents will also be able to access computer training and technical support thanks to a commitment from Best Buy.

In March 2015, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded Choctaw Nation an estimated $2.6 million Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership and Early Head Start Expansion grant. As a result, about 90 percent of children who have been enrolled in the Head Start program have shown improved fine motor and gross motor skills, and social, emotional, cognitive, and language development.

Round II Promise Zones, Designated April, 2015

Pine Ridge (Indian Reservation of the Oglala Sioux Tribe)

In response to the alarming rate of youth suicides in Pine Ridge, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Indian Health Service (IHS) held its first Zero Suicide Training Academy for IHS and tribal healthcare facilities in partnership with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Pine Ridge Service Unit (PRSU), and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. HHS established a partnership between the Oglala Sioux Tribe, DOI, and the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) to provide behavioral health services to nine BIE reservation schools and three Oglala Lakota County schools. Since October 2015, PRSU Behavioral Health program has helped over 300 youth make the right choice to keep living, and a sense of hope is spreading among the youth for the possibility of a better life.

USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) partnered with the Pine Ridge School, the South Dakota Department of Education, and Oglala Lakota College to provide federally funded weekend meals for 100-150 children who live in the Pine Ridge School dormitory. The Pine Ridge School hopes to gradually grow the program, serving up to 350 children per day. Three other schools across Pine Ridge have expressed interest in building on this model to offer evening meals to students.

Do any of our readers have firsthand account of these promise zones helping their community? Would love to hear from you!

Source: HUD.GOV

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About Toyacoyah Brown

Toyacoyah Brown is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, currently living in Chicago. She received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and an M.A. in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. When she's not scouring the Internet for fun things to share with PowWows.com readers you can find her digging for vinyl in her local record store or curling up with a good book.

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