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Legislature passes bill for Native American early childhood education

Monica Sedra

A bill that would provide funding for tribes to establish early childhood programs with culturally relevant education has passed both chambers of the legislature.

House Bill 148 mandates the state’s Early Childhood and Education Department work with tribes through intergovernmental agreements to administer and provide funding for early childhood programs using a tribe’s cultural teachings on tribal lands.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Derrick Lente (D-Sandia Pueblo), also gives tribes the ability to choose to enter into these programs with the state.

State Rep. Wonda Johnson have (D-McKinley & San Juan), who is Diné, supports the bill because it helps preserve Native language and cultures.

"It ensures that we are at the table and we are responsible in helping to guide our own sovereignty over our own children," she said.

Lente says in the past, Native Americans have been told what’s best for them but now that’s changing.

"We understand that we've been a victim of that, that we have lost so many of our languages and cultures, trying to be more like mainstream society of America," he said. "But the point being is that we know what's best in our communities, we know how to raise our children."

Johnson echoes those sentiments.

"Our desire is to raise our children in the most holistic, balanced, beauty way of life that we know how."

House bill 148 now heads to the Governor’s desk.

Jeanette DeDios is from the Jicarilla Apache and Diné Nations and grew up in Albuquerque, NM. She recently graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2022 where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Journalism, English and Film. She’s currently a part of the Local News Fund Fellowship where she will be working with KUNM-FM and NMPBS during her 9-month fellowship where she will gain hands-on newsroom experience. Jeanette can be contacted at jeanettededios@kunm.org or via Twitter @JeanetteDeDios.
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