TWIN BUTTES An enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes has a national role as an adviser on Indian education.
Alyce Spotted Bear, of Twin Buttes, is a member of the National Advisory Council on Indian Education. The group held its inaugural meeting in November in Washington, D.C. She was appointed earlier to the post by President Obama.
Spotted Bear is the first member of the Three Affiliated Tribes on the Fort Berthold Reservation to serve on the advisory council.
Alyce Spotted Bear, center, in this photo courtesy of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Times, is shown with Clarice Big Back, left, vice president of Academics at Fort Berthold Community College, New Town, and Whitney Bell, right, New Town, who is Spotted Bear’s nephew, during an honoring and recognition ceremony for Spotted Bear held in the Northern Lights Events Center Nov. 8.
"The National Advisory Council on Indian Education advises the Secretary of Education on the funding and administration of programs in which Native Americans participate or may benefit," said Spotted Bear, who is vice president of Native American Studies and Tribal Relations at Fort Berthold Community College in New Town.
She said the council also recommends to the Secretary of Education who should be the director of Indian education, when the position is open.
"We are required to provide Congress an annual report regarding our activities and our recommendations for Indian education programs, including funding. We also work with other governmental organizations on matters of Indian education," she said.
A total of 15 people all tribal members are on the council, representing a wide spectrum of tribes throughout the United States, Spotted Bear said.
"Our current group is primarily made up of individuals with leadership roles in education, however, there are a couple of tribal council members, a corporate individual and an attorney as well," she said.
Spotted Bear is well versed in
Indian education and has worked at all levels including pre-school, elementary, secondary, adult educaton and college. She is a former high school teacher, principal, school superintendent, federal programs administrator and bilingual program director. She also was chairwoman of the Three Affiliated Tribes from November 1982 to March 1987.
One of 13 children in her family, she has a bachelor of science degree in education from Dickinson State College and a master of education degree from Pennsylvania State College. While serving as a graduate teaching assistant, she completed coursework for a doctorate degree in education at Cornell University at Ithaca, N.Y. She has also served as visiting faculty for the Native American Studies Program at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.
The advisory council meets twice a year as a group but Spotted Bear said members may meet more often as members of subcommittees. Right now, she said they are establishing committees.
A swearing-in ceremony was held for the group at the inaugural meeting in Washington, D.C.
"It reminded me of a graduation ceremony, as we walked across the stage when they called our names to receive a very large glass-enclosed pronouncement of our presidential appointment," Spotted Bear said.
The ceremony, held in the Holiday Inn Capitol, included a traditional Native blessing by Patricia Whitefoot from the Yakima Nation, welcome and opening remarks by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan by Skype and shown on a big screen because he was at a meeting in London. Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, assistant Secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, introduced each council member.
Locally, Fort Berthold Community College held a recognition and honoring for her at the Northern Lights Events Center in New Town, with Tribal Chairman Tex Hall and Russell Mason Jr., college president, leading the Nov. 8 program. She was presented with a Pendleton blanket, which is a symbolic honor given to those who have achieved a high recognition.
Spotted Bear does not know who nominated her for the national post. "Once a person is considered acceptable as a nominees, the vetting process is quite challenging and takes months to complete. I felt like a closet that was opened up, peered into and then every item within was meticulously examined. I have never answered so many questions to so many people," she said. "Different individuals were calling me on a weekly basis to investigate me. I completed a lot of forms that were sent to me. At times it became wearisome."
Then one day she said she got a call saying, "It's going to happen we just don't know when yet."
"Soon after, an announcement was made, however, a couple months passed before we were sworn in. Ultimately, the interesting ordeal was worth the honor and experience of becoming a NACIE member, a first for our tribe," she said.
Spotted Bear will serve throughout Obama's presidency and until a new council is selected. She said two members of the council are continuing members they served when George W. Bush was president.
"My goal is to carry out my responsibilities as well as I can, and hopefully be a positive role model in the process. We have to be careful not to carry out our own agendas during our terms, as we are serving in an advisory capacity," she said.