U.S. Department of the Interior

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Office of the Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs

For Immediate Release: March 6, 2003
Contact: Nedra Darling
Dan DuBray

Congressionally Established American Indian Education Foundation
to Support Students Attending BIA-Funded Schools
Secretary Norton Addresses Foundation Board's Inaugural Meeting Today

WASHINGTON - Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton today conducted a ceremonial swearing-in of the founding members of the American Indian Education Foundation (AIEF) Board of Directors at its inaugural meeting in the Interior Department's headquarters in Washington, D.C. Congress established the Foundation in December, 2000 under the Omnibus Indian Advancement Act (Public Law 106-568).

The Foundation is authorized to accept contributions from private citizens and outside entities wishing to provide direct assistance to Indian students attending Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) schools. "Education is one of the highest priorities of this administration," said Secretary Norton. "We are striving to leave no child behind in our efforts to improve the quality of education - including those at BIA schools across Indian country. The American Indian Education Foundation will play a vital role in supporting Indian students and bringing hope to their parents and communities."

Secretary Norton was joined today by Acting Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs Aurene M. Martin and AIEF Founding Director Lorraine P. Edmo for the ceremonial swearing-in of nine business leaders, educators and social service professionals who will serve on the Foundation's 11-member board. The Secretary and the Assistant Secretary will both serve as ex-officio board members. The BIA school system is comprised of 185 elementary and secondary day and boarding schools on 63 reservations in 23 states serving 47,909 students.

"The individuals who will serve on the board of directors are experienced and dedicated professionals in their fields," Secretary Norton said. "I am deeply grateful for their willingness to commit their time and energy to such a worthy effort. Through their leadership, the Foundation will become an effective advocate for BIA schools everywhere."

In addition to Secretary Norton and Assistant Secretary Martin, the founding board members include:

AIEF founding director Lorraine Edmo, a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Fort Hall, Idaho, has extensive experience in the federal and non-profit sectors. She previously served in the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Indian Education (OIE) as an Education Program Specialist. From 1993 to 1999, she served as executive director of the National Indian Education Association (NIEA), the country's oldest and largest non-profit Indian education organization. From 1983 to 1992, she served as Executive Director of the American Indian Graduate Center (AIGC) in Albuquerque, N.M., a non-profit scholarship organization for American Indian and Alaska Native graduate students. Edmo has a Bachelors Degree from the University of Montana and a Masters Degree in Public Administration from the University of New Mexico.

Congress established the Foundation as a federally-chartered charitable, non-profit corporation under Title XIII of the Omnibus Indian Advancement Act of 2000 to accept and administer charitable donations for the benefit of Interior's Office of Indian Education Programs (OIEP) and "other activities" to further educational opportunities for American Indian students attending Bureau-funded schools. Federal agencies are prohibited from accepting private donations unless authorized to do so by Congress.

The Foundation will be organized as a 501(c)(3) corporation in the District of Columbia. Under the terms of the statute, the Secretary is authorized to provide support for the Foundation for a period of at least five years until it becomes an independent entity. The board will meet annually and operate independently from the Interior Department. The board also intends to select a permanent name for the Foundation as it develops the organization's articles of incorporation in the coming months.



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