Health and Safety Priorities Prompt First Ever National Indian Education Association Convention and Trade Show
October 21, 2020
Washington, DC – Breaking a fifty-year tradition of convening in-person to meet with friends and colleagues, shake hands, tell stories, and share knowledge was a difficult but necessary decision for the National Indian Education Association (NIEA) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, undeterred, the 51st Annual NIEA Convention and Trade Show went on as planned. The event included more than a hundred workshops; live sessions with the Bureau of Indian Education; a keynote address from Sen. Tom Udall (NM-D); a virtual trade show with twenty online vendors; networking lounges; and a socially distanced powwow, with more than 800 educators, students, supporters, and advocates in attendance all virtually. “I could not be more proud of NIEA’s first virtual convention, hosted in response to COVID-19. As a people, we know that connection is vital. Our connection to the earth, to each other, and to all of creation is important to who we are and how we learn and grow. While we could not safely gather together, we were able to continue to adapt and adjust, just as our ancestors had before us,” said Jason Dropik, newly elected NIEA Board President.
The convention was previously scheduled to take place in Albuquerque, NM at the Albuquerque Convention Center and coincide with the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta from Oct. 7- Oct. 10, 2020. In July, NIEA announced the virtual convention platform in response to COVID-19 precautions, “in order to safely serve Native educators and students and deliver critical education information and resources to our beloved communities and partners.”
Conducting the convention in this new virtual format provided both NIEA and attendees the opportunity to garner direct feedback from educators, presenters, and students about their thoughts on this unique experience. It also provided a forum to learn how various communities across Indian country have been transitioning to online learning due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I felt that the opportunity to share, to gather, to see our communities thriving in challenging times was a great success. I feel inspired to see all of the commitment to stand strong, stand together, and to continue to build a collaborative community,” Dropik said.
NIEA Executive Director Diana Cournoyer said feedback from attendees and sponsors following the convention was positive and the organization was praised for continuing the tradition of gathering, albeit in a virtual platform. Dropik echoed Cournoyer’s feedback, “The connection was much different than we have had in the past, but the dialogues and partnership opportunities were still very much present. Despite our necessary changes, the strong sentiment expressed by attendees was “We Are Still Here!”
Also conducted for the first time in a virtual format were the NIEA Board election and the passing of organizational resolutions. “It is a gift to be able to serve alongside incredible new and veteran Board members. Our Native leaders need everyone working together to affect change for all American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians and I am heartened by the collective strength our board brings to our mission. I also continue to be inspired by those that have been doing amazing work for many years,” emphasized Dropik.
NIEA is offering the virtual convention webpage for all registered convention attendees for 30 days, through November 9, 2020. After that date, all 2020 Convention events will be archived on the NIEA website, http://www.niea.org, for members to access.
The National Indian Education Association (NIEA) advances comprehensive, culture-based educational opportunities for American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians.
The leading organization on issues impacting Native education, NIEA was formed in 1969, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by Native educators who were anxious to find solutions to improve the education system for Native children. The NIEA Convention was established to mark the beginning of a national forum for sharing and developing ideas, and influencing federal policy. NIEA adheres to the organization’s founding principles: 1) to bring Native educators together to explore ways to improve schools and the schooling of native children; 2) to promote the maintenance and continued development of Native languages and cultures; and 3) to develop and implement strategies for influencing local, state, and federal policy and policy makers.
NIEA is a member-based organization. With annual membership dues, members receive access to special events, scholarship information, job opportunities, a teacher job board, state and federal legislative updates, professional development opportunities, and more.