Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is headed to Arizona on Tuesday to speak with native youths, kicking off a listening tour meant to give Obama’s Cabinet members a direct look at the challenges that young people face in Indian Country.
Jewell will visit the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and the Gila River Crossing Community School, both in the Phoenix area. The dates and locations of other Cabinet members’ visits have not been announced.
Obama announced the listening tour several months after he and the first lady visited a North Dakota reservation, saying he wanted his Cabinet members to also hear firsthand from young people growing up in communities wracked by drugs, violence and poverty.
About one-third of native children live below the poverty line. Native children are more likely to have substance abuse problems than any other racial group, and suicide is the leading cause of death among native youths.
Meanwhile, the schools that native children attend are often not equipped to serve them, and native children are less likely to graduate from high school than any other racial or ethnic group.
The listening tour begins as Obama seeks to boost funding for tribal schools to $1 billion next year, an amount that administration officials say will help the Bureau of Indian Education begin to rebuild crumbling school buildings and chip away at long-deferred maintenance projects.
The administration is also organizing a National Tribal Youth Network to connect youth leaders and is planning the first White House Tribal Youth Gathering for summer 2015.