Secretary Zinke Visits with Native American High School Students

Secretary Zinke with American Indian High School Students (INSPIRE Program)
Secretary Zinke, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tahsuda, and 10 high school students in the INSPIRE Pre-College Program (Photo: Office of the Secretary, U.S. Office of the Interior).
August 29, 2018

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Principal Deputy Secretary for Indian Affairs John Tahsuda met with a group of high school students from across Indian Country in July who were attending the INSPIRE Pre-College Program.

The INSPIRE Program is designed to motivate indigenous high school students to finish their education and become more politically involved. The program provides a full scholarship open to native students who want to spend three weeks on the GW campus to learn about intergovernmental relations between tribal governments and the federal government. It is offered through the AT&T Center for Indigenous Politics & Policy (CIPP), a part of GW’s College of Professional Studies.

“It was great to meet the next generation of leaders for Indian Country and our nation as a whole,” said Secretary Zinke. “These kids are the brightest of the bright. I look forward to seeing one of them sitting at the Secretary’s desk one day.”

During the visit students asked candid questions about important issues relating to the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations, increasing access to higher education, and cutting red tape.

The students in the program identified themselves as members of the following Tribes: Menominee Indian Tribe, The Navajo Nation, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Hopi Tribe, Nez Perce Tribe, Eastern Band of Cherokee, Seminole Nation, and Athabascan.

The  INSPIRE Pre-College Program, designed for high school students, is an abridged version of the GW’s Native American Political Leadership Program (NAPLP), a semester-long internship program for college and graduate students. NAPLP is open to undergraduate and graduate students and awarded to students based on academic ability, leadership potential and an interest in politics. Both programs provide full scholarships for indigenous students, funded by AT&T, and are offered under the auspices of CIPP.

This summer the INSPIRE and NAPLP programs had two joint meetings with elected officials, where they were able to learn more about the political process and issues facing native populations, including:

  • Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK) (Chickasaw), one of only two Native American members of Congress. Elizabeth Rule, AT&T CIPP’s assistant director, is Chickasaw.  
  • U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) with whom NAPLP student Brevin Holliday (Nez Perce) had an internship.  

INSPIRE participants also met with U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). One of the INSPIRE students, Claire Ketzler, is Alaska Native (Athabascan) and heading to the University of Alaska - Fairbanks this fall.  Also, one of the NAPLP alumni, Eric Reimers (Yup'ik/Athabascan), is on her staff now.

Since 2006, approximately 250 Native American, Alaska native, and native Hawaiian students have developed their academic and leadership skills in Washington, D.C., through NAPLP and the INSPIRE Native Teens Pre-College Program.