One third of all Indian children in this country, each year are taken away from their homes and sent off to federal boarding schools.
KIDS PLAYING AT HOME
PERK ON CAM
MIKE GROS... TALKING WITH INDIANS
CONSTRUCTION ON BUILDING
KIDS AND TENTS
MRS BERTHA LORENZO SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER
OTHER WHITE KIDS
REPORTER: Jack Perkins
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: One third of all Indian children in this country, each year are taken away from their homes and sent off to federal boarding schools. That's the way the government does it. Indians have never had much choice.
Now, maybe they will have a choice. Because of what is happening ... the precedent that is being set here...in Ramah, New Mexico.
Two years ago this high school was closed. Indian children were forced off to federal boarding schools in Utah, Oklahoma.
A young Ivy League lawyer came in and filed a suit on behalf of the Indians to force the government to re-open the school. He lost the case but he stayed. He talked with the Indians and they came up with another plan. If the government would not give them a school in Ramah, they would make one themselves.
So today, forty Navaho labourers who would otherwise be unemployed, are working. From the wreck of the old school building, the new school is being fashioned. The Navaho children of Ramah will be able to come home.
In fact, they are already here. They'll spend the summer here, in tents; while workmen finish the building the students and the Indian leaders who will run the school will sit down and plan what kind of school they want it to be.
They know what they don't want. They don't want it to be a white man's school trying to make white men out of Indians.
Mrs. Lorenzo did not finish high school. None of the Indian leaders who will run this new school ever finished high school. Some had no school at all.
They know they need help. And they are getting it.
The Robert Kennedy foundation sent a young volunteer who speaks Navaho....
A Harvard trained anthropologist read about it in a newspaper and came volunteering to teach in the new school.
A dozen young people from a dozen places heard and came.
The federal government will finance the school. For the Navahos of Ramah celebrating with fry bread and mutton, this means their children are home, they have their own school.
But there's more to it. Apparently other Indian communities would be allowed to do the same thing. To get their children home to their own schools.
The precedent is being set here in Ramah.
Jack Perkins, NBC News, Ramah, New Mexico.