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Early Childhood Development in Indian Country

A conference on strategies for tribal communities to enhance the well-being of their youngest members. A video livestream of the event will be available.

October 5 – 6, 2016
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Early Childhood Development in Indian Country

Strategies for tribal communities to enhance the well-being of their youngest members

Event Details

Center for Indian Country Development
Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
Oct. 5 and 6, 2016

Event Description

Nurturing a healthy start for Native children leads to lifelong success for both children and the community. From a human development perspective, a child’s early years are a critical time for positive physical and emotional development. From a community perspective, this is an ideal period for collective action by tribes, parents, and caregivers to work together to support childhood well-being.

Research shows that children who face adverse experiences early in life are more likely to have difficulty learning and suffer health and economic problems as adults. In Indian Country, it is well-documented that the transmission of harmful stress from one generation to the next affects the entire community and has long-term consequences for today’s Native youth.

The good news is that many tribes are making investments in their children’s future by providing quality early child care and education programs as a means to promote healthy development and community well-being. Opportunities include support for maternal and child health, parent mentoring, early childhood Native language immersion, and high-quality child care and Head Start.

This convening offered attendees an opportunity to hear from experts in the areas of historical trauma and healing, and the science around adverse childhood experiences. Attendees also engaged in strategic dialogue about enhancing Native child development programs and services.

Conference objectives:

  • Highlight strategies to develop and implement high-quality early childhood development programs in Native communities.
  • Identify policy and funding barriers to early childhood development programs and share strategies to address them.
  • Share best practices in advocating for early childhood development as a key priority in Native communities.

The Twitter hashtag for this work is #NativeChildDevelopment. Social media participants are encouraged to continue sharing ideas and resources for early childhood initiatives in Indian Country.

Event Program and Materials

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Video of Oct. 5 morning sessions

Drum Circle and Traditional Blessing
Ringing Shield Drum Singers: Thorne LaPointe, Wakinyan LaPointe, Darren Cobenaise, and Hieu Scares The Hawk

Welcome and Opening Remarks
Patrice Kunesh, Co-Director, Center for Indian Country Development | Speech Text [PDF]
Neel Kashkari, President, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis | Speech Text

Historical Trauma and the Science of Brain Development
Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, University of New Mexico | Presentation [PDF]
Josie Chase, Horse Nation Healing, Inc.
Megan Gunnar, University of Minnesota | Presentation [PDF]

Early Childhood Development as Economic Development and Insights into Federal Programs
Rob Grunewald, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis | Presentation [PDF]
Art Rolnick, University of Minnesota
Linda Smith, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Video of Oct. 5 afternoon sessions

Early Childhood Development Programs in Indian Country
Moderator: Linda Smith, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Early Childhood AIAN Language Immersion Programs | Presentation [PDF]

  • Brooke Ammann, Waadookodaading Ojibwe Language Immersion School
  • Matthew Rama, Thunder Valley CDC – Lakota Immersion Childcare
  • Betty Jane Schaaf, Wicoie Nandagikendan Dakota Ojibwe Urban Immersion Project

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Video of Oct. 6 morning sessions


Maternal and Child Health
Jackie Dionne, Minnesota Department of Health | Presentation [PDF]
Karla Decker Sorby, Minnesota Department of Health

Tribal College and University Early Childhood Education Initiatives | Presentation [PDF]
Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz, American Indian College Fund

Strategy Circles

Summaries from conference attendee roundtable discussions about key issues facing early childhood development initiatives in Indian country.

Video of Oct. 6 midday session

Perspective from Funders
Moderator: Anita Fineday, Casey Family Programs – Indian Child Welfare Program

  • Kathleen Annette, Blandin Foundation
  • Mark Guy, Better Way Foundation
  • Lori Watso, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community

Contact Information

For inquiries, please send an email to