The Tribal Leaders Congress on Education (TLC) emerged from the groundswell of grassroots Native education activism and leadership of 1990’s and early 2000’s. The Centennial Accord of 1989 and Millennial Agreement in 1999 formalized the shared commitment between federally recognized tribes and WA State toward educating WA State citizens, “about tribal history, culture, treaty rights, contemporary tribal and state government institutions and relations and the contribution of Indian Nations to the State of Washington.” Tribal leaders reaffirmed their commitment to, “see our culture and our history in the schools,” when they met in 2003 for the Indian Education Summit in Quinault. Then House Representative, John McCoy, worked with tribal leaders to craft corresponding legislation. He appointed Policy Analyst, Suzi Wright, to help organize the process.

Building on the successes and guiding principles of the First Peoples’ Language and Culture Committee, the newly formed Tribal Leaders Education Policy Committee (TLEPC) helped gather tribal input and garner support for what would eventually become Substitute House Bill 1495. The TLEPC was later renamed the Tribal Leaders Congress on Education or “TLC.” The new name and acronym came about in discussions at a Native Congress of American Indians (NCAI) conference. The primary purpose of Tribal Leaders Congress on Education has been to ensure that tribal leaders and their formal designees are included at the table during government-to-government decision-making processes concerning education in WA State. Over the years, TLC has continued to influence legislation and implementation of critical education policies.

To read more about the important events related to the formation of the Tribal Leaders Congress on Education, please see, “Waiting Patiently for 500 Years,” a case study by Denny Hurtado and Barbara Leigh Smith.

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