Trust for Public Land and Interior Department to Partner on Tribal Community Schoolyards Pilot Program 

The Tribal Community Schoolyards Pilot Program seeks to transform nine tribal schoolyards into nature-rich outdoor spaces for learning that celebrate tribal culture and advance key health, environmental justice, and outdoor access priorities for tribal communities.

Washington D.C. – Today at the White House Tribal Nations Summit, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced a pilot program between the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) and Trust for Public Land (TPL) to engage the school and Tribal Community to create and steward nine Tribal Community Schoolyards.  

The “Tribal Community Schoolyards Pilot Program” will support BIE’s mission to provide a culturally relevant, high-quality education by increasing opportunities for nature-based solutions that advance environmental justice and amenities to support outdoor learning and health while celebrating cultural identity. 

“Trust for Public Land has been fortunate to work with tribal and Indigenous communities over the decades and we have learned the sacred power of being rooted in culture, practice, tradition, and spirit with the land,” said Diane Regas, president and CEO of Trust for Public Land. “We are honored for the opportunity to extend these learnings to our schoolyards work and further our commitment to tribal and Indigenous nations through this pilot program.”  

 “At the Department of the Interior, we have a solemn duty to honor and strengthen the federal government’s nation-to-nation relationships with tribes. Today’s announcement reaffirms that commitment and will bring increased and much needed resources to Indigenous communities,” said Secretary Deb Haaland.

The nine pilot schools have been identified through a data-informed, community-engaged planning process to prioritize the most impactful locations to advance health, education, and environmental justice outcomes. The schools include:

  • Coeur d’Alene Tribal School, De Smet, ID  
  • Crazy Horse School, Wanblee, SD  
  • John F. Kennedy Day School, Whiteriver, AZ 
  • Menominee Tribal School, Neopit, WI  
  • Northern Cheyenne Tribal School, Busby, MT  
  • Pine Ridge School, Pine Ridge, SD  
  • Rock Creek Grant School, Bullhead, SD  
  • Santa Fe Indian School, Santa Fe, NM 
  • Wingate Elementary School, Fort Wingate, NM

Working closely with tribal and school leadership, TPL and BIE will hire tribal and Indigenous organizers, designers, and artists to lead engagement, design, and stewardship activities with the students, school staff, and tribal communities within the nine locations. 

The cost of the effort is estimated at $16 million. Trust for Public Land will lead fundraising for the program, which will begin in 2023. TPL expects to raise the majority of funding through public sources and the remaining from private philanthropic funders. 

Building off our long history of transforming schoolyards, TPL is working to make Community Schoolyards™ the standard practice. Nowhere is this work more important than in tribal and Indigenous communities, where many schools do not have adequate places to support outdoor learning, recreation, and play or community access. This partnership will demonstrate the impact of transforming school grounds at nine schools and provide the roadmap for scaling this program in the future for 46,000 children who attend tribal schools,” said Danielle Denk, TPL’s Community Schoolyards initiative director.  

TPL has created nearly 300 Community Schoolyards™ projects nationwide, working with communities to transform often vacant and depressing school lots into vibrant green spaces that improve student education outcomes, create climate resilience, and provide close-to-home park access for communities during off-school hours. One such project is located in Chiloquin, Oregon, which serves as the capital of the Klamath Nation. Involvement from students and the community was integral to the design for the new space, which includes a restored meadow, walking paths, a covered basketball court, an outdoor classroom, and artwork that celebrates the Klamath language. The success and excitement generated from the Chiloquin schoolyard transformation has served as a model for the Tribal Community Schoolyard Pilot Program.  

“With tribal and Indigenous voices leading the design, creation, and activation of these schoolyards, there’s amazing potential to infuse centuries of knowledge into these schoolyards to connect tribal and Indigenous communities to their culture and inspire future generations of tribal and Indigenous leaders,” continued TPL President Diane Regas.  

This effort also builds from more than two decades of partnership between Trust for Public Land and more than 70 tribes and native groups to protect tribal homelands and culturally significant places including ancestral burial grounds, fishing sites, and lands that supply traditional foods and medicines. All told, TPL has protected or helped return more than 200,000 acres of land to tribes and native groups.  

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Trust for Public Land: Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit that works to connect everyone to the benefits and joys of the outdoors. As a leader in equitable access to the outdoors, TPL works with communities to create parks and protect public land where they are needed most. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 3 million acres of public land, created more than 5,000 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places, raised $93 billion in public funding for parks and public lands, and connected more than 9 million people to the outdoors.  To learn more, visit tpl.org.