Indigenous Education in the United States

In the United States in the 1928 report issued by the Brookings Institution, The Problem of Indian Administration, Lewis Meriam urged the Indian Bureau to adopt the "modern point of view" and educate Indian children in their communities where they could be near their families. In the late 1960s, the activities and resulting report (Indian Education: A National Tragedy—A National Challenge) of a Special Senate Subcommittee on Indian Education headed by Robert Kennedy and later Edward Kennedy resulted in increased funding for Native American education, expanded bilingual programs, and establishment of tribally controlled community colleges, local native boards of education, and a National IndianAdvisory Board to review the state of native education.

In 1966, the Navajo Rough Rock Demonstration School became the first Native-controlled school in the United States. The Indian Self-Determination and Education Act, passed by the Congress in 1975, expanded the number of locally controlled schools, allowing tribal councils to contract schools from the government and giving them increased control over the hiring of staff and the development of curricula. The 1990 Native American Languages Act promoted the expanded use of Native languages and authorized their utilization in instruction in schools funded by the US Secretary of the Interior. In 1991, the Indian Nations At Risk Task Force, charged by the US Secretary of Education with evaluating the state of education among Native Americans, endorsed the policies of community control and involvement, culturally relevant instructional programs and materials, use and development of Native languages, trained and qualified staffing, and stable but flexible settings as effective criteria for Native-controlled schooling.

The out-of-court settlement in 1975 of a class action suit brought against the Alaska Department of Education by parents in rural communities mandated the State of Alaska to provide a secondary education program in any village that requested it. The Alaska State Department of Education established 26 new Rural Education Attendance Areas (REAAs) in 1976 with regional school boards elected to replace the State Operated School (SOS) system and its appointed board. Revenues from the now flowing Trans-Alaska oil pipeline fueled a massive construction program of new schools. In the Lower 48, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs today contracts with tribes for them to operate a majority of schools on reservations.

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