American Indian Education KnowledgeBase

The American Indian Education KnowledgeBase is an online resource to aid education professionals in their efforts to serve American Indian students and close the achievement gap American Indian students have faced in public, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other schools.

This KnowledgeBase is currently being updated to reflect recent changes under federal law. The current version is provided for your reference as much of the information may still be relevant.

Element 1: Foundations and Current Status of American Indian Education

Purpose: To ensure educators working with American Indian students are aware of past efforts at improving the academic achievement of these students, the limited success of these efforts, and current federally funded Indian education programs

Educators will:

  1. Understand past efforts to assimilate Indians through English-only assimilationist schooling and the opposition Indians may show to efforts at forced assimilation.
  2. Know the lasting effects of the Indian New Deal of the 1930s on American Indian education.
  3. Understand the effects of the Indian Self-Determination and Civil Rights movements on American Indian education.
  4. Understand the relationship between Indian tribes, states, and the federal government's Bureau of Indian Education.

Activity 1: Understand the History of American Indian Education

Activity 2: Understand the Current Status of American Indian Education

Task 1: Understand the Concept of Tribal Sovereignty

Guideline: Educators will understand the meaning of tribal sovereignty today and the role of tribal governments in education.

Overview: The concept of sovereignty for Indian nations centers on the concept that they are self-governing nations. Historically, tribes controlled their own affairs before the U.S. Government assigned many of them to reservations overseen by appointed Indian Agents whose power was backed up by the U.S. Army. With the passage of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, the U.S. Government recognized the rights of Indian tribes to self-government, and President Richard Nixon reaffirmed this right with his 1970 message to Congress on Indian self-determination.

Based on the U.S. Constitution, treaties, and Supreme Court decisions, Indian nations have a government-to-government relationship with the U.S. Government, and are largely independent of state governments. The U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs represents the U.S. Government in its work with Indian nations.

American Indian Tribal Sovereignty Primer

This primer from the Indian Country Today web site summarizes the legal basis for tribal sovereignty. A person unfamiliar with the basis for tribal sovereignty will find it most helpful.

More on Tribal Sovereignty from

President Nixon's 1970 Message to Congress

This link is to President Nixon's 1970 message to Congress. in this message, he set forth a "new direction of Indian policy aimed at Indian self-determination and condemned forced termination and proposed recommendations for specific action."

Rethinking Tribal Sovereignty

Dr. Vine Deloria Jr. in his keynote address at the May 26, 1995 Sovereignty Forum, sponsored by the American Indian Policy Center presented his viewpoint on tribal sovereignty. This summary presents his three part view on the subject.

Sovereignty and Indian Education

Authored by Melody McCoy this resource reviews federal laws, policies, and reports related to tribal sovereignty over Indian education.

Original Tribal Land Map

This NPR resource features a map of the Original Indian Tribal Lands written in Indian Nation locations and names superimposed over of the map of the United States of America.  This map show where Indian Tribal lands of the Seminole, Choctaw, Cherokee, Shawnee, Blackfoot, Crow, Cheyenne, Sioux, Pawnee, Ute, Navajo, Apache, and Paiute were originally located before Europeans "discovered" America.

Click Here to View the NPR Article: "The Map of Native American Tribes You've Never Seen Before"

Element 2: American Indian Cultures

Purpose: Educators will understand the great cultural diversity among American Indians, as well as some of their commonalities. Educators will understand:
  1. What makes someone an American Indian, and what is a tribe today?
  2. What is an extended family?
  3. What is the significance of traditional American Indian values, such as humility, interconnectedness, and reciprocity?
  4. What should all Americans know about American Indians?

Activity 1: Be Aware of Tribal and Family Structures

Activity 2: Understand American Indian Traditional Tribal Values

Element 3: Understanding Your School and Community

Purpose: Assessing American Indian students' academic performance and working with local tribes and other Indian organizations are necessary to develop culturally responsive teaching methods. Educators should:
  • Examine current American Indian student test scores, attendance rates, and dropout rates;
  • Work with tribes and community organizations; and
  • Work with national American Indian organizations and the National Indian Education Association.

Activity 1: Take a Snapshot of Your School and Community

Activity 2: Work With and Involve Community and Parents

Element 4: Use Culturally Responsive Teaching Methodologies

Purpose: Some research suggests one reason for the achievement gap faced by American Indian students is cultural conflicts between American Indian homes and schools. Accordingly, culturally responsive teaching methodologies should address:
  • American Indian learning styles;
  • Indianizing curriculum;
  • Ethnomathematics and ethnoscience;
  • American Indian charter and magnet schools; and
  • Language revitalization.

Activity 1: Helping American Indian Children to Learn

Activity 2: Integrate American Indian History and Culture into School Curriculum

Activity 3: The Role of American Indian Charter and Magnet Schools

Activity 4: Teaching Indigenous Languages