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

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

Task 2: Avoid Biased Teaching and Stereotypes

Guideline: Misperceptions of American Indians abound in western culture. Some such stereotypes have carried over into educational practices and curriculum. Images such as American Indians wearing feathers, living in a tipi, making whooping sounds, and being associated with Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims do not present children with an accurate portrayal of native people. For this reason, it is important for educators to study American Indians in a way that allows students to see the diversity and uniqueness of the individual tribes.

Appropriate Methods When Teaching About Native American Peoples

This resource provides a checklist of "Do's and Don'ts" with approriate methods to use when teaching about Native Americans.

Teacher's Tool for Reflective Practice

From McREL, "this self-reflection journaling tool is intended to provide teachers and their colleagues with the opportunity to reflect on cultural differences between themselves and their students and to consider alternative interaction styles and contexts for learning."

10 Quick Ways to Analyze Children's Books for Racism and Sexism

This article from the Council on Interracial Books for Children provides guidance in selecting bias-free reading materials for children.

Evaluating American Indian Materials and Resources for the Classroom

This Montana Office of Public Instruction document provides suggestions for how educators can review classroom materials for biases about American Indians.

Fluff and Feathers: Treatment of American Indians in the Literature and the Classroom

This article by Cornel Peweward in the April 1998 issue of Equity & Excellence in Education discusses how Indians are often presented in a stereotyped fashion in classroom curriculum.

Teaching Tolerance

This link to the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance project offers resources on teaching tolerance.

Unbiased Teaching about American Indians and Alaska Natives in Elementary Schools

Orignally authored as part of an ERIC Digest, "this digest gives teachers realistic information about this growing population. It identifies some of the common myths about American Indians and Alaska Natives that contribute to curriculum bias. The concluding discussion suggests activities and resources to help elementary students--and their teachers--understand the realities of how Indians live today and how they lived in the past."

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