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

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

Task 3: Know About Efforts to Revitalize and Teach American Indian and Other Indigenous Languages

Guideline: As fewer and fewer people speak American Indian and other indigenous languages, there is an increasing awareness of the effects of the loss of these languages and the cultures they embody on American Indian and other indigenous peoples. Efforts are being made worldwide to revitalize indigenous languages and to pass them on to new generations of speakers. Indigenous language revitalization is seen by many as a part of a needed healing process to restore the health of native communities adversely effected by colonial assimilationist educational policies.

Guidelines for Strengthening Indigenous Languages

Published by the Alaska Native Knowledge Network these "guidelines offer suggestions for our Elders, parents, children and educators to use in strengthening their heritage language with support from the Native community, schools, linguists and education agencies." Though initially developed for Alaskan native groups the guidelines are useful to any group working to strengthen their native language.

Cultural Rights, Language Revival, and Individual Healing

This article from the Language Learner magazine describes the importance that many American Indians give to efforts to revitalize their languages.

National Alliance to Save Native Languages

As noted at its website, "the National Alliance to Save Native Languages was founded in October of 2006 for the exclusive purpose of promoting the revitalization of Native Languages. While this website is currently under construction, the Alliance is comprised of a coalition of stakeholders including tribes, schools, and individuals, regional and national organizations."  President and Founder, Ryan Wilson, Oglala-Lakota offers the following testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in June of 2014.

Native American Language Immersion

Authored by Dr. Janine Pease-Pretty On Top, this study focuses on Native American language immersion schools and projects. The W. K. Kellogg Foundation supported this analysis, to describe and analyze native language immersion activities for children and families.

Teaching Indigenous Languages

This website offers resources related to teaching indigenous languages. As noted at the website, "it is an outgrowth of a series of annual conferences started in 1994 at Northern Arizona University to help achieve the goals of the Native American Languages Act of 1990, which makes it government policy to promote, protect, and preserve the Indigenous languages of the United States of America."