Photo of a Native student that's included in the full reportApril 2018
A product of NAPTAC
Native American Parent Technical Assistance Center
Summary by Robin Butterfield
Infographic in PDF
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This infographic summarizes the findings of the report Native Nations and American Schools: The History of Natives in the American Education System, written by the National Indian Education Association (NIEA). NAPTAC is pleased to summarize the report’s findings in the short, easy-to-read format of an infographic.

Use This Summary of the Report to:

  • better understand the historical context and current state of Native education; and
  • inform your work with families who are American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN).


About the Report

Title | Native Nations and American Schools: The History of Natives in the American Education System
Author | The National Indian Education Association (NIEA)
Full Report Online


Did You Know…?

  • 567 | The number of Federally Recognized Tribes in the U.S.
  • 5.2 million | The number of U.S. citizens who identify themselves as having AI/AN ancestry
  • 42% | Percentage of the AI/AN population that’s under the age of 25
  • 78% Percentage of the AI/AN population living outside of Tribal areas

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Essential Understandings: Recognizing the Painful Past

Oppressive federal policies of the past have had a devastating impact on Native communities.

Boarding School Era | To enforce assimilation, Native children were taken from their tribal communities and sent to boarding schools far from home.
These were harsh environments where students were not permitted to wear their Native clothing, speak tribal languages, or practice tribal customs.

1926 Meriam Report | An investigation into the conditions in Indian country & the impact of federal policy on tribal communities.

  • Findings | “Indian schools had significantly lower social & educational standards than urban and rural schools serving the general population of American students.”
  • Recommendations | Base curriculum on Native cultures and history. Acknowledge the diversity between tribes and their needs.

In 1934 | New Federal laws passed brought changes.

  • 1934 Indian Reorganization Act
    –Revised policies about assimilation of Natives
    –Provided some recognition of tribal sovereignty
  • 1934 Johnson O’Malley Act
    –Provided funds for public schools that had schools located on or near tribal land

In 1969 | Report was released on 2-year national study of conditions and education in Indian Country.

  • The Kennedy Report
    –Detailed the low quality of virtually every aspect of the education of Native students in both the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and public schools
    –Recommendations of Report | Echoed many in the 43-year-old Meriam Report

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Modern Education Laws: A Brighter Future for Native Students

Legislation in the 1970s and after marked a shift in federal policy, which now it supports the ability of tribes to approve or disapprove of programs for their own Native students.

1972 Indian Education Act
–Formula grant program of the U.S. Department of Education
–Focuses on the “unique culturally related academic needs” of Native students
–Created the National Advisory Council on Indian Education, which oversees all U.S. DOE programs and funds that impact Native students

1975 Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act
–Tribes could now contract directly with the federal government to operate their own education programs.

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Types of Schools Native Students Currently Attend

Bureau of Indian Education | (BIE) Schools
–Funded within the U.S. Department of Interior
–Operated by the BIE

Tribally Controlled Grant/Contract Schools
–Funded through the BIE
–Operated through tribal control, grant, or contract

Together, these two types of schools represent: 183 schools located in 23 states

Public Schools
–Funded primarily by states with supplemental funds from the U.S. DOE
93% of AI/AN students are educated in public schools

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Promising Practices

Culture-Based Education | Academically effective and locally meaningful for Native students and communities

Immersion Schools | Full-day or half-day teaching and learning in a Native language, including instruction in all content areas

Language Nests | For young children from birth to 5 • Provide vibrant, home-like environments where young children interact with fluent speakers of Native languages

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Other sections in NIEA’s Native Nations and American Schools

  • Federal policy toward Native Alaskans
  • Barriers to success faced by Native students
  • Key Native education legislation and Executive Orders

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NAPTAC is the Native American Parent Technical Assistance Center, funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education. We work with the network of Parent Centers around the country to support the training and information they offer to Native American and Alaska Native parents whose lives are impacted by disability. This document was produced under U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs No. H328R130012-14. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the Department of Education. No official endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education of any product, commodity, service, or enterprise mentioned in this publication is intended or should be inferred. This product is in the public domain. You are free to copy and share it, giving the citation as:

Butterfield, R. (2018). Educating Native students, then and now. Albuquerque, NM: Native American Parent Technical Assistance Center (NAPTAC).

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