American Indian Education KnowledgeBase

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

Task 4: Understand the Impact of Indian Self-Determination, the American Indian Movement (AIM), and the Red Power Movement on Indian Education

Guideline: Educators will learn about social movements beginning in the 1960s, such as the Red Power Movement /American Indian Movement (AIM), and how those movements influenced the passage of the Indian Education Act of 1972, the current version of which is Title VI of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Major American Indian Education Legislation, the Indian Self-Determination and Educational Assistance Act of 1975, and the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 which intends to help re-establish tribal authority over the education of American Indian children.

Overview: After World War II, there was a rejection of Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier's policies and a return to the previous assimilationist polices. Where Collier had sought to strengthen tribal self-government, Congress in the 1950s sought to terminate Indian reservations and end any special status for American Indians. 

However, new leadership in the National Congress of American Indians and other organizations fought termination and sought to promote self-determination for American Indians, including in the area of education.  While some organizations worked primarily through negotiation, diplomacy, and litigation, social movements beginning in the 1960s also approached the issue through civil disobedience, protest, and activism.  These social movements included the Red Power Movement, also called the American Indian Movement (AIM).

In1970, President Richard Nixon declared in a special message to the U.S. Congress:

"The story of the Indian in America is something more than the record of the white man's frequent aggression, broken agreements, intermittent remorse and prolonged failure. It is a record also of endurance, of survival, of adaptation and creativity in the face of overwhelming obstacles. It is a record of enormous contributions to this country--to its art and culture, to its strength and spirit, to its sense of history and its sense of purpose."

"It is long past time that the Indian policies of the Federal government began to recognize and build upon the capacities and insights of the Indian people. Both as a matter of justice and as a matter of enlightened social policy, we must begin to act on the basis of what the Indians themselves have long been telling us. The time has come to break decisively with the past and to create the conditions for a new era in which the Indian future is determined by Indian acts and Indian decisions."

Along with this rejection of termination came two new studies of Indian education that echoed the findings of the Meriam Report. In their 1972 book, To Live on This Earth, Estelle Fuchs and Robert J. Havighurst summarized the results of a national study of Indian education. They wrote, "With minor exceptions the history of Indian education had been primarily the transmission of white American education, little altered, to the Indian child as a one-way process. The institution of the school is one that was imposed by and controlled by the non-Indian society, its pedagogy and curriculum little changed for the Indian children, its goals primarily aimed at removing the child from his aboriginal culture and assimilating him into the dominant white culture. Whether coercive or persuasive, this assimilationist goal of schooling has been minimally effective with Indian children, as indicated by their record of absenteeism, retardation, and high dropout rates." 

The second study published in 1969 by the Special Senate Subcommittee on Indian Education was titled Indian Education: A National Tragedy--a National Challenge. This study found most American Indian students and parents approved of their schools, but American Indian community leaders were "overwhelmingly in favor of the school doing something to help Indian students learn about their tribal culture." The most common parental suggestion was "schools should pay more attention to the Indian heritage."

This renewed criticism of American Indian education led to the passage of the Indian Education Act of 1972 and the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975. These acts, discussed in Element 1, Activity 2, Task 1, provided funding for special programs for American Indian students and for more American Indian control of Indian education.

American Indian Civics Project: Red Power LESSON PLANS

This 2012 lesson plan is designed to be integrated into a historical, social, and political discussion about the Civil Rights Movement and political activism during the 1960s and 1970s. Because it provides a case study of American Indian activism before, during, and after the Civil Rights Movement, it is essential students already understand the goals and accomplishments of Civil Rights activists.

Red Power & American Indian Movement (AIM): Definition and History Lesson Plans

This website offers the definition and history of the Red Power and American Indian Movements.  This lesson plan uncovers the Red Power movement that extended from the 1940s to the present, its main participants, its protests and how the movement succeeded or failed.

Red Power Movement: Lesson Plans

This Sutori website offers quizzes and lesson plans for the upsurge of Native American Militancy and Activism during the 1960's and 1970's. Despite FDR's domestic policy to help Native Americans and end President Eisenhower's policy of "termination," Indian Activism continued to increase through means of "self-determination".

Red Power Teaching Resources

This Weebly website offers 3 lessons and additional resources on the American Indian Red Power Movement.

The American Indian Movement (AIM) aka Red Power Movement

Founded in July 1968 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the American Indian Movement (AIM), also known as the Red Power Movement, is an American Indian advocacy group organized to address issues related to sovereignty, leadership, and treaties. Particularly in its early years, AIM also protested racism and civil rights violations against Native Americans.During the 1950s, increasing numbers of American Indians had been forced to move away from reservations and tribal culture because of federal Indian termination policies intended to assimilate them into mainstream American culture. Founders of AIM included Mary Jane Wilson, Dennis Banks, Vernon Bellecourt, Clyde Bellecourt, and George Mitchell, while other activists like Russell Means worked with the organization prominently in the 1970s. AIM staged a number of protest actions on historically significant sites of injustice and violence perpetrated by the federal government against Native Americans.  TEACHING GUIDE/LESSON PLAN

2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)

This United Nations (UN) website details the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), adopted by the 73rd General Assembly on Thursday, 13 September 2007. UNDRIP passed by a majority of 144 states in favor, 4 votes against (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States) and 11 abstentions (Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa and Ukraine). In the years after the declaration, UNDRIP, passed, the four countries voting against have reversed their position and now support the Declaration. Today, the Declaration is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples. UNDRIP establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to the specific situation of indigenous peoples.

'Custer Died for Your Sins' - By Vine Deloria Jr.

This website features a PDF of “Custer Died for Your Sins,” By Vine Deloria, Jr.

A Brief History of the American Indian Movement (AIM) - Also Known as the Red Power Movement

In the 30 years of its formal history, the American Indian Movement (AIM), also known as the Red Power Movement, has given witness to a great many changes. It is referred as formal history, because the movement existed for 500 years without a name. The leaders and members of today's AIM never fail to remember all of those who have traveled on before, having given their talent and their lives for the survival of the people. At the core of the movement is Indian leadership under the direction of NeeGawNwayWeeDun, Clyde H. Bellecourt, and others. Making steady progress, the movement has transformed policy making into programs and organizations that have served Indian people in many communities. These policies have consistently been made in consultation with spiritual leaders and elders.  The success of these efforts is indisputable, but perhaps even greater than the accomplishments is the vision defining what AIM stands for.  The movement was founded to turn the attention of Indian people toward a renewal of spirituality which would impart the strength of resolve needed to reverse the ruinous policies of the United States, Canada, and other colonialist governments of Central and South America. At the heart of AIM is deep spirituality and a belief in the connectedness of all Indian people.

American Indian Activism and the Rise of the Red Power Movement

Throughout history, Native American Indians have fought for their rights, their land, and their well-being. Often times those fights took the form of physical confrontations, but equally as frequently, they fought in courtrooms and on paper. This paper shows how Native American activism in the mid-twentieth century used all of these different methods, and was irrevocably influenced by the atmosphere of the world in which they were taking place. The paper also explores how the sociopolitical environment of post-World War II America provided the necessary catalyst for Native American activism.  Combined with the sociopolitical atmosphere of the civil rights era, this led to the development of the Red Power Movement.

Framing Red Power: The American Indian Movement, Trail of Broken Treaties & Politics of Media

This 2009 study explores the relationship between the American Indian Movement (AIM), national newspaper and television media, and the Trail of Broken Treaties caravan in November 1972.  The study views the way media framed, or interpreted, AIM's motivations and objectives. The intellectual and political currents present in the 1960s, including the ideas of Vine Deloria, Jr., and the successes of the Civil Rights Movement; influenced the development of AIM's ideas about militant tactics and the role media played in social movements.

Myths and Realities Of Tribal Sovereignty: The Law and Economics Of Indian Self-Rule

Authors of this 2004 paper state the last three decades have witnessed a remarkable resurgence of the American Indian nations in the United States as a direct result from the exercise of American Indian self-government - sovereignty - by the more than 560 federally-recognized tribes in the United States.  In this 2004 study, legal and economic dimensions of current perceptions of debates are explored over the nature and extent of tribal self-rule in the United States. The objective is to clarify, address, and illuminate key threads of thought and assumption that pervades accurately, or inaccurately, by distinguishing between myth and reality within the public policy arena. Download PDF

Schooling for Self-Determination: Research on the Effects of Including Native Language and Culture in the Schools

This January 2002 Digest briefly reviews the educational effects of assimilationist schooling and later efforts to create schools supportive of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) self-determination.

Termination and Relocation

After World War II there was a conservative rejection of Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier's policies and return to Assimilationist polices. Where Collier had sought to strengthen tribal self-government, Congress in the 1950s sought to terminate Indian reservations and end any special status for American Indians. This resource reviews this period of termination and relocation.

What Are Some Facts About the Red Power Movement?

This website states the Red Power movement refers to efforts by Native Americans in the 1960s and 1970s to improve their social and economic conditions. The groups involved in this movement include the American Indian Movement, the Lakota Freedom Movement, the National Council on Indian Opportunity and the National Indian Youth Council. The Red Power movement arose in response to social and economic conditions Native Americans faced in the mid-20th century.

What is the Red Power Movement? (VIDEO)

This 2017 video focuses on the Red Power Movement of the 1970s established the roots for the resistance at Standing Rock. This video further explains how a new generation of Native American Indian activists were emboldened by the efforts of African-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement.

"Healing" History: Native America (VIDEO)

This 2012 video offers a brief overview of Native American Indian history from the 17th century to current day.

A Good Day to Die: A Documentary About Dennis Banks and the American Indian Movement (AIM) [VIDEO]

This 2011 Journeyman documentary film features American Indian Movement (AIM) co-founder Dennis Banks and the 1968 Red Power Movement.  In 1968, the abused, neglected and repressed American Indian people fought back. From the depths of despair, Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement (AIM), led his people into confrontation with the government and changed their lives forever. A stirring account of the Indian civil rights movement, this documentary recounts not only the struggle, but also depicts the terrible repression they endured. 

American Indian Activist Russell Means Video of 1989 Speech to U.S. Congress

This 1989 video features the Legendary Native American Indian activist Russell Means, (November 10, 1939 - October 22, 2012), as he harshly criticizes the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Indian tribal leadership of reservations. 

Taking AIM: The Story of the American Indian Movement (VIDEO)

'Taking AIM' is a 2013 documentary that explores the origins of the American Indian Movement (AIM), also known as the Red Power Movement. At a time of great social change and unrest, brave American Indians fought the injustice that had left them beggars in their own land.

What Was the Occupation of Wounded Knee? (VIDEO)

In February 1973, approximately 200 Oglala Lakota and AIM Native American protesters occupied Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation at the site of the last Indian Wars massacre.

What was the American Indian Movement (AIM)? [VIDEO]

This May 2009 PBS website offers video and written description of the American Indian Movement (AIM), also known as the Red Power Movement.  Founded in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1968, by young urban Indians fed up with police harassment, AIM fought for Native American rights. Akin to African-American's Civil Rights Movement, Native American protests occurred by the Occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973.

The Efficacy of the Red Power Movement

This paper addresses how forty Native Americans first invaded the vacant island of Alcatraz in 1964 as an act of protest. They used their culture effectively to raise public awareness.  Organized by a group known as Indians of All Tribes, the occupation of Alcatraz in 1964 became the first event in series of many dramatic protests to bring together Indians from different tribes.  The protesters explained that the takeover of Alcatraz was in actuality a reclamation of land that was rightfully theirs. Capitalizing on the irony of their situation, they pointed out that many of the characteristics of Alcatraz were similar to those of reservations, and therefore, unsuitable for Indian habitation.

The Native American Power Movement

This Digital History website gives insight to the beginning and continued existence of the Native American Power Movement.  Native American Indians are no longer a vanishing group of Americans. The 1990 census recorded an Indian population of over two million, five times the number recorded in 1950. About half of these people live on reservations, which cover 52.4 million acres in 27 states, while most others live in urban areas. The largest Native American populations are located in Alaska, Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Although Native Americans continue to face severe problems related to employment, income, and education, they have decisively demonstrated that they will not abandon their Indian identity and culture, nor will they be treated as dependent wards of the federal government.

The Relocation of Native American Indians (VIDEO)

This 2009 PBS video explains why most Native Americans do not live on reservations. This is largely due to the fact that, in the 1950's, the U.S. government thought one way to solve the 'Indian problem' was to relocate Indians from the reservation to larger cities. Over 100,000 Indians were relocated in just 15 years.

The Rise of the Red Power Movement - Trail of Broken Treaties

This 2018 website focuses on the Red Power Movement, also known as the American Indian Movement (AIM), formed 50 years ago and the revitalization of resistance to U.S. settler-colonialism.  AIM's Trail  of Broken Treaties and 20-Point Position Paper is also included.

What They Took Away - Reflections on Native American Boarding Schools (VIDEO)

This 2015 video features Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement (A.I.M), as he reflects on his experiences with Native American Indian boarding schools, and how his familial relationships were affected.

Element 1: Foundations and Current Status of American Indian Education

Purpose: To ensure educators, in support of American Indian students, understand the historical principles which guides the academic journey of these students, the challenges and barriers which impacts these efforts, and current trends and research which are the basis for Indian education programs today.

Educators will:

  1. Understand the concept of tribal sovereignty and the relationship between Indian tribes, states, and the federal government's Bureau of Indian Education.
  2. Understand past efforts to assimilate Indians through English-only assimilationist schooling and the opposition Indians may show to efforts at forced assimilation.
  3. Know the lasting effects of the Indian New Deal of the 1930s on American Indian education.
  4. Understand the effects of the Red Power Movement, Indian Self-Determination, and United Nations human rights declarations on American Indians and American Indian education.

Activity 1: Understand the History of American Indian Education

American Indian tribes negotiated a multiplicity of treaties with the U.S. government, which then imposed upon them a number of laws and policies to promote the educational development of American Indian children.

Activity 2: Understand the Current Laws, Funding, and Academic Resources for American Indian Students

The federal government has responded to treaty provisions enacted between tribal governments and the United States which required educational support for American Indian children by developing and implementing educational programs in response to the federal trust responsibility of the U.S. Government.  The following Tasks will outline that response to treaty obligations.

Element 2: American Indian Cultures

Purpose: Educators will increase awareness and understanding of the breadth and scope of cultural diversity that exists among American Indian tribal communities, as well as shared values and traditions of American Indian people.

Educators will understand:

  1. What makes someone an American Indian, and what is a tribal nation 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: Understand Tribal and Family Structures

Educators will understand the process of federal recognition of tribes, tribal enrollment, and treaty making that has impacted American Indian tribal people since the founding of the United States. Educators will also learn about the structure and the importance of American Indian tribes, clans, bands, and extended families to American Indians.

Activity 2: Understand American Indian Traditional Tribal Values

Educators will understand and respect the importance of cultural values and traditional concepts which help to shape the mindset of American Indian children and their families.  Educators will understand the complex challenges faced by American Indian children in today’s classroom as a result of conflicting value systems.

Element 3: Understanding Your School and Community

Purpose: Assessing American Indian students’ academic performance and developing culturally-based education approaches in collaboration with local tribes, Indian organizations and Native communities are essential for improved educational opportunities.  Educators should:

  • Examine current American Indian achievement assessments, attendance, dropout and graduation rates;
  • Collaborate with tribes and Native communities, and;
  • Collaborate with national American Indian organizations and the National Indian Education Association (NIEA).

Activity 1: Take a Snapshot of Your School and Community


Activity 2: Work with and Involve Community and Parents

Element 4: Integrate American Indian History, Language, and Culture into School Curriculum

Purpose: Research indicates that it is important to affirm students’ identity and one reason for the academic achievement gap that American Indian students face is that a one-size-fits-all national curriculum represented in textbooks fails to give positive recognition to American Indian histories and cultures. 

Activity 1: Create an American Indian Curriculum

It is important for American Indian and Alaska Native students to have the standard state and national curriculums they are exposed to in school be supplemented with curriculum that reflects their background and the community that they live in.

Activity 2: Teaching Indigenous Languages

Too often, an English-only policy in American schools has suppressed American Indian languages and cultures. The Native American Languages Act passed by U.S. Congress, and signed by President George H. W. Bush in 1990, enforces United States Policy to support, preserve, and protect American Indian languages. Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act  Act of 2006 The 2007 United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has given further support to that goal. Today, Indigenous peoples are working through Indigenous language immersion schools to revitalize their languages and cultures.


Element 5: Explore Schools Serving American Indian Students

Purpose: Charter and immersion schools are offering American Indians more flexibility in working to improve the education of their children by affording American Indian communities more power to shape the schooling their children receive.


Activity 1: The Role and impact of American Indian Charter and Magnet Schools

Learn about charter and immersion schools and how they can provide alternatives to public, Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools, and tribally controlled schools, allowing American Indian communities to provide more culturally appropriate education for their children.


Activity 2: Discover how Tribal Operated Schools and Indian Charter Schools Relate to One Another

The Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) and mainstream public schools have not been successful in bringing up the average test scores and graduation rates of American Indian students to national averages. Learn how Tribally Operated and Indian Charter Schools are providing alternatives that show promise in improving the academic and life success of American Indian students.


Element 6: Use Culturally Responsive Teaching Methodologies

Purpose: Research suggests one reason for the achievement gap faced by American Indian students is cultural conflicts between American Indian homes and schools. Accordingly, teachers should be prepared to meet the needs of American Indian and other Indigenous students, including using culturally responsive teaching methodologies that incorporate American Indian learning styles, avoiding biased teaching and stereotypes, and addressing the needs of gifted education and other special needs students.

Activity 1: Prepare Educators to Teach American Indian Students

One-size-fits-all educational reforms, despite being somewhat “evidence based”, have left behind many American Indian students. Learn how adjusting teaching methods and materials to fit American Indian students’ cultural and experiential backgrounds can make them more engaged learners and improve their academic performance.