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.

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.

Task 3: Understand Federal Indian Education Funding Available to Educate American Indian Students on Tribal Lands or Urban/Reservation Schools

Guideline: Beginning in the mid-1800s, the U.S. Department of the Interior assumed a trust responsibility, based upon treaties, for education policy and practice for American Indian children which later included other federal departments, which involved education policy and addressed the needs of American Indian children who began to attend public schools across the United States in the 1920s.  Today, most American Indian students attend public school, however, some American Indian students attend tribal-controlled schools and BIE schools.

American Indian Scholarships and Grants

This website offers information on requirements, amount of scholarship award, and how to apply for various Native American Indian Scholarships such as: Chickasaw Foundation Scholarships, AAAE Scholarship for Native Americans, Native American Education Grant, University of Colorado at Boulder White Antelope Memorial Scholarship, Bureau of Indian Education Scholarships, Catching the Dream Native American Scholarship Fund, American Indian College Fund, Smithsonian Native American Awards Program, LITA/LSSI Minority Scholarship for Library and Technology, Spectrum Scholarship, Young Native Writers, Holland & Knight Charitable Fund, Inc., Ford Motor Company Tribal Scholarship, American Indian Science and Engineering Society Google Scholarships, and the Lockheed Martin Tribal Scholarship.

Cobell $5 Million Native Indian Education Scholarship Fund

This U.S. Department of the Interior, Indian Affairs, website provides information on the Cobell Scholarship which $4.8 million has been transferred to the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund (Scholarship Fund), bringing the total amount contributed so far to almost $39 million. The Scholarship Fund – funded in part by the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program) and authorized by the Cobell Settlement – provides financial assistance through scholarships to American Indian and Alaska Native students wishing to pursue post-secondary and graduate education and training. $10 Million

NITRO 60+ Scholarships for Native American Students

This NITRO website provides Native American scholarship information.  With education in particular, government agencies have been navigating just how much support to provide citizens whose family tree spans generations in North America, while still allowing them to uphold their own individual rights and traditions.  The Bureau of Indian Education offers this interactive guide below to sort through resources and over 60 Native American scholarships available for the 2018-2019 academic year. Scholarships references are: Wah-Tiah-Kah Scholarship, Tyonek Native Corporation Scholarship and Grant Fund, Native American Seminary, Zuni Tribal Scholarship, Science Systems & Application, Inc. (SSAI) Underrepresented Student Scholarship, Cherokee Nation Scholarship, and the American Indian Law School Scholarship.

Title VI — Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native Education (ESSA 2016)

This 2016 Department of Education ESSA website states the laws and policies of the United States to fulfill the Federal Government's unique and continuing trust relationship with and responsibility to the Indian people for the education of Indian children. The Federal Government will continue to work with local educational agencies, Indian tribes and organizations, post-secondary institutions, and other entities toward the goal of ensuring that programs that serve Indian children are of the highest quality and provide for not only the basic elementary and secondary educational needs, but also the unique educational and culturally related academic needs of these children.

Grants to Native Americans and Alaska Natives for Career and Technical Education (NACTEP)

Native American Career and Technical Education Programs (NACTEP) provides grants to federally recognized Indian tribes, tribal organizations, Alaska Native entities and eligible BIE-funded schools to improve career and technical education programs that are consistent with the purposes of the Perkins Act and that benefit Native Americans and Alaskan Natives. NACTEP assists in the preparation of Native American students for the high-skill, high-wage, or high-demand occupations in emerging or established professions.

Indian Policies and Procedures - Section 7004

This Department of Education website featuring the Impact Aid Program FY2019 explains Section 7004 of Indian Policies and Procedures Relating to Children Residing on Indian Lands states any LEA that claims children residing on Indian lands for the purpose of receiving funds under Section 7003 must establish Indian Policies and Procedures (IPPs) to ensure that the LEA meets the 8 requirements listed on this website.

Office of Impact Aid Program

This Department of Education website follows The Impact Aid law (now Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) provides millions of dollars for assistance to local school districts.  Impact Aid Application

Promise Neighborhoods Serving Tribal Communities

The Promise Neighborhoods Program is intended to significantly improve the educational and developmental outcomes of children in the nation's most distressed communities and, ultimately, to transform such communities. Notably, the program's fiscal year 2010 Notice Inviting Applications for New Awards, which was published in the Federal Register on May 5, contains an absolute priority for Tribal communities. 

U.S. Department of Education Announces $4 Million In Grants Available to Help Native Youth

The U.S. Department of Education announced on April 29th, 2015 the availability of an estimated $4 million in grants to help Native American youth become college and career ready. Funding for the new Native Youth Community Projects is a key step toward implementing President Obama’s commitment to improving the lives of American Indian and Alaskan Native children. The new grants will support the President’s Generation Indigenous “Gen I” Initiative launched in 2014 to help Native American youth.

Financial Aid and College Preparation Resources for Native Americans

Research has found that American Indians and Alaska Natives have a much lower rate of college completion than the population as a whole.  This fact sheet recommends some places to find information about preparing for college and paying for college. This Federal Student Aid website offers Financial Aid and College Preparation Resources for Native American Indian students and their families.

2011 ED Programs American Indians and Alaska Natives

This Department of Education website provides a list of federal funding programs for American Indians and Alaskan Natives.

ESSA and Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian Students

This is second in a series of posts on ESSA’s implications for student subgroups. Read the first in the series: What Will ESSA Mean for English Learners?  A large body of research supports the idea that Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students thrive in instructional environments that honor their unique cultural and linguistic heritages.  Federal education policy is catching on.  The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) promises unprecedented opportunities and funding for incorporating our nation’s many indigenous cultures and languages into public schools serving Native students.

Impact Aid Program

This document offers an overview of the Impact Aid Program.

Indian Education Funding

The Indian Education Act of 1972 provided funding for special programs for Indian students attending public schools on and off reservations. The current version of the Indian Education Act is Title VI of the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015. This document provides an overview of the Title VI program.

Johnson O’Malley Program

This Bureau of Indian Education website features information about the Johnson O'Malley (JOM) program, which is authorized by the Johnson-O'Malley Act of 1934, and the implementing regulations are provided in Part 273 of Title 25 of the Code of Federal Regulations. As amended, this Act authorizes contracts for the education of eligible Indian students enrolled in public schools and previously private schools. This local program is operated under an educational plan, approved by the BIE, which contains educational objectives to address the needs of the eligible American Indian and Alaska Native students by providing supplementary financial assistance for the specialized educational needs of Indian children. (Minnesota) (California Fact Sheet)


Native American and Alaska Native Children in School Program

This link is to a U.S. Department of Education website providing information on the Native American and Alaska Native Children in School Program.

Office of Indian Education

This link is to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Indian Education website.

Special Education Grants for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Exceptional Students

This Northern Arizona University website showcases special education grants such as: Preparing Rural Inclusive Multicultural Exceptional-educators (PRIME) grant, Culturally Responsive ESL Special Education Training (CREST) grant for ELLs, Preparing Rural Inclusive Special Educators (PRISE) grant, Rural Inclusive Special Educators (RISE) grant, Bilingual Rural Inclusive Development for General and Exceptional-educators (BRIDGE) grant for Navajo, Hopi and Mexican-American students, Developing Rural Exceptional-educators to Address Multicultural Students (DREAM) grant, and the Limited-English-proficient-students Education for All Professionals (LEAP) grant.

What Will ESSA Mean for English Learners

This is the first in a series of posts via AIR (American Institute for Research) about ESSA’s implications for student subgroups. Over the past few decades, English learners (ELs) have become an increasingly significant student population, outpacing the demographic growth of non-EL students by more than 40 percent nationwide and growing by as much as 800 percent in some states.  ESSA’s Title III requires states to implement standardized, statewide procedures for identifying ELs (“entrance procedures”) and for determining when special language services are no longer needed (“reclassification procedures”). States must also dis-aggregate English learners with a disability from English learners without disabilities. Both measures are critical for monitoring EL progress.

White House Initiative: American Indian and Alaska Native Education

The White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education leads the President’s Executive Order 13592, signed December 2, 2011, Improving American Indian and Alaska Native Educational Opportunities and Strengthening Tribal Colleges and Universities.  The Initiative, located within the Department of Education, seeks to support activities that will strengthen the Nation by expanding education opportunities and improving education outcomes for all American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students. It is committed to furthering tribal self-determination and ensuring AI/AN students, at all levels of education, have an opportunity to learn their Native languages and histories, receive complete and competitive educations, preparing them for college, careers, and productive and satisfying lives.

Impact Aid Program: 2013 Funding Outlook & Indian Community Participation

This 2013 Impact Aid Program PowerPoint reviews Native Indian policies and procedures including local education agency requirements.  LEAs that receive Impact Aid payments for children living on Indian lands must consult with tribal officials and parents of Indian children about the education program of the school district.  Via the Impact Aid Program, the Department of Education disseminates the Impact Aid Program application to tribal officials and Indian education administration.

Indicator 20: Financial Aid (2016)

This 2016 National Center for Educational Statistics report states that while the cost of a post-secondary education is a potential burden for some students in their completion of an undergraduate degree, financial aid can help ease this burden. Grants and loans are the major forms of federal financial aid for degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students.  Among full-time, full-year undergraduate students, 85% of Black and American Indian/Alaska Native students and 80% of Hispanic students received grants in 2011–12. These percentages were higher than the percentages of students of Two or more races (73 percent) and White (69 percent), Pacific Islander (67 percent), and Asian (63 percent) students who received grants.

Mohawk Students Must Leave Their Nation to Attend High School

This June 2019 Indian Country Today article details how students on the Mohawk territory that spans across two countries, a state, and two provinces must travel to Canada or the U.S. to attend high school. The article also feature the Akwesasne Freedom School, one of five immersion schools for Mohawk youth living in Akwesasne, a territory that straddles the U.S.-Canada border. These schools were created to revive Mohawk language and culture after previous generations were forced to attend residential schools, a system that made Native people eradicate their own culture and assimilate into Western ways of living.

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.