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 4: Understand State and Federal Funding Available to Educate American Indian Students in Public Schools

Guideline: Educators will know about the Johnson O'Malley program, Impact Aid, and Indian Education funding (through Title VI of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) available to public schools serving American Indian students, who is eligible, and how to apply.

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.

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.

ELL Family Toolkit

The English Learner Family Toolkit was created to help families choose education services that meet their child’s needs. U.S. educators, elementary and secondary school teachers, principals, and other school staff can also share the toolkit as a resource for English learners and their families.  The English Learner Family Toolkit consists of 6 chapters, and each chapter contains 5 sections - an overview, enrollment, family and student rights, questions to ask schools, tips, and resources. Download the complete toolkit by using the quick links for the information needed most.

FY 2016: The Indian Education Demonstration Grants Program

The purpose of the Demonstration Grants for Indian Children Program is to provide financial assistance to projects that develop, test and demonstrate the effectiveness of services and programs to improve the educational opportunities and achievement of preschool, elementary, and secondary Native American Indian students.  This competition contains one absolute priority and three competitive preference priorities. The absolute priority is to fund Native Youth Community Projects (NYCP). 

2007 United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP)

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on Thursday, 13 September 2007, 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). Click here to view the voting record. In the 11 years that have passed, 4 of the counties that voted against the declaration reversed their decision and now support the declaration.  The goal of the Declaration is to encourage countries to work alongside indigenous peoples to solve global issues, like development, multicultural democracy and decentralization.[10] According to Article 31, there is a major emphasis that the indigenous peoples will be able to protect their cultural heritage and other aspects of their culture and tradition in order to preserve their heritage from over controlling nation-states. Know your Rights - for Indigenous Adolescents

EVERY STUDENT SUCCEEDS ACT (ESSA): Testing Action Plan & Assessments Under Title I; Part A & Part B

High-quality assessments are essential to effectively educating students, measuring progress, and promoting equity. Done well and thoughtfully, they provide critical information for educators, families, the public, and students themselves and create the basis for improving outcomes for all learners. Done poorly, in excess, or without clear purpose, however, they take valuable time away from teaching and learning, and may drain creative approaches from our classrooms. In October 2015, President Obama announced a Testing Action Plan to restore balance to America’s classrooms by ensuring fewer, better, and fairer tests.

2015 The White House Launched the “Generation Indigenous Native Youth Challenge”

In this 2015 White House blog, the announcement and description of the Generation Indigenous Native Youth Challenge, which invites Native youth and organizations across the country to become a part of the Administration’s Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative, by joining the National Native Youth Network — a White House effort in partnership with the Aspen Institute’s Center for Native American Youth and the U.S. Department of the Interior was made. President Obama launched the Gen-I Initiative at the 2014 White House Tribal Nations Conference to focus on improving the lives of Native youth by removing the barriers that stand between Native youth and their opportunity to succeed. 

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.

Wisconsin Education Act 31 & 2014 Survey Report

In the August 1989 biennial budget bill, a piece of legislation was included requiring all public school districts and teacher education programs in Wisconsin to include instruction on the history, culture and tribal sovereignty of the eleven federally recognized tribes and bands located in the State of Wisconsin. The legislation also requires the inclusion of instruction on the treaty rights of the six Lake Superior Chippewa (Ojibwe) bands in Wisconsin. Another requirement is that teachers must have this instruction in their education training program or they are not eligible for a license to teach in the State of Wisconsin. This legislation is commonly referred to as Act 31 (1989/1991).  This is the 2014 Administrator and Teacher Survey Report for the Wisconsin Education Act 31.

Boys & Girls Club of the Northern Cheyenne Nation (BGCNCN)

The Boys and Girls club of the Northern Cheyenne Nation (BGCNCN), like the Harlem Children's Zone, is committed to doing "whatever it takes" to improve the odds of all Native American Indian children moving from cradle-to-college-through-career. With Promise Neighborhoods, The BGCNCN supports systemic, collaborative, strengths-based, and culturally appropriate approaches to helping all the young people of our Reservation, and surrounding counties reach their full potential.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) - State Plans & Updates

This Department of Education website provides consolidated State Plan Templates, ESSA Technical Assistance resources, and the most recent updates to ESSA policies and regulations.

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.

American Indian Science and Engineering Society

As noted at its website, "The American Indian Science and Engineering Society's (AISES) mission is to increase substantially the representation of American Indian and Alaskan Natives in engineering, science and other related technology disciplines."

Impact Aid Program

This document offers an overview of the Impact Aid Program.

Indian Education Act of 1972

This article from the Journal of Indian Education offers an overview of the Indian Education Act of 1972. The passage of this Act was a major milestone in the history of Indian education.

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.

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.

Grant Opportunities for Oklahoma Higher Education

This Oklahoma Higher Education website focuses on the mission of the OSRHE coordinator for grants and external funding technical assistance which will be to enhance a robust grants culture in the Oklahoma higher education system, providing direct services to the agency, the regional universities and the two-year colleges. An invitation to subscribe to OKgrantsman is also featured.

Honoring Nations 2018 Awards

This September 24, 2018 Harvard University article announced, after a national search, the six tribal governments from across the country who were selected as finalists for the Honoring Nations 2018 Awards. Based at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and administered by the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, the Honoring Nations Award identifies, celebrates, and shares outstanding examples of tribal governance.  Honoring Nations also helps expand the capacities of Native nation builders by enabling them to learn from each others’ successes. These finalists are exercising their self-determination and implementing effective solutions to common governmental challenges in the areas of environmental research and management, health provider training, language revitalization, agriculture, child welfare, and restorative justice.  The 2018 Honoring Nations finalists were: Native Village of Kotzebue (Environmental Programs), Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (Health Aide Training Programs), Miami Tribe of Oklahoma (Myaamiaki Eemamwiciki Program)  Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma (Agricultural Programs), Sitka Tribe of Alaska (Sitka ICWA Partnership), and the Yurok Tribe (Wellness Programming).

Indian Education in New Mexico, 2025

In 2007, the New Mexico Indian Education Study, 2025, embarked on a statewide research.  This study indicates that Best Practices in Indian Education entail providing a culturally responsive education for Native students. Culturally responsive education requires systemic reform and transformation in educational ideologies.  Such a task is not easily accomplished in a rigid public school structure that is bound by state and federal laws.

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.

Leading the Way, Our Future Warriors - My Brother's Keeper

This Department of Education Homeroom 2015 blog features the 2011-2012 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) that revealed troubling disparities that the data revealed should remind us of the importance of ensuring that all students have equal access to educational opportunities.  For instance, fewer than 50% of American Indian and Native-Alaskan high school students have access to the full range of math and science courses in their high school. American Indian/Alaska Native students represent 1% of student enrollment but account for 3% of the referrals to law enforcement and 2% of school related arrests.
American Indian/Alaska Native males represent 13% of out-of-school suspensions in the United States.

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.