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 1: Understand Federal and State Tribal Recognition

Guideline: Many Americans are seeking to connect with an American Indian tribal heritage or background to participate in tribal programs and/or benefits of an enrolled tribal nation citizen. It is important for school districts seeking federal funding based on American Indian student enrollment to be aware of the formal process for becoming a citizen of a tribal nation.

Frequently Asked Questions About American Indians (2001)

The Bureau of Indian Affairs offers a series of frequently asked questions on how United States federal law addresses Indian tribal status, tribal membership, reservations, and other issues impacting Indians. This question and answer format can be a good orientation tool for teachers. 

Criteria for Federal Acknowledgment

This link is to Part 83 of Title 25 of the Code of Federal Regulations, located on the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) website.  Instructions for Establishing or verifying an American Indian Group Exists as an Indian Tribe is also featured.  Click Here to for Downloadable Files

Federal and State Recognized Tribes from NCSL

This National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) website lists federally recognized American Indian tribes by each state as well as state recognized tribes.

Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties

As noted in this Oklahoma State University digital library's website's introduction, "Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, compiled and edited by Charles J. Kappler, is an historically significant, seven volume compilation of U.S. treaties, laws and executive orders pertaining to Native American Indian tribes. The volumes cover U.S. Government treaties with Native Americans from 1778-1883 (Volume II) and U.S. laws and executive orders concerning Native Americans from 1871-1970 (Volumes I, III-VII)."

America's Great Indian Nations - Full Documentary

This 2013 Questar documentary profiles six of the major Native American tribes that were defeated and subdued as part of the settling of the United States. With reenactments, clarifying maps, artwork, and landscape scenery, this program features the Iroquois, a confederacy comprised of several Indian tribes: the Seminoles in Florida, who welcomed escaped slaves and fought three major wars with the United States before meeting their ultimate defeat; the Shawnee, fierce Ohio Algonquians who allied with the French against the British; the Navajo, a farming people who today are the largest remaining Native American tribe; the Cheyenne, a nomadic Plains Indian tribe that depended on the American bison for sustenance; and the Lakota Sioux, the dominant Sioux tribe comprised of the bands called Oglala, Brule, Hunkpapa, and Minneconjou.

Federal Recognition for Tribes (VIDEO)

This 2013 video explores the process of becoming a Federally recognized tribe.

Federally Recognized American Indian Tribes - BIA

This link is to a listing of 583 federally recognized Indian tribes, and 92 agencies from the U.S. Department of the Interior's, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

Guide to Tracing Your American Indian Ancestry

This link is to a U.S. Department of the Interior guide addressing the purpose of tribal enrollment, membership requirements, how to apply, and how to locate an ancestral tribe.

Indian Pride 104: Tribal Relations & the United States

This video, published in 2011, features an Indian Pride that showcases the unique lifestyles of North America’s 560 Indian Nations. Each episode of Indian Pride includes a mini-documentary, an in-studio discussion, and performances of historical and original presentations. In this episode: "Indian Treaties—Is the Grass Still Greener?", and 'A Lesson Learned From the Sun and Wind', performed by the Arizona Maricopa Dancers.

State Recognized American Indian Tribal Entities

This link to the National Conference of State Legislatures website provides a list of state recognized tribes.

Tribal Nations: The Story of Federal Indian Law (2006 Documentary)

This 2006 documentary video, narrated by Jimmy Fall, tells the story of Federal Indian Law, and was also the Winner of a 2006 Telly Award!

Federal Recognition - The Second Great Mystery (VIDEO)

This 2011 video features the Federal recognition process for American Indian tribes takes many years and much money. It is necessary for a tribe to have federal recognition to receive some benefits reserved for Indians by the government. It is a degrading, humiliating experience that frequently breaks tribes apart and causes them to fight among themselves or with other tribes. American Indians are the only people in the world who have to prove who they are in order to be recognized.

Federal Recognition Erases Tribes (VIDEO)

This 2013 video, created by UMW students, was made to attract awareness to the problems of Native Americans face in the obtainment of Federal recognition by the United States government. 

Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations (VIDEO)

In this 2014 video, Kevin Gover, Director of the National Museum of the American Indian, and Suzan Shown Harjo, guest curator of the “Nation to Nation” exhibit, explore the promises, diplomacy, and betrayals involved in treaties and treaty making between the United States government and Native Nations. Her book reveals how the ideas of honor, fair dealings, good faith, rule of law, and peaceful relations between nations have been tested and challenged in historical and modern times. 

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 Explained in 5 Minute Video

This 2014 video features an introductory lecture to the basics of President Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act of 1830.

Who Gets To Be An Indian ? (VIDEO)

In this November 2015 challenging video, Dr. Richie Meyers, an Oglala Sioux tribal citizen, explores who gets to be an Indian and what that says about our community. Identity is ever-changing. Those who choose who is included and excluded tells as much about a society as the identities themselves. Dr. Meyers is a professionally trained cultural anthropologist with an emphasis in sociology-linguistics and cognitive functions of the mind. 

Why the Sioux Are Refusing $1.3 Billion (VIDEO)

This 2011 PBS News Hour video claims how members of the Great Sioux Nation could pocket a large sum set aside by the government for taking the resource-rich Black Hills away from the tribes in 1877. But Tribal Leaders say the sacred land was never, and still isn't, for sale.

Original Tribal Land Map

This 2014 National Public Radio (NPR) resource features a map of the Original Indian Tribal Lands, (designed by Aaron Carapella, a self-taught mapmaker in Warner, Oklahoma with NPR article that shows Native American tribes' locations before first contact with Europeans), written in Indian Nation locations and names superimposed over of the map of the United States of America.  This map shows where Indian Tribal lands of the Seminole, Choctaw, Cherokee, Shawnee, Blackfoot, Crow, Cheyenne, Sioux, Pawnee, Ute, Navajo, Apache, and Paiute were originally located before Europeans "discovered" America.

Pine Ridge Reservation Video Part II: From Broken Treaties to Future Sustainability

In this 2014 video, Abby Martin breaks the bet on Black Hills History, America's Broken Treaties, and the Legacy of Red Cloud.

The Native American and Federal Tribal Recognition Policy (Video)

This 2011 video features interviews about the Native American and Federal Tribal Recognition Policy.

Tribes Looking for Federal Recognition; More Land in Connecticut

This April 2014 local news story reflects on the controversy over federally recognized tribes, and whether or not they will be granted more land in Connecticut.


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.