The American Indian Education KnowledgeBase

Element 1: Foundations and Current Status of American Indian Education

Purpose: To ensure educators working with American Indian students are aware of past efforts at improving the academic achievement of these students, the limited success of these efforts, and current federally funded Indian education programs

Educators will:

  1. Understand past efforts to assimilate Indians through English-only assimilationist schooling and the opposition Indians may show to efforts at forced assimilation.
  2. Know the lasting effects of the Indian New Deal of the 1930s on American Indian education.
  3. Understand the effects of the Indian Self-Determination and Civil Rights movements on American Indian education.
  4. Understand the relationship between Indian tribes, states, and the federal government's Bureau of Indian Education.

Activity 1: Understand the History of American Indian Education

Activity 2: Understand the Current Status of American Indian Education

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 member. It is important for school districts seeking federal funding based on American Indian student enrollment to be aware of the formal process for enrolling in a tribal group.

Frequently Asked Questions About American Indians

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, Procedures for Establishing that an American Indian Group Exists as an Indian Tribe.

Click Here to for Downloadable Files


Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties

As noted in the 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)." The resource is available through the Oklahoma State University digital library.

Federally Recognized American Indian Tribes

This link is to a listing of federally recognized Indian tribes from the U.S. Department of the Interior's, Bureau of Indian Affairs.


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.


State Recognized American Indian Tribal Entities

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

Element 2: American Indian Cultures

Purpose: Educators will understand the great cultural diversity among American Indians, as well as some of their commonalities. Educators will understand:
  1. What makes someone an American Indian, and what is a tribe 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: Be Aware of Tribal and Family Structures

Activity 2: Understand American Indian Traditional Tribal Values

Element 3: Understanding Your School and Community

Purpose: Assessing American Indian students' academic performance and working with local tribes and other Indian organizations are necessary to develop culturally responsive teaching methods. Educators should:
  • Examine current American Indian student test scores, attendance rates, and dropout rates;
  • Work with tribes and community organizations; and
  • Work with national American Indian organizations and the National Indian Education Association.

Activity 1: Take a Snapshot of Your School and Community

Activity 2: Work With and Involve Community and Parents

Element 4: Use Culturally Responsive Teaching Methodologies

Purpose: Some research suggests one reason for the achievement gap faced by American Indian students is cultural conflicts between American Indian homes and schools. Accordingly, culturally responsive teaching methodologies should address:
  • American Indian learning styles;
  • Indianizing curriculum;
  • Ethnomathematics and ethnoscience;
  • American Indian charter and magnet schools; and
  • Language revitalization.

Activity 1: Helping American Indian Children to Learn

Activity 2: Integrate American Indian History and Culture into School Curriculum

Activity 3: The Role of American Indian Charter and Magnet Schools

Activity 4: Teaching Indigenous Languages