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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
Guideline: Unlike most western cultures, native cultures generally approach mathematics and science within the context of their society's culture. The concept of "ethnomathematics" was first used by Brazilian mathematician Ubiratan D'Ambrosio to describe the mathematical practices of identifiable cultural groups. When teaching native students, the relevant math and science curriculum should be related to the students' cultural backgrounds.
Overview: The Australian Academy of Science declares, "the term ‘ethnomathematics' was first used in the late 1960s by a Brazilian mathematician, Ubiratan D'Ambrosio, to describe the mathematical practices of identifiable cultural groups. Some see it as the study of mathematics in different cultures, others as a way of making mathematics more relevant to different cultural or ethnic groups, yet others as a way of understanding the differences between cultures."
D'Ambrosio viewed ethnomathematics as a means to integrate science with social justice. Such a view does not sit "comfortably with many scientists: science, they argue, is science, and trying to make it politically correct will only impede its progress. Some educators fret that teaching mathematics using an ethnomathematical approach reduces it to a social studies subject that teaches students little about ‘real' mathematics. Others simply ridicule the whole notion: according to one disparaging journalist, 'Unless you wish to balance your checkbook the ancient Navajo way, it's probably safe to ignore the whole thing'.... But there are also many scientists, educators and commentators who see ethnomathematics - in all its definitions - as a legitimate discipline with plenty to offer the modern world."
Ethnoscience provides an approach similar to ethnomathematics to relate culture to science.
*NEW* American Indian Lesson Plans from Sand Spring Public School
This public school website offers various lesson plans for elementary and middle school students regarding: Oklahoma tribes, Spiro and Toltec Mounds in Arkansas, Plains Indians, Cherokee History, and Trail of Tears. The website also offers a deeper dive into 5 Indian tribes: Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole.
Plains Indians Lesson Plans
This website offers Plains Indians lesson plans, myths and legends as well as PowerPoint presentations for children.
This resource provides a database of education resources available through the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies. Native American related content can be found lesson plans, resources and Smithsonian educational resources aligned to state standards. This database may be useful for teachers searching for culturally responsive resources.
Ancient Observatories: Native American Connections
This NASA resource "provides information to learn more about the Sun's connection to the Earth through images, cultural parallels and activities that Native Americans have used to share Sun-Earth science through several generations."
Ethno Mathematics – A Rich Cultural Diversity
From the Australian Academy of Science, this article reviews how mathematics has been used by Pacific native cultures. It points out how "Western mathematics does not meet the needs of all people and is not always easily understood outside the ˜mainstream' culture."
Native Knowledge and Western Science
This Education Northwest resource offers content related to blending native knowledge and western science.
*New Video* Toltec Mounds, Arkansas: Secrets of Native American Earthworks
Hugh Newman investigates the Toltec Mounds with author Andrew Collins. A Native American mound complex in Arkansas. CLICK HERE to explore the world with Megalithomania. Download lectures from Graham Hancock, Andrew Collins, Brien Foerster.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.