American Indian Education KnowledgeBase

The American Indian Education KnowledgeBase is an online resource to aid education professionals in their efforts to serve American Indian students and close the achievement gap American Indian students have faced in public, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other schools.

This KnowledgeBase is currently being updated to reflect recent changes under federal law. The current version is provided for your reference as much of the information may still be relevant.

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

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

Task 4: Apply to Reading and Children's Literature

Guideline: While American Indian students need to read and learn about the wider, non-Indian world, they also need to see people like themselves and other American Indians accurately portrayed in what they read. Unfortunately, many children's books, even some recent ones, often portray American Indians in a stereotypical or negative fashion. Educators should seek out relevant reading materials for native students.

Indian Reading Series: Stories and Legends of the Northwest

This Education Northwest resource provides "140 culturally relevant stories with teacher's guides written by Indian authors and illustrated by Indian artists that offer a unique supplementary reading and language development program for Indian and non-Indian children."

A Gathering of Readers

This link to a University of Texas' School of Information website offering resources on native literature.

American Indian Children's Books

The resource provides a list of recommended American Indian children's books compiled by Rose Marie Johnson & Rose M. McGuire, Denver Public Schools, July 2006. With each book the list identifies a suggested grade level, tribe of origin, genre, possible teaching points, question and discussion points and a brief overview.

American Indians in Children's Literature

This link is to a blog maintained by Debbie Reese (Nambé Pueblo) who teaches at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It offers critical discussions of American Indians in children's books, the school curriculum, popular culture, and society-at-large.

Reading, Writing and Finding Sovereignty

In this article Dr. Jon Reyhner, Northern Arizona University, takes a look at how native students can enhance their tribal and personal sovereignty through reading and writing.

Reviews & Recommendations of Indian Children's Books

As noted at its website, "Oyate is a Native organization working to see that native Indian lives and histories are portrayed honestly, and so that all people will know that their stories belong to the respective tribes." The resource offers reviews and recommendations on Indian children's books.

Teaching Reading to American Indian/Alaska Native Students

Authored by Dr. Jon Reyhner, Northern Arizona University, "this digest summarizes ways to help young American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children become fluent readers--an essential skill if they are to succeed in school."

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