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

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

Task 2: Discover How American Indian and Indigenous Languages Around the World Are Endangered


Guideline: About every two weeks, another of the world's languages dies, and is no longer spoken by anyone. The United States is one of the areas where this is happening, especially in Oklahoma and California, where the last speakers of many American Indian languages are very old. These languages represent vital links to the culture and identity of native peoples, and there is increasing interest in ensuring that native children continue to speak their heritage language.
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Cultural Survival vs. Forced Assimilation: The Renewed War on Diversity

This 2001 article from the Cultural Survival Quarterly notes "that of the more than two million people who identify themselves as American Indians in the United States, only 361, 978 still speak one of the remaining 154 indigenous languages, and many of those are only spoken by the very old."


Enduring Voices: Saving Disappearing Languages

This National Geographic website explores disappearing languages. The website notes, "nearly 80 percent of the world's population speaks only one percent of its languages. When the last speaker of a language dies, the world loses the knowledge that was contained in that language. The goal of the Enduring Voices Project is to document endangered languages and prevent language extinction by identifying the most crucial areas where languages are endangered and embarking on expeditions to understand the geographic dimensions of language distribution, determine how linguistic diversity is linked to biodiversity, and bring wide attention to the issue of language loss."

When It's Gone It's Gone

This documentary was filmed and produced by the Norman (Oklahoma) High School Native American Club. As stated by the club, "it examines the dying languages of Native Americans through the eyes of our Elders." The video runs seventeen minutes.