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 4: Learn About Tribal Language Immersion Schools


Guideline: Following efforts in New Zealand and Hawaii, language immersion schools are being established for English-speaking American Indian students. These students are immersed in their tribal language for their first years of school to enable them to become fluent speakers of their tribal language and of English. Evidence from indigenous immersion schools indicate these students can be academically successful, fluent speakers of English and their tribal language, and less likely to drop out of school.
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Aha Punana Leo

As noted at its website, "The 'Aha Puana Leo, best known for our Language Nest Preschools, is the leading entity in Hawai'i and the United States for indigenous language revitalization. In the past 20 years, it has moved the Hawaiian language from a population with less than 40 children speakers to one with over 2,000 children speakers. The organization's reach expands beyond the Hawaiian Islands to other indigenous communities, especially other Native American communities, where its model is assisting other peoples in their efforts to save their languages from extinction. Its vision is E ola ka ‘alelo Hawai‘i, the Hawaiian language shall live."


Leupp Navajo Immersion Program

This article from the newsletter of the National Association for Bilingual Education describes an immersion program in a public school in the Navajo Nation that teaches a Navajo curriculum aligned to state standards.


Mohawk Immersion Program Gaining Acceptance

This Indian Country Today article describes a Mohawk immersion program in Quebec, Canada.


Piegan Institute

As noted at its website, "the Piegan Institute serves as a vehicle to research, promote and preserve Native languages. Its national and community-based programs are on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in northwest Montana. Our community-based objectives are to increase the number of Blackfeet language speakers, to increase the cultural knowledge base of community members, and to actively influence positive community-based change."