AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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Access to Education

According to the American Indian Education Foundation, there are more than 250,000 American Indians between 5-18 years old enrolled in various schools. Today, many American Indian children attend boarding schools located on the reservation to avoid lengthy commutes. Other Native American children attend public and private schools. Some significant events in the development of increased educational opportunities for American Indian children include:

  • In 1803, Congress appropriated funds to "civilize and educate" Native Americans. $3,000 was given to help further this goal with the Kaskaskia Indians. This goal was an underlying principle for much U.S. education policy toward American Indians.
  • In 1891, Congress passed an act authorizing the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to enforce and regulate education for Indian children taught by non-Indians.
  • In 1934, the Johnson O’Malley Act is passed. This act provided funds for Native Americans living off of reservations, specifically in the area of education. Today, the act continues to grant support to American Indians.
  • In 1972, the Indian Education Act is passed, which created an Office of Indian Education within the Department of Education and provided funding for culturally sensitive teaching requirements. The act also granted funds to Native Americans in public schools.
  • In 1990 the Native American Languages Act was passed, which supports the use of native languages in schools. Many "survival schools" currently exist to further the use and preservation of Native languages in the American Indian community.

Classroom Resources

History and Foundation of American Indian Education Policy
This comprehensive publication describes the principles and eras within the development of American Indian education.

The School Days of an Indian Girl
This primary document from 1900 relates a young Native American girl’s experience in an American school.

Federal Education for the American Indian
This journal article addresses the evolution of federal education in the Native American community, addressing both the Johnson O’Malley and Indian Education Acts.

Native American Languages Act
Read the text of the act.