About Native American Education

Published on March 12, 2014 by Amy

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About Native American Education
About Native American Education

Native Americans in different parts of the new world had different education experiences. The Aztecs and Incas offered formal training to selected members of their population. Members of wandering Indian tribes learned from their parents and other tribe members. When the Europeans arrived, they utilized “assimilation” to educate the Indians. The Americans used boarding schools to assimilate the Indians; they forced Indian children to adopt white culture over Indian culture. Finally, in the 20th century, Indians started to attend public schools. These schools provided some degree of culture shock to Native Indian students, as school faculty would teach using Western teaching and learning methods.

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The initial “mission” for Native American education was to assimilate Indian children into American culture. Native American children had to wear school uniforms, get haircuts (boys), use Western names, eat American foods, and speak English. The students had to become Christians, and they had to observe Western holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. In the 1920s and 30s, John Collier fought to change that concept. Younger children started to attend school near their families; Indians started to learn about both European and Native American cultures. Thanks to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, assimilation as an education goal was abandoned. In the last two decades of the 20th century, Native American education became parallel to American education. Today, most Native Americans attend public schools.


A lot of attention has been given to minorities in regular K-12 school systems. The performance of African American students compared to their Caucasian counterparts received media and political attention. But not much is said about the unique requirements for Native American students. Compared to their Caucasian counterparts, not as many American Indians complete school, attend college, or achieve academic accomplishments.


Initially, Indians attended the boarding schools to learn how to assimilate. The boarding school system gave way to regular schooling. In some locations, Native Americans attend their own school system, which is parallel to regular public education. They have their own K-12, Vocational, and College schools. Native Americans also attend regular public school systems, including vocational and special education programs. Specific Native American tribes have workshops specific to a craft or skill.


Native American education takes place from Alaska to Argentina and Chile. There are Indian tribes in the South American jungles that haven’t been assimilated. These tribes continue the teaching methods that their ancestors used to facilitate tribe function and survival. Because of conquest and intermarriage, Most Native Americans in Latin America attend public schools. In the ancient times, the Aztecs and Incas offered public schooling for their children.


American schools teach based on Western philosophy and learning methods; Native Americans learn from their cultural perspectives. For example, Indians are group-oriented, rather than individually oriented. American school grading structure has students competing against each other, as opposed to working as teams. Native Americans learn best by watching how things are done; many American schools usually teach by lecture. Many Indians feel that they haven’t been “trained” unless they can physically do what they have been trained to do.

Source: ehow

NativeAmericanEncyclopedia.com Unabridged
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