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Native Peoples and Education

Historically, the primary purpose of schools serving Native populations in North America was to assimilate and/or isolate Native youth. Multiple reports done in the 1960s concluded that these policies were counter-productive, and that greater Native control and a stronger focus on quality education was needed.  

Today, many of the schools on reservations fail to provide beneficial learning environments for students. Inadequate heating and air conditioning, as well as leaking roofs, sewers, and plumbing, have led the Bureau of Indian Affairs to estimate that over half of their school facilities have exceeded their "useful building lives." While it is estimated that $754 million is needed to address poor school facilities, the Congressional Research Service reports that funding has been decreasing for education for Native populations over the past thirty years. Additionally, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has stated that “the Department of Education’s Native American Programs are often funded at the minimum level established by Congress, never the maximum." [1]

According to the American Indian Education Foundation, only 17% of Native high school students go to college, and of those, only 20% continue college past the first year.

Links

  • American Indian/Alaska Native Education: An Overview by Jon Reymer: More on the history and current state of education for Native populations in the United States.
     
  • National Indian Education Association: The oldest and largest education organization representing American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian educators and students.
     
  • American Indian Education Foundation: An organization that provides direct support to Native students enrolled in post secondary schools and offers educational leadership and networking services.
     
  • Backpacks for Pine Ridge: An organization that facilitates the donation of school supplies to schoolchildren living on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, the poorest area of the United States with a median income of $3,500 a year. The school drop out rate is soaring at an estimated 70% and schools on the Reservation fall into the bottom 10% of funding.

[1] Statistics from Safe and Healthy Schools, Friends Committee on National Legislation.

For more information contact socialjustice @ uua.org.

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Last updated on Thursday, August 25, 2011.

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