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American Indian Education

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Articles on American Indian Community Controlled Schools

Two of the first Indian controlled schools in modern times were Rough Rock Demonstration School (RRDS) and Rock Point Community School (RPCS) in the Navajo Nation in the northeast corner of Arizona. The histories of Rough Rock and Rock Point, only 25 miles apart on the map, illustrate some similarities and differences among the new contract schools. RRDS was started in 1966 as a War on Poverty project, a joint effort of the Office of Economic Opportunity and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Its mission was to "correct a hundred years of Native American mis-education."

In contrast to RRDS, RPCS had a more gradual transition to local community control. Dr. Wayne Holm, a non-Navajo married to a Navajo as was Dr. Roessel who helped found RRDS, worked in the school as a BIA employee and continued with a break to get a doctorate in Navajo linguistics at the University of New Mexico as Director and then Assistant Director for Academic Programs until 1986. English-as-a-second-language (ESL) instruction was started at Rock Point in 1960 and bilingual instruction in 1967. In 1972, in order to provide "quality Navajo education through local community control," the community elected a school board. The new school board contracted to operate the school in 1973 so they could have more control over hiring and curriculum. Originally an elementary school, in 1976 one grade a year was added until in 1982 the first high school seniors were graduated.

On July 17, 1968, the Navajo tribal council passed a resolution founding Navajo Community College. An interim board of regents was appointed and the BIA area director allowed the use of rooms in a new high school built at Many Farms. In recognition of the work he did to gain initial funding for the college, Roessel stepped down from directing Rough Rock Demonstration School and was appointed the first president of NCC. Classes began in January 1969. Below are a series of articles, mostly from the Journal of American Indian Education, on the above schools.

Rock Point Community School:

A Description of the Rock Point Community School Bilingual Education Program by Jon Reyhner

Below is a list of articles published in the Journal of American Indian Education on Rough Rock Rock Demonstration School:
The Right to be Wrong and the Right to be Right by Robert A. Roessel Jr.
An Overview of Rough Rock Demonstration School by Robert A. Roessel, Jr., Director
Community and School Service by Henry Dahlberg, Assistant Director for Community Services
Administrative Service< by Donald A. Olsen, Assistant Director for Administrative Services
Educational Innovation by Mrs. Anita Pfeiffer, Assistant Director for Educational Services
Dormitory Living at Rough Rock by Mrs. Ruth Roessel, Assistant Director for Dormitory Services
Navajo Curriculum Center by Gary Witherspoon, Assistant Director for the Navaho Curriculum Center
Dr. Karl Menninger Reflects on Rough Rock Demonstration School
A Case Study: Self-determination and Indian Education by David Adams
Developmental and Remedial: A Phonic Reading Program for Navajo Students by Helen C Wieczkiewicz
Restructuring the Teaching of Language and Literacy in a Navajo Community School by Galena Sells Dick, Dan W. Estell, and Teresa L. McCarty

Navajo Community College [now Diné College]:

A Light in the Night by Robert A. Roessel Jr., Chancellor of the Navajo Community College.
The Early Years of Diné College by Peter Iverson

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