American Indian Education  

American Indian Education

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Selected Resources on American Indian/Indigenous Education

Jon Reyhner, Northern Arizona University

Books (Updated January 7, 2019)


Cleary, Linda Miller, & Peacock, Thomas D. (1998). Collected Wisdom: American Indian Education. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. 272 pp.

This is a different kind of book on American Indian Education. Rather than a study of a school or community or a synthesis of existing research on American Indian education, it is the result of a research project based on extensive interviews conducted by University of Minnesota professors Linda Miller Cleary, a non-Indian teacher educator, and Thomas D. Peacock, an Ojibwe former tribal school superintendent. They interviewed over 60 Indian and non-Indian teachers of Native American students working on or near nine reservations located across the U.S. and in two cities with high American Indian populations plus more than 50 other teachers in Australia and Costa Rica. The book has eight chapters: The Teacher as Learner; Cultural Difference; What Has Gone Wrong; Creating a Two-Way Bridge; Issues of Native Language; Ways of Learning; Literacy, Thought and Empowerment; What Works; and an Epilogue. Overall the book has a secondary/high school emphasis, but many of the ideas are applicable to elementary classrooms. Go to Book Review
Huffman, Terry. (2010). Theoretical Perspectives on American Indian Education: Taking a New Look at Academic Success and the Achievement Gap. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press.
Huffman discards the old "cultural deficit" explanation and examines the cultural discontinuity, structural inequality, interactionalist, and transculturation theories that seek to explain the academic performance of American Indian students. Four chapters describing, critiquing, and comprehensively examining the research supporting each theory follow an overview of American Indian education scholarship in chapter one. Reprints of four seminal educational journal articles are included, each of which provides research backing for one the theories. The concluding chapter examines emerging Indigenous/decolonization approaches to the study of American Indian education, including Tribal Critical Race Theory, the Family Education Model and the Medicine Wheel Culturally Intrinsic Research Paradigm. I also recommend Dr. Huffman's study of American Indian College students, American Indian Higher Educational Experiences: Cultural Visions and Personal Journeys (Peter Lang, 2008), and the results of his interviews with 21 American Indian educators in American Indian Educators in Reservation Schools (University of Nevada Press, 2013) and the insights of six veteran American Indian reported in Tribal Strengths and Native Education: Voices from the Reservation Classroom (University of Massachusetts Press, 2018).
May, Stephen (Ed.). (1999). Indigenous Community-Based Education. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.
A collection of ten essays describing efforts by Indigenous peoples in North and South America, Australian, New Zealand, and Europe to end assimilationist schooling that denies the value of Indigenous languages and cultures. Go to Book Review
Reyhner, Jon. (2019). Education and Language Restoration, Revised Edition. New York: Infobase Ebook.
Briefly traces the history of education from American Indian boarding schools to the present day and includes information on language revitalization. It has chapters on assimilation and the Native American, community-controlled schools and tribal colleges, Native American identity, language and culture revitalization, language policies and education goals, language teaching, language and reading, and teaching and learning styles.
Reyhner, Jon, Gilbert, Willard, & Lockard, Louise (Eds.). (2011). Honoring Our Heritage: Culturally Appropriate Approaches for Teaching Indigenous Students. Flagstaff, AZ: Northern Arizona University.
Contains nine chapters. The first two describe culturally-based education, the next three focus on cultually-based science education. The sixth chapter is on culture-based art eduction, the seventh chapter gives an example of culturally-based history education, the eighth chapter describes the development of a local studies book in Guatemala, and the final chapter describes a survey in Canada of parents in regard to the education they want for their children.Three other newer books are available on-line in this series: Honoring Our Children: Culturally Appropriate Approaches for Teaching Indigenous Students, Honoring Our Elders: Culturally Appropriate Approaches for Teaching Indigenous Students, and Honoring Our Teachers.
Reyhner, Jon (Ed.). (1992). Teaching American Indian Students. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. 328 pp. + xiii.
Comprehensive resource book for educators of American Indians that maintains that Indian students can improve their academic performance through educational approaches that do not force students to choose between the culture of their home and the culture of their school. Summarizes research on Indian education, provides practical suggestions for teachers, and offers a large selection of resources available to teachers of Indian students. Included are chapters on bilingual and multicultural education; the history of U.S. Indian education; teacher-parent relationships; language and literacy development, with particular discussion of English as a second language and American Indian literature; and teaching in the content areas of social science, science, mathematics, and physical education. "Well-integrated chapters are organized around five main topics.... With substantial appendixes on Indian education statistics, literature and teaching resources, a comprehensive list of references, and a useful index, this new edition is an essential handbook for teaching American Indian students."--Choice. Described as "a must read!" in Tribal College : Journal of American Indian Higher Education, Fall 1988. Contains information on the historical suppression of American Indian languages in schools and modern efforts at using American Indian languages in bilingual education programs. The foreword is by former senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
Reyhner, Jon. (Ed.). (2015). Teaching Indigenous Students: Honoring Place, Community, and Culture. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. 223 pp. + vii.
The contributors to Teaching Indigenous Students address the specifics of teaching the full range of subjects--from learning literacy using culturally meaningful texts to inquiry-based science curricula, and from math instruction that incorporates real-world experience to social studies that blend oral history and local culture with national and world history. They also emphasize the importance of art, music, and physical education, both traditional and modern, in producing well-rounded human beings and helping students establish their identity as twenty-first-century Indigenous peoples. Surveying the work of Indigenous-language immersion schools around world, this volume also holds out hope for the revitalization of Indigenous language and traditional cultural values. Linda Grover, Department of American Indian Studies University of Minnesota-Duluth, writes, "Educators indigenous and otherwise who work at all age and grade levels, from infant and early childhood education through advanced studies, as well as leaders and elders of indigenous communities, will find much that will enhance their own work and, most important, the success of their students. Table of Contents
Reyhner, Jon, & Jeanne Eder. (2017). American Indian Education: A History, 2nd ed. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. 392 pp. + xv.
American Indian Education is a comprehensive history of Indian education from colonial times to the present. The authors draw on firsthand accounts from teachers and students to explore the broad spectrum of Native experiences in missionary, government, and tribal boarding and day schools; to reveal the effects of changes in government policies and educational philosophies; and to explore the current resurgence of American Indian nations. Special attention is paid to teaching materials and methods used with American Indian students in boarding and day schools. Reviews of the first edition include Michael C. Coleman's in the Western Historical Quarterly where he wrote "I strongly recommend this book." He finds it "a valuable survey encompassing four centuries of educational confrontations" and concludes that "general readers will benefit from the deep historical perspective on the educational problems and opportunities facing today's Native Americans. Scholars will also appreciate the broad, yet richly-detailed, account presented." Michael W. Simpson wrote in Tribal College, "history should be readable. This book is an easy read with a story that flows, but is not simplistic" and that it "should be part of the library and instruction at all tribal colleges."
School & Program Studies

Lipka, Jerry; Mohatt, Gerald and the Ciulistet Group. (1998). Transforming the Culture of Schools: Yup'ik Eskimo Examples. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. 246. pp + xv.

Describes the problems faced by Yup'ik Eskimo teachers and the solutions they found through an indigenous support group called the Ciulistet. The Native village community expected that these teachers "should not act white," but if they acted Yup'ik, they are not considered a "real teacher." Yup'ik teachers "struggled with doubts about their effectiveness as teachers and about their ability to be of service to their communities." As a solution to the cultural differences between the village schools and the village community, the authors advocate a "culturally negotiated curriculum" that is more than simply a matter of "taking the best from both cultures." Rather, it is a complex process of decision making that must go on in every community to determine what is best for that community and its children. Go to Book Review
McLaughlin, Daniel. (1992). When Literacy Empowers: Navajo Language In Print. Albuquerque: University of Mexico Press. 216 pp. + viii.
McLaughlin describes a community controlled Navajo school with a model K-12 Navajo-English bilingual program where he worked along with the community the school serves.
Peshkin, Alan. (1997). Places of Memory: Whiteman's Schools and Native American Communities. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Peshkin tackles the question of why American Indian students' academic achievement is below average, even in Indian-controlled schools. He spent a year observing a boarding school serving New Mexico's Pueblo Indians. At this "Indian High School" low academic performance is not a case of Kozol's "savage inequalities" that prevent the school from hiring good teachers and having adequate facilities and instructional materials. This school receives a combination of Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) funding and various federal grants, and it is staffed with well educated teachers. The school had the highest percentage of Indian teachers of any high school in New Mexico. In addition, he found that the students' parents valued education. But academic success was limited. Students would participate with sustained effort and enthusiasm in basketball, but "regrettably, I saw no academic counterpart to this stellar athletic performance." Peshkin writes, "In class, students generally were well-behaved and respectful. They were not rude, loud, or disruptive. More often they were indifferent. . . . teachers could not get students to work hard consistently, to turn in assignments, to participate in class, or to take seriously . . . their classroom performance." To explain why these students did not enthusiastically embrace education, Peshkin enlarges on the cultural discontinuity (two worlds) theory of academic failure that has been written about by others and provides evidence from students, parents, and teachers to support that theory. He makes a good argument for the "student malaise" he describes and for its sources in the ambivalent attitude of the Pueblos towards schooling. Go to Book Review
Teachers' Experiences

Allen, T.D. (1982). Writing to Create Ourselves: New Approaches for Teachers, Students, and Writers. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. 253 pp. + xviii.

T.D. Allen began teaching writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts in 1963. Here she describes how she got her students to write and to rewrite during the five years she taught there. Her students' work was published in the Arrow series of anthologies as well as Emerson Blackhorse Mitchell's autobiography Miracle Hill: The Story of a Navajo Boy (University of Oklahoma Press, 1967).
Ashton-Warner, Sylvia. (1963). Teacher. New York: Simon & Schuster. 191pp.
Linda Skinner (Choctaw) in her chapter "Teaching Through Traditions" in Swisher & Tippeconnic's Next Steps: Research and Practice to Advance Indian Education (1999) writes that this book gave her "valuable insights" based on Ashton-Warner's experiences "in recognizing and meeting the need for cultural relevance with her Maori students in New Zealand. I believe every educator and parent should read this book" (p. 110).
Clark, Ann Nolan. (1969). Journey to the People: Recollections of an Inspired Educator and Writer's Experiences Teaching Indian Children. New York: Viking
Details how she adapted her teaching methods to meet the needs of her Tesuque Pueblo Indian third graders in New Mexico. Clark went on to write bilingual readers for use in Bureau of Indian Affairs schools.
Qoyawayma, Polingaysi (Elizabeth Q. White) (as told to Vada F. Carlson). (1964). No Turning Back: A Hopi Indian Woman's Struggle to Live in Two Worlds. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
Describes the author's experience as a student in mission and Bureau of Indian Affairs schools as a child and as a teacher in Bureau schools in the 1930s. Gives examples of the "language experience" approach to teaching reading and "negotiating culture" within a school's curriculum long before anyone thought up those terms.


Canadian Journal of Native Education
Journal of American Indian Education

Other Resource Lists

While I encourage people to patronize their local book stores, most, if not all, of these books can be bought on-line at either or Barnes and

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