Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
March 11, 2000 - Issue 05

Indian Education Timeline
Compiled by World-Herald staff writers Henry J. Cordes and Lisa Prue.

1778-1871 The treaty period, in which the federal government promises numerous services and aid to Indian tribes in exchange for millions of acres of land. The first treaty between the U.S. and a tribe in which the government specifically promises to provide for the education of Indian children is signed in 1794 with the Oneida, Tuscarora and Stockbridge Tribes. Such promises become typical in more than 400 treaties over 80 years. Initially, education was delivered primarily by religious missions under contract with the U.S. government.
1832 Responsibility for Indian education is assigned to the commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
1879 First of a series of military-style boarding schools opens in an abandoned military barracks in Carlisle, Pa. The schools represent a new policy of forced assimilation of Indians into white culture. Boarding schools, some run directly by the BIA and others under contract with religious missions, allow children little contact with their parents, reducing the influence of native language and culture.
1887 Dawes Act passes, requiring allotment of tribal lands to individual Indians, an effort to dissolve tribal social structures, force assimilation and free millions of acres of reservation lands for white settlement. Boarding schools become an important part of the allotment plan, intended to prepare Indian children for nontribal living. Proceeds from sale of "excess" reservation lands fund major expansion of the boarding schools system.
1920 Meriam Report, a critique of federal Indian policy by the Brookings Institute, calls boarding schools a total failure and national disgrace. The report cites inadequate facilities and poor quality of education and condemns the practice of taking Indian children from families. The report also says the Indian family and social structure should be strengthened, not destroyed.
1933 John Collier becomes Indian commissioner in the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration and begins dismantling the boarding-school system and constructing day schools. By 1943, two-thirds of children are in day schools run by the federal government or by states.
1934 Dawes Act is repealed, ending allotment era. Also, Johnson-O'Malley Act is passed, which allows states to be reimbursed for the cost of educating Indian children in public schools on reservations. This marks the beginning of a shift in delivery of education from federally run schools to public schools under state control.
1944 House Select Committee on Indian affairs recommends reverting to boarding schools. It ultimately does not happen, but the push slows the movement of children toward day schools and public schools, keeping some Indian children in boarding schools well into the 1960s.
1948 New postwar U.S. policy seeks solution to the "Indian problem:" dissolving Indian tribes, forcing assimilation, ending federal financial responsibilities and freeing reservation lands. Termination policy is fought by tribes and ultimately not fully realized. Still, it has significant impact on education as Indians by the thousands are forced to move into U.S. cities, where their children become small minorities in mostly white public school systems.
1958 Congress extends impact aid - federal dollars paid to public school districts educating children living on untaxed federal lands like military bases - to include reservation lands, which are held in trust by the federal government and also are tax-exempt. Move further facilitates state establishment of public schools on reservations.
1969 Senate study initiated by the late U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy calls Indian education policy a "national tragedy," citing high dropout rate, poor attendance and poor performance of Indian children. The report calls for educational programs to make public schools and remaining BIA schools more supportive of Indians' culture and unique educational needs.
1972 Congress passes the Indian Education Act in response to the Kennedy report. Under it, each public school educating Indian children, whether on a reservation or in a city, is eligible for federal funds on a per-student basis intended to meet the special needs of Indian children. It also gives Indian parents more of a voice in how schools educate their children.
1975 Indian Self-Determination Act is passed, beginning the process of turning 180 remaining federal Indian schools over to tribal control. Two-thirds are operated by tribes today, with federal funding.
1991 A federal task force releases "Indian Nations at Risk" report citing some progress in education but continued failure of thousands of Indian children in the nation's schools.
1998 President Clinton signs an executive order beginning a two-year study by the BIA and U.S. Department of Education on how to improve Indian education.
Reprinted under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law.

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