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American Indian Education Knowledgbase

This KnowledgeBase archive includes content and external links that were accurate and relevant as of September 30, 2019.

The American Indian Education KnowledgeBase is an online resource to aid education professionals in their efforts to improve the education of American Indian students and close the achievement gap American Indian students have faced in public, Bureau of Indian Education, and other schools.

Task 3: Avoid Biased Teaching and Stereotypes

Guideline: Misperceptions of American Indians abound in western culture. Some such stereotypes have carried over into educational practices and curriculum. Images such as American Indians wearing feathers, living in a tipi, making whooping sounds, and being associated with Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims do not present children with an accurate portrayal of native people. For this reason, it is important for educators to study American Indians in a way that allows students to see the diversity and uniqueness of the individual tribes.


10 More Things Teachers Should Never Do When Educating Native Youth

This September 2017 Indian Country article follows up the article 10 Things Teachers Should Never Do When Teaching Native Kids with these additional 10 More Things Teachers Should Never Do When Educating Native Youth which include: overlooking a Native Student's indigenous identity, stereotypically referring to all Native American Indians in the past-tense, teaching the stereotypical Thanksgiving story, using false Indian language or slang, denying American Indian genocide, asking a Native American student to speak for all Native American people, and make assumptions upon their appearance or name whether they are Native American or not.  The pulse of the entire article encourages educators of Native American students is not to give up on them.

7 Things Teachers Need to Know About Native American Heritage Month

In these November 2014 Indian Country Today, and 2017 Students at the Center.Hub articles by Christina Rose, teachers are offered 7 things to know about American Indian History Month. Without guidance, too many teachers will celebrate Native American Heritage Month in the only ways they know how: paper bag vests and feathers, classroom pow wows, and discussions on who Indians were.  Even for teachers with the best intentions, great material may be hard to recognize without understanding the basics: worldview, sovereignty, circular thinking, true history. Teachers who teach local history with facts that include real outcomes will find their students more engaged than when they teach solely from history books.  Teachers can’t know what they don’t know, and if they have never spent time immersed in any Native culture they won’t know the effects of colonization or of ongoing issues in U.S. and Native politics. If teachers do not know the very basic and important facts, they cannot teach Native studies from an unbiased point of view.

Appropriate Methods When Teaching About Native American Peoples

This resource provides a checklist of "Do's and Don'ts" with appropriate methods to use when teaching about Native Americans.


Teacher's Tool for Reflective Practice

From McREL, "this self-reflection journaling tool is intended to provide teachers and their colleagues with the opportunity to reflect on cultural differences between themselves and their students and to consider alternative interaction styles and contexts for learning."


10 Things Teachers Should Never Do When Teaching Native Kids

In this September 2017 Indian Country Today article, advice is offered to teachers. Teachers often ask Native students about anything that comes up about Native Americans. Tell your child’s teachers that every tribe is different as are opinions among Indigenous Peoples, and your child cannot speak for everyone. Recommend books like 500 Nations by Alvin M. Josephy.

Countering Bias through an Inclusive Curriculum

This Albuquerque Public Schools website instructional strategies are offered through the Indian Education Department (IED). This guide for classroom educators to develop culturally relevant and appropriate instructional lessons that are sensitive and inclusive of Native American learning styles values by Cajete, (2000) and culture.  Currently APS provides educational services to approximately 6,000 Native American students belonging to over 115 tribes. Throughout the 1990s, educators have called for change in U.S. schools, including changes that celebrate the diversity in American culture and language usage. One result of this important reform movement has been the development of an anti-bias perspective in curriculum and instruction. The Native American child has a need to have their history, heritage, language, and culture valued and appreciated at all levels of education.

Practical Tips

10 Quick Ways to Analyze Children's Books for Racism and Sexism

This article from the Council on Interracial Books for Children provides guidance in selecting bias-free reading materials for children.

Six Misconceptions About Native American People - Teen Vogue

In this November 2016 video, seven Native American girls, (Laurel Cotton, Duannette Reyome, Evannah Moniz-Reyome, Kiera Thompson, Wacantkiya Mani Win Eagle, and Wanbli Waunsila Win Eagle), debunk the common misconceptions about their culture.


Evaluating American Indian Materials and Resources for the Classroom

This Montana Office of Public Instruction document provides suggestions for how educators can review classroom materials for biases about American Indians.

Fluff and Feathers: Treatment of American Indians in the Literature and the Classroom

This article by Cornel Peweward in the April 1998 issue of Equity & Excellence in Education discusses how Indians are often presented in a stereotyped fashion in classroom curriculum.

Teaching Tolerance

This link to the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance project offers resources on teaching tolerance.

Unbiased Teaching About American Indians and Alaska Natives in Elementary Schools

This June 1990 ERIC digest reference from the Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools gives teachers realistic information about this growing population. It identifies some of the common myths about American Indians and Alaska Natives that contribute to curriculum bias. The concluding discussion suggests activities and resources to help elementary students—and their teachers—understand the realities of how Indians live today and how they lived in the past. Bias about Indians is often the result of inaccurate information. The realities of American Indian and Alaskan Native life are often oversimplified and distorted. Stylized classroom accounts of Indian life reinforce the "buckskin and feather" and the "Eskimo and igloo" stereotypes (Madison School District, 1978). With such instruction, students are certain to develop misguided impressions of Indians. In textbooks, movies, and TV programs, American Indians and Alaska Natives have been treated in ways that tend both to overlook their dignity and to disgrace their heritage.  For example, Indians who defended their homeland from invaders (and who today seek to preserve their languages and cultures) have often been viewed as enemies of progress. In the context of history, they have been viewed as barriers to the settlement of the frontier by white people. In the present, they have been viewed as a "social problem," a drain on national resources. Teachers, in short, can be the victims of the instructional materials they count on.



*NEW video* Americana Indian - Thinking Twice About Images That Matter

In her 2015 TedX presentation, Nancy Marie Mithlo focuses on American Indian stereotypes.

And Now We Rise

This 2018 website features a documentary film introducing a portrait of Samuel Johns, a young Athabaskan hip hop artist, and founder of the Forget Me Not Facebook Group, which connects homeless, far flung family members, and displaced people in Alaska, and the United States.  Samuel is an activist for a cultural renaissance, as he heals from his own legacy of historical trauma. The producer states, "the general public needs to understand the impact historical trauma has had on our indigenous people, and how they are becoming involved and becoming the change. The change is brewing, and it’s hopeful."

Changing the Way We See Native Americans

This 20-minute 2014 TEDx talk produced independently of the TED Conferences, features Matika Wilbur and her 2013 project of massive scope: to photograph members of each Federally recognized tribe in the United States. "My dream," Wilbur says, "is that our children are given images that are more useful, truthful, and beautiful." Matika Wilbur—photographer, activist, writer, and educator—undertook Project 562, an endeavor of unprecedented impact and scope. Project 562 seeks to photograph every Federally recognized tribe in the United States and reveal in a brilliant spectrum of art, media, and curricula, the rich and complex twenty-first century image and reality of contemporary Native Americans. A simple, heartfelt idea forms Wilbur's work: "By exposing the astonishing variety of the Indian presence and reality at this juncture, we will build cultural bridges, abandon stereotypes, and renew and inspire our national legacy."

Native American Films for Public Broadcasting and Education

This Vision Maker Media website offers both the resources to create a Native American film for public broadcasting, and a searchable gallery of Native American films such as: A Blackfeet Encounter, A Native American Night Before Christmas, A Tattoo On My Heart, Aboriginal Architecture, the Apache 8, and Aleut Story.  The search feature can drill down to the 'Initiative or Areas of Interest' along with a 'Tribe or Group selection'. Some films have educational guides and/or viewer discussion guides for educational lesson plans.

Surviving Disappearance, Re-Imagining & Humanizing Native Peoples

In this 2013 video, Matika Wilbur, one of the Pacific Northwest's leading photographers, asks her audience to think about how images of Native Americans in mainstream media is false.  As a national and international artist whose photos are exhibited extensively in regional, national, and international venues such as the Seattle Art Museum, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, The Tacoma Art Museum, the Royal British Columbia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Nantes Museum of Fine Arts in France, Matika explains how becoming a certified teacher at Tulalip Heritage High School, providing inspiration for the youth of her own indigenous community.

Thriving in Indian Country: What's in the Way and How Do We Overcome? (Video)

In this 2017 TEDx video presentation, Dr. Anton Treuer, Professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University, gives a focused look at mascots, microaggressions, and helping Native Americans thrive. Dr. Treuer states, "It can’t be a recipe for a healthy nation if our largest demographic of kids is only getting to the finish line a little over half the time. Somehow, we’re going to have to start listening to other perspectives.”  An author of 14 books, Dr. Treuer has a BA from Princeton University and an MA and PhD from the University of Minnesota. He is Editor of the Oshkaabewis Native Journal, the only academic journal of the Ojibwe language. Throughout the world, Dr. Treuer has shared the following presentations: 'Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians but Were Afraid to Ask', 'Cultural Competence & Equity, Strategies for Addressing the “Achievement” Gap', and 'Tribal Sovereignty, History, Language, and Culture'. 

Walk A Mile in My Redface: Ending the Colonial in Culture, Schools, Sports and Mass Media

In this 2014 video, Director of Portland State's Indigenous Nations Studies program, Professor Cornel Pewewardy, who is Comanche-Kiowa and an enrolled citizen of the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma, discusses culturally responsive education, as well as how Native Americans feel about Native American mascots in schools and media.  Cornel Pewewardy's excellence in the classroom was recognized by the National Indian Education Association (NIEA), which named him its 2009 Teacher of the Year.



*NEW video* A Conversation With Native Americans on Race

This 2018 New York Times video features: “A Conversation With Native Americans on Race,” the latest installment in their wide-ranging “Conversation on Race” series. Directed by Michèle Stephenson and Brian Young, the film grapples with the racist contradictions of a country that, many feel, would prefer it if Native Americans didn’t exist.

*NEW video* Red Crow Says Goodbye

In this moving 2004 video, Floyd "Red Crow" Westerman (1936 - 2007) bids farewell to this world and sends a special greeting to his Irish friends. He also discusses racism in sports, Irish activist Bobby Sands, and the goals of the American Indian Movement (AIM).  Considered AIM's "Minister of Culture" Floyd "Red Crow" Westerman passed into the spirit world on December 13th, 2007.

American Indian Curriculum and Lesson Plans -- Minnesota

This Minnesota Office of Indian Education website provides K-12 curriculum resources, information, support and oversight to public school staff, parents and students in the area of Indian Education. 

American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving

Each November, educators across the county teach their students about the First Thanksgiving, a quintessentially American holiday.  Educators try to give an accurate picture of Plymouth in 1621, and explain how this even fits into American history. Unfortunately, many teaching materials give incomplete or inaccurate portrayal of the First Thanksgiving, particularly the event's Native American participants.  This poster serves as a "jumping-off" point to start in-depth educational discussion and exploration.  Discussion, and other classroom ideas, are included in each section.  It is also recommended students are introduced to the 'real Thanksgiving story', found in "Harvest Ceremony: The Myth of Thanksgiving". 

American Indians: The Image of the Indian

An early twentieth-century elementary school textbook quizzed pupils on their grasp of the lesson devoted to American Indians. It was a time of unblushing certainty about the superiority of civilization to “savagery.” “In what three ways were the Indians different from the white men,” the school text asked, and “What did the white people think of the Indians?” Judging from related questions, the correct answer was that the Indians were strange:

What was one of the strangest things that the Indians did? What strange things did the Indians believe about spirits? What strange things did the Indians do to drive the evil spirits away?

Today it is difficult even to talk about the racial stereotypes once so confidently assumed. Stereotyping as a subject for study may be historical, but the emotions it arouses are eminently present day.  This June 27, 2017 'Teacher Serve' website from the expores stereotypical views of the American Indian bolstered by ineducation, miseducation, apapthy or racism.

10 Rules for Teaching Native Students

This August 2014 Indian Country Today article shares the Andre Cramblit's 30 years of experience teaching American Indian students at all levels (parent, teachers aid, bus driver, high school teacher, education specialist, consultant, head start teacher and director, college instructor, principal, and tribal education director). They are written to an audience of supplemental American Indian Education programs and educators working with Native students. Mr. Cramblit  modified these rules and added to them over the years as he continues to learn and find other successful methodologies, practices and programs.

U.S. Schools Are Teaching Our Children That Native Americans Are History

This 2013 post originally appeared on 'Sociological Images', a Pacific Standard partner site, as “U.S. Schools Teach Children That Native Americans Are History”, explores American Indian curriculum whereas the vast majority of references to American Indians—87 percent—portrayed them as a population that existed only prior to 1900. There was “nothing,” she said, about contemporary issues for American Indian populations or the ongoing conflicts over land and water rights or sovereignty. Additionally, “All of the states are teaching that there were civil ways to end problems,” she said, “and that the Indian problem was dealt with nicely.” Only one state, Washington, uses the word genocide. Only four states mention Indian boarding schools, institutions that represent the removal of children from their families, and forced re-socialization into a Euro-American way of life.

What Every Teacher Needs to Know To Teach Native American Students

The purpose of this article is to discuss the culture and learning styles of Native American students and to offer educational practices that will likely aid this group of students to work to their potential. Many people do not recognize that Native American children are unique and differ greatly from each other, even within one community. Although Native Americans can differ greatly from each other like members of any other racial group and research does not indicate that there is a unique Native American way of learning, careful attention to common differences between Native American and mainstream students is important. Teachers need to understand the way Native American students are likely to perceive the world if they are seriously interested in improving the education of this group.

The contents of this website were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and are intended for general reference purposes only. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education or the Center, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. Some resources on this site require Adobe Acrobat Reader. This website archive includes content and external links that were accurate and relevant as of September 30, 2019.