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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 1: Be Aware of U.S. American Indian Language Policy

Guideline: Through most of the history of the United States, American Indian students were discouraged from speaking their native language in schools and even punished for speaking them. This assimilationist educational policy was changed in 1990 when President George H.W. Bush signed the Native American Languages Act (Title I of Public Law 101-477). In this act, Congress said "the status of the cultures and languages of Native Americans is unique and the United States has the responsibility to act together with Native Americans to ensure the survival of these unique cultures and languages." Congress made it the policy of the United States to "preserve, protect, and promote the rights and freedom of Native Americans to use, practice, and develop Native American languages." The act also recognized the "right of Indian tribes and other Native American governing bodies to use the Native American languages as a medium of instruction in all schools funded by the Secretary of the Interior." Furthermore, the act declared "the right of Native Americans to express themselves through the use of Native American languages shall not be restricted in any public proceeding, including publicly supported education programs."The Native American Languages Act has three important implications. First, it is a continuation of the policy of American Indian self-determination that has been in effect for the last fifty years. Second, it is a reversal of the historic policy of the United States government to suppress American Indian languages in Bureau of Indian Affairs and other schools. Third, it is a reaction to attempts to make English the official language of the United States. In 2006, Congress voted to authorize more funding for language revitalization with the passage of the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act.


Native American Languages with Map

This website lists the mapped native languages of the Americas, which are among the most numerous and varied in the world, and provides scholars with rich sources of information on the many ways people make speech and language.  The number of distinct languages in North America figures in the hundreds, however, by studying similarities and differences, scientists have placed most tribes into one of about 12 groups.




Know the Laws - National Coalition of Native American Language Schools and Programs

This National Coalition of Native American Language Schools and Programs website advocates knowledge of U.S. Native American Language Act (NALA) of 1990, as well as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2016, and what still needs to be done to preserve Native American Languages. 

Native American Language Map



9 Ways the New Education Law Is a Win for Indian Country

The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 is a big win for Indian country, according to the National Indian Education Association (NIEA) reports Tanya H. Lee in this February 2016 Indian Country Today article. NIEA Executive Director Ahniwake Rose, Cherokee/Creek, and Federal Policy Associate Dimple Patel explained why in a January 27 webinar, “Understanding the Every Student Succeeds Act.” ESSA, signed into law by President Obama on December 10, reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, a piece of civil rights legislation meant to protect the nation’s most vulnerable children. ESSA replaces the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act and shifts much of the responsibility for elementary and secondary education from the federal government to the states.  For the first time ever, states and local educational agencies (LEAs) are required to engage in meaningful consultation with tribes or tribal organizations in the development of state plans for Title I grants. Further, LEAs must consult with tribes before making any decision that affects opportunities for American Indian/Alaska Native students in programs, services or activities funded by ESSA.

American Indian Language Policy and School Success

Authored by Dr. Jon Reyhner, Northern Arizona University, this article discusses the link between students' academic success and their retention of their native language and culture.




*NEW video* The Navajo Code Talkers, Our Heroes

This video was shown in the House of Representatives at the Arizona State Capital during the Navajo Code Talker Monument dedication on February 28, 2008.

An Emerging Native Language Education Framework for Reservation Public Schools with Mixed Populations

This 2008 Volume 47, Issue 2 of the Journal of American Indian Education, author Phyllis Bo-yuen Ngai, gathered grassroots input across communities with mixed populations like the Flathead Indian Reservation Montana. Study participants suggested approaches for dealing with existing obstacles and ways to include diverse, local perspectives.  The emerging framework presented here consists of prerequisite conditions, action steps, and program elements that are abstracted from their district-based recommendations and reservation-wide recommendations.  This initial blueprint includes guidelines for increasing and improving Native language learning on, and possibly beyond, the research sites.

True Whispers: The Story of Navajo Code Talkers (Video)

Debuted in 2002, TRUE WHISPERS tells the moving and personal story of the World War II Navajo Code Talkers. Recruited as teenagers from harsh government and mission schools where they were forbidden to use their native language, they served as U.S. Marines from 1942-1945 utilizing that very language to transmit vital coded messages that were key to the U.S. victory in the Pacific. The wartime contributions of these Native Americans went unrecognized for over fifty years and this documentary, uniquely positioned from their point of view including cultural, personal and intimate moments, provides part of the long overdue tribute they deserve. "True Whispers" is directed and written by Valerie Red-Horse Mohl and produced by Gale Anne Hurd and Valerie Red-Horse Mohl in association with ITVS, with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.



Native American Languages Act: Twenty Years Later, Has It Made a Difference?

This July 18, 2012 Cultural Survival article explores United States government policy, namely in 1990, Congress passed the Native American Languages Act (NALA), recognizing that “the status of the cultures and languages of Native Americans is unique and the United States has the responsibility to act together with Native Americans to ensure [their] survival.” The article reviews that Congress updated the NALA in 1992, adding a grant program to “assist Native Americans in assuring the survival and continuing vitality of their languages.”   Additional financing became available through the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act of 2006 (with an additional $12 million in 2009). After review of current Native Language legislation, this article ponders, "Native American Languages Act: Twenty Years Later, Has It Made a Difference?"

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.