Parent Page: Educational Services id: 31880 Active Page: Learn About the Indian New Deal of the 1930sid:31922

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: Learn About the Indian New Deal of the 1930s

Guideline: Educators will know how the 1928 Meriam Report led to a change in the U.S. Government's Indian education policy, starting with the Indian New Deal in the 1930s and the passage of the Indian Reorganization and Johnson O'Malley Acts in 1934.

Overview: The Indian Bureau's success in assimilating American Indians into American "civilization" was increasingly criticized in the 1920s, and the 1928 Meriam Report confirmed those criticisms. With the change in administration brought on by the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt as president, the Bureau's leading critic, John Collier, was put in charge of the Bureau in 1933. He remained Commissioner of Indian Affairs until 1945--the longest serving Commissioner in U.S. history.

In 1920, John Collier observed the Taos Pueblo Red Deer Dance. He found in the dance a power for living which, "If our modern world should be able to recapture... the earth's natural resources and web of life would not be irrevocably wasted within the twentieth century which is the prospect now. True democracy, founded in neighborhoods and reaching over the world, would become the realized heaven on earth.... [Modern society has] lost that passion and reverence for human personality and for the web of life and the earth which the American Indians have tended as a central sacred fire." Collier thought, "Assimilation, not into our culture but into modern life, and preservation and intensification of heritage are not hostile choices, excluding one another, but are interdependent through and through.... It is the ancient tribal, village, communal organization which must conquer the modern world."

Under Collier's leadership, Congress passed the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, which gave tribes more self-governance, and the Johnson O'Malley Act, which provided funding to public schools to educate American Indian students. In 1936, Willard Beatty, President of the Progressive Education Association, became the Bureau's Education Director. Beatty, who served until 1952, promoted more culturally sensitive policies and educational methods in Indian schools. The revised 1938 introduction to the Civil Service Examination for positions in the Indian School Service highlighted the importance of giving "students an understanding and appreciation of their tribal lore, art, music, and community organization." In his memoirs, Collier noted he and Beatty "intended that school life become bilingual, and that the schools should serve adult and child alike."



INDIAN REORGANIZATION ACT (1934) - The Living New Deal

President Roosevelt signed the Indian Reorganization Act (also called the Wheeler-Howard Act) on June 18, 1934. This website explores the Indian Reorganization Act, which was designed, “To conserve and develop Indian lands and resources; to extend to Indians the right to form business and other organizations; and to establish a credit system for Indians; to grant certain rights of home rule to Indians; to provide for vocational education for Indians."


Indigenous Languages Articles

This website hosts a collection of articles focusing on Teaching Indigenous Languages by Northern Arizona University Professor Jon Reyhner, Ed.D.

Early Reform Efforts

The early Indian reform efforts were pushed by John Collier of the American Indian Defense Association. This resource summarizes those efforts and their results.

Perspectives on the Indian Reorganization Act

From History Matters, this resource offers links to three differing views on the impact of Indian Reorganization Act. The interviews are available in printed and audio form.

Records of the National Congress of American Indians 1933-1990

This 2015 Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian report focuses on the records of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), which reflect the operations of their Washington, DC office.  These papers primarily cover the period of 1943 - 1990, although some document pre-dating NCAI are present. The bulk of the material relates to legislation, lobbying, and NCAI's interactions with various government bodies.

The 1930s

This resource from the American Indian Education Foundation summarizes the focus on native culture and the development of the Indian division of the Civilian Conservation Corps.


America's Great Indian Nations

This 2013 documentary published by Questar Entertainment is the first comprehensive history of six great Indian nations, dramatically filmed on location at their native tribal lands across America, using reenactments, archival footage, maps and original music. The story of the Iroquois, Seminole, Shawnee, Navajo, Cheyenne, and Lakota Sioux Nations unfold in their struggle to protect their lands, cultures, and freedoms.

American Indian Activist Russell Means Video of 1989 Speech to U.S. Congress

This 1989 video features the Legendary Native American Indian activist Russell Means, (November 10, 1939 - October 22, 2012), as he harshly criticizes the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Indian tribal leadership of reservations. 

American Indians Confront "Savage Anxieties"

As part of the $585 billion defense bill for 2015, Congress passed a measure that would give lands sacred to American Indians in Arizona to a foreign company. In this 2014 PBS video interview, Bill Moyer speaks with Robert A. Williams Jr., a professor specializing in American Indian law, about how such deals are a part of American Indian's tragic history of dispossession.

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.

What the Sale of Manhattan Doesn't Tell Us About Native Americans

In this 2014 TedX video, T.M. Rives believes our understanding of the Native Americans that inhabited the New York area is encapsulated in a single story; the sale of Manhattan, NY for $24. Encoded in this story and the symbols that represent it are fundamental misconceptions about the native population. Thorough analysis and often very funny deconstruction of this myth and its imagery, Rives gives us a much deeper and more valuable look at the complex culture Europeans discovered when they settled New York City.


Successfully Educating Urban American Indian Students: An Alternative School Format

This 2003 Journal of American Indian Education (V42, Issue 3) explores an educator who stepped away from the status quo of traditional high school teaching methods and created an educational haven for American Indian students in this case study.

The Relocation of Native American Indians

This 2009 PBS video explains why most Native Americans do not live on reservations. This is largely due to the fact that, in the 1950's, the U.S. government thought one way to solve the 'Indian problem' was to relocate Indians from the reservation to larger cities. Over 100,000 Indians were relocated in just 15 years.

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.