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."