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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 4: Understand the American Indian Perspective on Gifted and Talented Education

Guideline: The number of educational programs and practices for gifted and talented American Indian students is increasing. As public education in the United States begins to diversify its efforts to meet the needs of all gifted students, educators are becoming more aware that "giftedness" can apply to all students, regardless of their racial background, ethnic heritage, or socio-economic status. The emergence of gifted and talented education practices for American Indians is patterned after the general trend in U.S. education. However, there are unique aspects that clearly define the special needs regarding gifts and talents of American Indians. Educators of American Indian students need to understand how their students' gifts and talents are manifested in a variety of ways and influenced by the tribal cultures from which they come.



Identifying and Teaching Gifted Native American Students

This January 2009 Education Week Teacher article written by Tamara Fisher, who is a  K-12 Gifted Education Specialist for a school district located on an Indian Reservation. explores the identification of Native American Gifted and Talented students.  Fisher writes, "It is first important to note that the term 'Native American' (or, if you prefer, “American Indian”) does not refer to one distinct culture or people. More than 500 different tribes are recognized in the U.S., each with its own unique culture, traditions, and language. For every characteristic or strategy that may apply to the gifted youth of one tribe, the opposite could be true for the gifted youth of another tribe."  Fisher states that the strategies and characteristics mentioned here are general ones; and strongly recommends that readers view this information through the lens of what they already know about the culture and traditions of the Indian children with whom they work. To best reach the gifted Indian youth in our schools, it is imperative that teachers and gifted specialists become aware of their tribal culture and traditions because these cultures and traditions can greatly influence how a student expresses and utilizes his or her gifts and talents.



American Indian Gifted and Talented Students: Their Problems and Proposed Solutions

This 1991 JSTOR journal article offers the viewpoint of gifted and talented American Indian students via the author, Rockey Robbins, who spent 21 days with over 125 American Indian gifted and talented students on the Oklahoma City University campus as part of a summer residential enrichment program.

Gifted and Talanted American Indian and Alaskan Native Students

This paper by Stuart Tonemah notes that American Indian Tribes have a critical need for effective leadership, which can be found in the brightest of their youth.  However, the focus of federal and state programs has been to provide remedial education.  Historically, Native students at federal boarding schools did not perform at high levels due to low teacher expectations, little opportunity and peer pressure.  Conformity to mainstream norms is still a problem for Native students, who still struggle at being Native and gifted, as well as with poverty, isolation, and the usual identity problems with adolescence. The Native community must be involved with designing, implementing and evaluating educational programs.  More Native teachers are needed to teach this student population, to conduct training for educators and parents, and to encourage parent involvement in gifted programs.  This paper contains over 100 references.

National Association for Gifted Children

As noted at its website, "The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) is an organization of parents, teachers, educators, other professionals, and community leaders who unite to address the unique needs of children and youth with demonstrated gifts and talents as well as those children who may be able to develop their talent potential with appropriate educational experiences."

Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG)

As noted at its website, "SENG brings attention to the unique emotional needs of gifted children. It provides adults with guidance, information, resources, and a forum to communicate about raising and educating gifted children."


Gifted Native American Students -- Overlooked and Underserved

This paper represents a major initiative in May of 2011 at the 2nd leadership summit in Ganado, Arizona to develop a national research agenda focused on gifted/creative/talented Native American students, as this population is one of the least researched, most overlooked, and most underserved in this field.  This process of reviewing and revision of assumptions were used two more times by teachers at Standing Rock and Red Lake reservations in South Dakota and Minnesota, respectively. 

Increasing Native American Indian Involvement in Gifted Programs in Rural Schools

Native American Indian students are not identified or served at the same rate as their majority counterparts. Javits Grants are part of a small federal program providing funding for direct service research and demonstration projects. The purpose of the grants is to resolve the problems in identifying and meeting the needs of underrepresented gifted populations. Herein is a description of Project LEAP, which was designed to identify and meet the needs of rural high school students who have gifts, talents, or high potential over a three-year study.



Gifted Native American Students: Literature, Lessons, and Future Directions

A national research agenda focused on gifted/creative/talented Native American students is needed, as this population remains one of the least researched, most overlooked, and most underserved in the field. Literature-based assumptions surrounding Native American students’ talent development, culture and traditions, cognitive styles and learning preferences, and communication were generated and then reviewed by educators and tribal members for relevance and accurace. This article has three purposes. The first is to analyze the literature-based assumptions concerning gifted education in three Native American communities—Diné, Lakota, and Ojibwe. The second is to call on gifted education researchers to include Native American students in their research. The third is to suggest a research agenda based on data gathered within these communities.

Identifying Gifted and Talented American Indian Students: An Overview. ERIC Digest.

Gifted and talented youngsters exist within any racial group or cultural setting. In this country, however, the processes and instruments for identifying gifted American Indians are little suited to the task. Giftedness is often defined by tests which reflect Euro-American middle-class standards, with virtually no attention to expectations and values of American Indian culture. However, identification of gifted and talented Indians can be achieved if educators define a broader perspective than that currently used and asks the questions: Who are the Gifted and Talented? How Are the Gifted Identified? What Roles Will the School and Community play in this Identification?

Introducing the Big Picture Learning Native American Initiative

"Indian education dates back to a a time when all children were identified as gifted and talented. Each child had a skill and ability that would contribute to the health and vitality of the community. Everyone in the community was expected and trained to be a teacher to identify and cultivate these skills and abilities. The elders were entrusted to oversee this sacred act of knowledge being shared. That is our vision for Indian education today." - CHiXapkaid (Dr. Michael Pavel)   The Big Picture Learning Native American Initiative strives to (1) Ensure that each BPL network school is prepared to meet the unique cultural and linguistic needs of their American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) students, as guaranteed by the treaties; (2) Decolonize and indigenize Big Picture Learning network schools so that all students may benefit from the wide breadth of cultural knowledge and worldviews of Indigenous peoples.

Many Native American Students Don't Learn About Their Languages and Cultures in School

This May 2019 Education Weekly article by Corey Mitchell explores a new report that delves into the K-12 experiences of American Indian and Alaska Native students found that roughly half of them have never been exposed to their native languages in school or at home.  The paper, which explores findings from the National Indian Education Study—a report that comes out every four years—found that students in schools with a larger share of American Indian and Alaska Native students were more likely to be exposed to native languages than were their peers in schools with fewer native students.

American Indians: Gifted, Talented, Creative, or Forgotten?

This 2010 Roper Review Journal entry offers an article by Roberta R. Daniels which states American Indians comprise one of the most diverse minority groups, speak over 200 languages, and have limited representation in programs for the gifted. Flexibility must be evidenced in programming for gifted American Indians when considering characteristics such as: cooperative, (rather than competitive), infinite view of time, and legend valued over scientific explanations. Exemplary programs for gifted American Indians must rely on instruments that assess skills other than verbal performance. The Native American Indians’ needs, values, and tribal history are reflected in programming options presented in this document.

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.