American Indian Education:
K. TSIANINA LOMAWAIMA
The term "American Indian education" has referred to the education of Indian
Indian people. The term has also referred to the education designed
Indian people by colonizing nations. For the last five centuries, education
Indians have stood at loggerheads. The former has been dedi-
cated, as in all human societies, to perpetuating family values, language, religion,
politics, economies, skills, sciences, and technologies. Colonial education
has been dedicated to eradicating Native knowledge and values, and substituting
values and knowledge judged to be "civilized."
In the "American" era (from 1776 through the present), "civilized" education
has usually meant instruction in English and the suppression of Native languages;
conversion to Christianity and the criminalization of Native religions; an emphasis
on manual labor, and on "industrial" or "vocational" rather than academic training;
strict regimentation of dress, emotional expression, and physical activity through
military discipline; and physical disruption of family/community by removing
Indian children into boarding schools, tuberculosis sanatoria, orphanages, and non-
Indian foster homes (see Qoyawayma, 1964; Giago, 1978; St. Pierre, 1991;
Skolnick and Skolnick, 1997). Despite generations of efforts to "civilize" them,
Native people have vigorously defended education
Indians, and have vigorously
resisted colonial education in both overt and covert ways.
One of the most overt student rebellions took place in 1919 at the off-reservation
boarding school, Haskell Institute, in Lawrence, Kansas. Students ran "amok" one
evening, shouting '"Let's string him up!' as the principal worked to restore order"
(Child, 1996: 54). Parents protested by keeping students home, or by writing letters.
Filling box after box in the National Archives, parental letters address enrollment poli-