Thursday, January 12, 2006

Education for Native children: Let's talk about Tribal Schools

Amy Price, my TA and GRA for "If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything," and I are scheduled to lead a discussion related to literacy in Indian communities on Sunday, 22 January, at ALA/Midwinter. Our talk is sponsored by a discussion group of the Literacy Committee. In preparing our bibliography, I reviewed a number of the sources I have on boardng schools. This week, as 50,000 students return to UT-Austin, I'm absorbed again with contemplating what life is like for young people leaving home to seek their education. Many people are not aware of the history of Indian boarding schools, education for children modeled along military lines and designed to speed up the process of assimilation. Early schools aimed to remove Native culture from the lives of Indian children, banning cultural expressions including language. Even fewer people know that boarding schools (not the elite private boarding schools covered in Porter Sargent!) for Indian children still exist. For information about Native education, see the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Office of Indian Education Programs (OIEP). I'll introduce some of these schools in future columns, schools that are now developing innovative curriculum models and providing opportunities for Native children to express and explore their cultures while preparing for lives both on and off Indian lands.