Native American boarding schools, also known as Indian Residential Schools, were established in the United States during the late 19th and mid 20th centuries with a primary objective of assimilating Native American children and youth into Euro-American culture, while at the same time providing a basic education in Euro-American subject matters. Subsequent legislation and funding brought about sweeping and dramatic changes in the educational system in rural Alaska. In addition, the treaties helped to initiate a pattern of dependency in which Native Americans were forced to rely on the federal government for essential services because their traditional, and historically effective, means of providing these services for themselves was lost through displacements resulting from the treaty arrangements (Prucha, 1984). • The number of American Indian/Alaska Native students enrolled in colleges and universities more than doubled in the past 30 years, along with the number of associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s ... federal Indian boarding school. ), Cross-Cultural Issues in Alaskan Education (pp. When rural young people reached high school age, they were sent to regional hubs or to Lower 48 schools to fulfill their legally required education benchmarks. & G. Gipp. Since many of the factors that currently inhibit success for Alaska Native students in our public schools come from the lingering effects of past schooling policies and practices, Alaskans must be diligent in their efforts to learn wisely from the past history of schooling in the State. History of Alaska Native Education. (1999). The first meeting of the Commission was held in February 1992. The assumption that people's needs are best served through schools that promote "civilization" and Christianity has continued to be a powerful theme throughout the history of Alaska Native education (Barnhardt, C. 1985, 1994; Darnell & Hoem, 1996; Dauenhauer, 1982; Ongtooguk, 1992, 2000; Shales, 1998). The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 represented the first major involvement of the federal government in education for groups of children beyond American Indians and Alaska Natives. The treaties provided the means of negotiating with Indians who controlled land, resources, and trade routes to which newcomers wanted access. A cadre of Alaska Native educators who not only have typical university credentials, but who have actual experience with the administrative responsibilities of developing and implementing reform efforts that are directly tied to Alaska Native interests, needs and priorities; A cadre of Alaska Native elders who are directly involved in decision-making related to educational policy and practice from K-12 curriculum to the development of tribal colleges; A momentum for school reform that builds on, and meaningfully incorporates, the cultures, languages and traditions of all groups of Alaska Native peoples. Culturally, the American Indian has a deep sense of religion that is tied to the earth and based upon a relationship to all living things. "Alaska Native Boarding Schools" Alaska Native Arts & Culture ... ‘Assimilation’ playwright flips the script on Native history. The following information is provided: (1) an overview of the Alaska context; (2) a review of federal policies that have directly affected education in Alaska; and (3) a historical analysis of the evolution of schooling for Alaska Native people, including the development of a dual federal/territorial system of schools, and the initiation of a range of federal and state reform efforts. These ways have seldom been recognized by the expert educators of the Western world . Included in these categories were children on military installations and federal Indian lands (DeJong, 1993; Szasz, 1974). University of Alaska Anchorage: Institute for Social and Economic Research. The Act delegated responsibility for providing schooling "for children of all races" to the Office of the United States Secretary of the Interior. Olson, J., & Wilson, R. (1984). Public demonstrations, civil rights pressures, and independence movements were prevalent in countries all around the world. Instruction was provided in the three "R's," in industrial skills, and in patriotic citizenship. However, since Alaska Natives were less "tribally oriented" than American Indians in the Lower 48 states, they were granted special permission to establish "village" governments and constitutions, and most groups chose this option (Case, 1984; Olson & Wilson, 1984). We do know that Russian explorers, fur traders and missionaries had been in the country since the early 1700s, and we know that the territory was sparsely settled by groups of indigenous people whose languages and cultures varied significantly. There was little recognition by the Bureau of important differences between indigenous people in Alaska and those in the other states, and even less recognition of important differences among the 20 different Alaska Native groups (Collier, 1973; Fuchs & Havighurst, 1972; Krauss, 1980). In 1999, there were approximately 8,480 Alaska Native students and 969 American Indian students in these three urban areas (Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, 1999). Sharing our pathways: A newsletter of the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative. Even Juneau, the state capital, can be reached only by airplane or ferry, and it is as far from communities in northern and western Alaska as Colorado is from New York. 6-7). . Getches, D. H. (1977). "It is like gospel to us. The federal belief system represented in the establishment of treaties, reservations, the Civilization Fund Act, the establishment of boarding schools and a myriad of other policies not directly related to education, was a belief system that endorsed and ensured restricted environments in which the government could control nearly all aspects of American Indian life, including education, religion, medicine, law, hunting and fishing, as well as land acquisition and use. Amendments to the Impacted Aid legislation not only expanded the use of federal funds in Indian education but allowed school districts to obtain Impacted Aid subsidies while retaining Johnson-O'Malley funding" (DeJong 178). I use the term "Alaska Native" or "Native" when I am referring to all of the indigenous groups in the state because these are the generic terms used by Alaska Native people themselves. Although Alaska Native boarding schools have a complicated and often dark history in the state, Issaacs looks back fondly on his time at Mount Edgecumbe. In addition, the Alaska Federation of Natives has sponsored numerous policy and program initiatives of its own to follow through on the Alaska Natives Commission recommendations. It "provided grants to Indian tribes, institutions, and organizations, or to state and local agencies, to develop and implement projects to improve educational opportunities for Indian children and to establish adult education programs." Treaties, reservations, the Civilization Fund Act, boarding schools and land policies represent the types of federal initiatives that historically contributed to a decrease in opportunities for many Alaska Natives to build upon the strengths of their cultures, languages, communities, and traditions that would enable them to lead meaningful, contributing and satisfying lives. Szasz (1974) describes the situation one year in the late 1960s when there were 400 eighth-grade graduates from rural elementary schools for whom there was no space available in the BIA high school boarding facilities open to Alaska students (i.e. This isn't something new to Natives. Secondary students in nearly all rural and Native communities in Alaska had been attending the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools in southeast Alaska, Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, or, for a short time in the 1970s, to state boarding schools and boarding home programs in larger Alaskan communities. The high school graduation rate from Alaska's small high schools is far ahead of the urban schools. Nowhere in our lessons was there any mention of Native history. Moreover, the policies established in this early period set a precedent for federal and state schooling practices for Alaska Natives that continues even today. Intro to Boarding School History. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford all supported, at least verbally, efforts to increase Indian control of Indian affairs and each took a direct interest in the role of the BIA (Case, 1984, DeJong, 1993, Fuchs & Havighurst, 1972). These schools were operated by Christian missionaries of various denominations until around the turn of the 20th century when many of these schools were taken over by the federal government. However, pressure for more local control from Alaska Native people brought legislative action again in 1975 that abolished this system and in its place set up a new form of "extraordinary units of government" (Darnell, 1979). Reports of the governor of Alaska, 1885-1946. To describe the virtual flood of federal activity that occurred after 1965 in the area of American Indian and Alaska Native education, I have organized the major national-level educational initiatives into two categories: federal programs designed for all students, and federal programs designed for indigenous students. It is interesting to note that all of these reports echo most of the findings, as well as the recommendations, of the Meriam Report of 1928. Continuing debates about boundaries between state and federal governments, laws, and judicial decisions relative to Alaska Native people were pivotal in the decision that led to the development of a joint federal-state commission in 1990 to help untangle the ambiguous relationships between Alaska Natives and the various layers of government. A strict "English-Only" policy governed all language and curriculum decisions. Since Alaska was not purchased until 1867, it was, of course, not involved with original treaty deliberations between the United States colonial government and Indian nations. In Alaska, in the 1920s and 1930s, two-thirds of Alaska Native children who were in school were in federal BIA schoolsãthe large majority in BIA day schools in villages. Ongtooguk, P. (1992). Only rarely did any Alaska Native adults have the opportunity to be taught by an Alaska Native or American Indian teacher. (1998). Denali, or the Yukon River. Law and Alaska Native education: The influence of federal and state legislation upon education of rural Alaska Natives. Indian nations at risk: An educational strategy for action. How the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act reshaped the destinies of Alaska's Native people. Study of Alaska rural systemic reform: Final report. Historical Status of elementary schools in rural Alaska communities, 1867-1980. Its far northern position isolates it from other states but places it within 47 miles of Russia, and its 33,000-mile coastline is longer than the east and west coastlines of the contiguous states combined. It was the first major report to document and bring to the nation's attention the status of Indian conditions, and it was highly critical of American Indian education. Most villages in Alaska are accessible only by air and, in some cases, by water. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. The final report of the White House Conference on Indian Education. Education among the Native peoples of Alaska. Since then, there has been progress. [until] the coming of the missionaries marked the end of these qargit." Differences among Alaska Native groups There are significant differences among the twenty different Alaska Native groups in Alaska, and these are often not recognized. Life on the other side: Alaska Native teacher education students and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The legal difference stems from the formal government-to-government relationship established through treaties, executive orders, congressional acts, and court decisions. These differences, which are often in contradiction with Western beliefs and practices, frequently serve as a central thesis in the writings of American Indians and Alaska Natives. It appropriated an annual "civilizing" fund and initiated a program whereby the federal government contracted with religious groups to operate schools for American Indian childrenãa policy that continued to influence education in Alaska long after it was discontinued (DeJong, 1993). The Act also "reaffirmed the continuing legal responsibility of both the federal government and the states to provide education for Indians. The first schools to assert local Indian control through a BIA contract program known as "Project Tribe," were the Blackwater Community School of the Gila River Indian Community and the Navajo Rough Rock Demonstration School (Fuchs & Havighurst, 1972). Eskimo people live along the Northern and Western coastal areas of Alaska and include Yup'ik people who live in the Southwestãboth inland and along the coasts of the Bering Sea; Inupiat people who live in the north primarily along the Arctic Ocean; and Siberian Yup'ik people who live on two islands very near the Russian border. They wanted to build an 800 mile oil pipeline that would extend from Prudoe Bay in the north to Valdez in the Gulf of Alaska. The legislation included a pair of laws. Many of the elders in Alaska Native communities today have had personal and direct experience with these early federal Indian policies and practices. That kind of stuff has gone on for 500 years. However, several communities that were too small to incorporate still desired some degree of regional autonomy in the management of their schools. Despite the Wrangell Institute’s history as one of Alaska’s premier Native boarding schools for over 40 years, the site has never received any cultural resource attention. It also provided significant new funding for schools because of the large military bases in Alaska and the high number of school children from military families. there were few communities in which students attended separate schools on the basis of race), many of the other negative consequences of the dual system continued (e.g. In the United States, the Civil Rights Movement and the Women's Movement were two efforts that led to new legislation and to court decisions that directly or indirectly affected members of all ethnic and cultural minority groups. Over 40 years after the purchase of Alaska, the federal government determined that: [I]t is clear that no distinction has been or can be made between the Indians and other Natives of Alaska so far as the laws and relations of the United States are concerned whether the Eskimos and other natives are of Indian origin or not, as they are all wards of the Nation, and their status is in material respects similar to that of the Indians of the United States (emphasis added.) Some districts also have an Alaska Native component in their district-wide curriculum plans. Fairbanks, AK: College of Rural Alaska, Center for Cross-Cultural Studies. Barnhardt, C. (1999a). Fifteen years later though, there were still 43 BIA schools in Alaska, and the final transfer of federal schools to the state school system did not occur until 1985 (Barnhardt, 1994). The report's recommendations called for a major reformation of American Indian education with Indian involvement at all levels of the educational process and with specific recommendations that education be tied to communities, day schools extended, boarding schools reformed, Indian language and culture included in the development of the curriculum, and field services decentralized (DeJong, 1993; Meriam, 1928, Szasz, 1974). Most of the State's reforms are based on national models related to issues of accountability, standards, and standardized testing for students and teachers. In a new documentary, called "The Indian Schools, the Survivors' Story", Native Americans in Michigan tell their memories of the boarding schools. Legal rights of Indigenous People Despite the unique constitutional status of indigenous people and the federal government's binding treaty obligations to American Indians (which have been extended in large part to Alaska Natives), many misunderstandings continue about the status and rights of Alaska Natives with regard to public education, health, social and economic services, and natural resources.