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Native Pathways to Education
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Scanned-Digitized Version
Thomas (Tom) R. Hopkins

Original Citation
Meriam, Lewis. THE PROBLEM OF INDIAN ADMINISTRATION. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1928, 872 pp.


Administration of Indian Education. The Indian problem is essentially one of education and social welfare, rather than of land, property, or business, and principles that have been found to be successful in educational administration on a large scale should be applied to it. Instead, therefore, of a mainly clerical and administrative centralization of educational authority at Washington, as at present, responsibility should be localized in the superintendent of the school or reservation. As suggested in the chapters on Organization and Personnel and also earlier in this chapter of the report, there should be in Washington a well-equipped technical staff, of the sort both public education and business have found necessary in recent years, to furnish professional direction for the entire service. This staff should be small, but it should consist of qualified men and women of at least the rank of educational specialists in other government services, such as the Bureau of Education, the Department of Agriculture, and the Federal Board for Vocational Education. It would be the function of this technical group to advise as to educational policies, to map out programs for adult education, health education, and other activities, and to bring to superintendents and other employees in the field recent developments that will help them in their work. Under this plan it would also be necessary to fill vacancies in the superintendencies with qualified educational administrators.18

Indians and Other Government Agencies. If Indian administration is to be effective it will need to have closer relations than have ever existed before with other federal agencies in education and welfare. A number of federal bureaus and boards do work that is directly related to the needs of the Indian Service and their aid should be enlisted. In the same department with the Indian Office, to use the most striking example of need of cooperation, is the United States Bureau of Education, which already has qualified specialists in the types of work in which Indian Service needs are greatest, namely, health, rural education, industrial training, agricultural education, adult education, primary schooling, secondary education, and other fields. Under reclassification the Bureau of Education, unlike the Indian Office, was treated as a scientific and technical service, with the result that salaries for specialists in the Bureau of Education are from 50 to 75 per cent higher than for the non-technical positions carrying corresponding work in the Indian Office. It seems incredible that the Indian problem has never had applied to it to any appreciable extent the professional service that Congress has gradually been making more and more effective in the Bureau of Education. Many of the states have had educational surveys and numerous other types of service from the Bureau of Education; the Indian educational program seems never to have really profited by the fact that the Bureau of Education is in the same department. This professional staff already at work in the Interior Department should at least be called in to help any additional staff that may be created to direct the Indian educational program.

Recently the Public Health Service has been enlisted in the health work of the Indian Office, a commendable instance of the right type of cooperation. Health education will be found, however, to be at least as fundamental a problem as hospitalization and medical service, and for this the work of the Public Health Service officers will need to be supplemented by specialists in health education. In the field of vocational education the Federal Board for Vocational Education has an experience behind it of the past ten years that needs to be applied to the Indian problem. Other federal agencies which should be asked to cooperate as directly as possible in the Indian program are the Department of Agriculture, with its long experience in adult agricultural education, home economics, boys' and girls' club work, and extension work, and the Department of Labor, with such activities as those of the Children's Bureau and the United States Employment Service, vitally necessary in a comprehensive program of Indian education.

Technical Staff Necessary for Cooperation. Certain organizations exist outside the government service with which cooperative arrangements might well be made. The kind of technical staff repeatedly described is essential, however, for any successful cooperative arrangement. With the best intentions in the world, administrative officers cannot alone make professional cooperation amount to anything; there must be in the Indian work technical experts of at least as high qualifications as the employees of the cooperating agency, whether this be another federal department, a state, or an outside association. If, as seems probable, it will become desirable for the national government more and more to enter into cooperative relations with the various states in the handling of school work, health and social welfare for Indians, a technical staff at the Washington office will be indispensable. States with which the national government is likely to find it practicable to work out cooperative arrangements will usually be those like California, for example, which already have professionally qualified men and women in these fields, and the federal staff will need to be at least as well qualified. Whatever the outcome may be with regard to the administration of Indian affairs, whether left, as at present, a separate bureau in the Interior Department, consolidated with the Bureau of Education, grouped with a possible colonial administration in the Interior Department, as has been suggested for the Philippines, transferred to some other existing department, or made part of the new Federal Department of Education and Relief proposed by President Coolidge in his annual message, the essential thing will be to bring to bear upon the Indian problem all of the available resources of the national government, the states, and outside organizations.

18 See pages 368 to 370 of this chapter, and pages 132 to 134 of the chapter on Organization.

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Last modified April 25, 2008