This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner
This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner Home Page About AKRSI Publications Academic Programs Curriculum Resources Calendar of Events Announcements Site Index This is part of the ANKN Banner
This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner This is part of the ANKN Banner
This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner This is part of the ANKN Banner
Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
Indigenous Knowledge Systems
Indigenous Education Worldwide


Scanned-Digitized Version
Thomas (Tom) R. Hopkins

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



By Thomas R. Hopkins

The fabled Meriam Report continues to be of interest to Indians and non-Indians who are interested in the education of American Indians and Alaska Natives. This interest emanates for the fact that the Report represents a benchmark in the field of Indian Affairs and its “Education” section set the foundation for policy that still resonates in 2008. The book, all 872 pages of it, has long been out of print. But with modern technology it is possible to at least make available an exact copy of the “Education Section.” In this respect the scanning and editing of the Education Section has been a labor of great professional satisfaction.

The Section was written by W. Carson Ryan. Margaret C. Szasz * has written an excellent biography of Ryan. Ryan was a Progressive Education advocate and a leader in the Progressive Education Association. As such, one will find in the Education Section frequent admonitions to infuse Indian Education with modern scientific procedures including a well educated and trained teacher and a curriculum that is suggestive rather than rigid. After writing the Education Section Ryan became the Director of Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Education Program.

One cannot think long today without bringing forth the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and its negative affects on the education of Indians-Natives. The Education Sections, rightly in my view, advised that curriculum standards be few and not rigid and NCLB requires that they be massive and rigid. In fact, the NCLB has ushered in a rote education methodology that Progressive Education was determined to change to meet modern times. Perhaps the NCLB is turning the Education clock back to the 19th Century and before.

There are several observations made in the Section that endure even today. Two of these are school facilities and Federal financial support for the education of Indians and Alaska Natives. Never, in the history of the U.S. has the Federal Government provided sufficient financial support for the Education of Indians and Alaska Natives. Usually, high on the deficit list are school facilities.

Perhaps a major cause of this deplorable financial condition is the U.S. education organization assigning major responsibility to the states and the public schools. The Education Section is replete with references and comparisons between Government (BIA) education and public school education. Interestingly, Ryan cautions on turning Indian Education over to public schools without monitoring the situation to see that the special support services required for Indians are also present in the public schools. This precaution has never been paid attention to by any government entity in the U.S. When Federal education for Indians-Natives has been turned over to public schools it has done so with the tacit understanding that the Trust Responsibility for Indian and Native Education ceases, which in my view it does not.

One should not be put off by the discussion on Religious Education. Ryan assumes the unconventional position that the values of Indian-Native tribal cultures are analogous to religious beliefs which he places along side Christianity. This has always been my own position which I believe plays a vital role in education today. For example, the Navajo Government has developed cultural standards and they are value laden. To teach Navajo cultural standards would mean placing cultural values along side the NCLB’s so called academic achievement. Consequently, if we followed Ryan’s admonition to support Religious Education we would in fact support the infusion of Indian-Native education with cultural content which would mean human “religious” values.

The Education Section’s discussion of standardized tests urges more use of them primarily because they are developed using scientific principles. But, the Section makes one observation that has rung true during my 50 years of working in Indian-Native Education: An Indian-Native test score should be interpreted in a basic manner, i.e. a mean three year behind grade level is ok as it means the individual is educated well enough to meet common requirements. More importantly, as the Indian-Native individual goes up the education ladder into post-high school education, the deficit disappears. There is nothing more true that the Section’s expression of the disappearance of the test deficit as the Indian-Native progresses educationally

The following Table of Contents is detailed helpful to the reader. I have tried to maintain the original pagination so the reader can easily find the parts that interest them most. On the other hand, I recommend a complete reading of the Education Section.

* Szasz, Margaret C, Education and the American Indian, The road to Self- Determination Since 1928. Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico Press, 1974, 252 pp.

Go to University of AlaskaThe University of Alaska Fairbanks is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity employer, educational institution, and provider is a part of the University of Alaska system. Learn more about UA's notice of nondiscrimination.


Alaska Native Knowledge Network
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks  AK 99775-6730
Phone (907) 474.1902
Fax (907) 474.1957
Questions or comments?
Last modified April 24, 2008