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Chapter Six



There are approximately 400,000 Indians living in the United States today. According to census figures, their degree of Indian blood ranges from full blood to 1 / 128. They speak over 100 distinct languages and are divided into 200 tribes, differing from one another in custom, and even personal appearance, as much as Swedes differ from Italians. The size of these groups varies widely from the 100 Chitimacha in Louisiana to the 62,000 Navajo in Arizona and New Mexico.

As the degree of white blood varies greatly, so does the degree of assimilative experience to which any group has been exposed. The Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasha, Creek and Seminole (known officially as the Five Civilized Tribes) have been in contact with whites for some 300 years. They have intermarried with whites. They have maintained schools for many generations. Today, there is hardly a business, professional, or political activity in Oklahoma in which descendants of these Indians may not be found, occupying positions of leadership. On the other hand, the Navajo were released from captivity at Fort Sumner only 80 years ago. They have never had school facilities for more than a fraction of their children. Scattered over an arid region of more than 25,000 square miles, they live in an isolation which affords them little contact with neighboring whites. There has been little intermarriage and little adaptation to the non-Indian culture. Of the 62,000 Navajo, it is estimated that 40,000 can neither speak nor understand English.

Other tribes besides the Navajo have been slow to adopt the customs of their white fellow citizens. America has long boasted that it has been a melting pot, absorbing peoples from all the races of the earth and assimilating them to the English language and the American way of life. This has been largely true. The Indian, however, has seemed to resist amalgamation with unusual tenacity. There is probably an explanation in the fact that the multitudes of Europe came to this country voluntarily to throw their lot with ours. The Indians were here and were quite satisfied with their way of life. They have been submerged in the tidal wave of white immigration, but have steadfastly retained their languages and many of their customs. It is not always easy at first glance to realize the extent to which this is true. In fact, the aggressiveness with which the white has attempted to assimilate the Indian has often resulted in driving the cultural manifestations of the First American underground, but not always in destroying them.

Different tribes have responded differently to non-Indian contact. The Five Civilized Tribes, and many other groups have intermarried to the extent that there are very few full-bloods left, except in the remote hills. Persons meeting the sophisticated Indians of Oklahoma, who have won places in the legislature or the courts, who are practicing attorneys or doctors, who have won and kept fortunes in the oil business, find it hard to believe that there are still small groups of non-English-speaking Cherokees or Choctaws in the eastern Oklahoma hills. Persons dealing with mixed blood Dakota-stockmen who know their cattle and can strike as shrewd a bargain as the next man, forget that there are still thousands of full-blood Dakotas living largely by themselves in the hearts of the great Sioux reservations.

These facts, which invite a different interpretation by each observer, who knows only a part of them, undoubtedly complicate the problems of Indian education. Indian Service teachers in the Dakotas and parts of Oklahoma report that one child in three entering school for the first time speaks no English. Other Federal employees, working daily with adult Indians of the same groups, find that an interpreter is seldom necessary and question the accuracy of the teachers' observations. Many adult Indians who speak excellent English aver that because they are proud of their Indian heritage, they speak only their native tongue at home, so that their children also will be bilingual-leaving the teaching of English to the schools. What are the exact facts?

For twenty years, the Indian Service has endeavored to place all Indian children in public schools, where such facilities are available. Today more than 30,000 Indian children are attending public schools. The Indian Service, however, continues to operate schools for another thirty thousand. Half of these are boarding schools and half are day schools. The day schools are situated in the heart of reservations where there are no public schools and no local tax base to support public schools. The boarding schools care for dependent or neglected children who have no homes of their own and no near relatives in whose homes they can be placed.

Or, perhaps, their homes are too remote from public or day schools to attend on a day basis. Eight thousand Indian children attend mission schools and about 22,000* are out of school, largely because school facilities for them have never been provided by the government.

Noting the success of Indian children in public schools, there are those who advocate as an easy solution for the problem of Indian education the placing of all Indian schools under the supervision of public school officials. Is this a reasonable proposal? Are the Indian children who are succeeding so well in public school's similar in cross section to those who are progressing more slowly in federal schools? Or are the two groups of children different and not to be confused? We who direct the Indian schools are aware of the fact that the children in federal schools are likely to be full bloods. This means that they come from homes in which the basic culture pattern is Indian, not white. It is our impression that an equally large proportion of Indian public school pupils are mixed bloods. Among the northern reservations, we can say that there are many Indian children who come to federal schools for the first time with no knowledge of English whatever. In the Southwest, most children are non-English speaking when they first come to school.

Indian children in the different grades of public schools are said to demonstrate greater academic success than Indian children in similar grades in federal schools. Is this true? If true, are the public schools equally successful with all Indian children, or do they "flunk out" those who are less responsive? Which schools have the greater holding power, federal or public?

When a child knows no English before entering school, it is probable also that he has had little chance to learn the techniques of modern civilization. Perhaps he is entirely ignorant of plumbing and of the sanitary measures employed when people live permanently in a house, rather than moving from one campsite to another. He may not be familiar with the equipment which would help hire or her to clean and repair a dwelling and keep clothing in orders Instruction in such subjects begins, with many white children, almost at the day of birth. The Indian who comes to school with well established habits of another sort, needs concentrated teaching which may take time out of the curriculum.

Also the Indian needs technical help in the procedures he will use to earn a living. A majority of Indians in any tribe expect to remain on the reservation, where the land is theirs and is free for their use. They need all the information the small farmer can gain about fertilizers, insecticides, choice of crops, care of animals, simple mechanics-in short, how to get the best value out of the land and livestock with which they work. Many white children in rural communities get this teaching on the home farm, from the county agent or from 4-H clubs. If they do not, we suggest that they need the same sort of program we plan for Indians. For the Indian child relies for all such information upon the school. The school must open his eyes to the kinds of activity possible on the reservation?or off it, if he prefers. Then it must see that he has the training which is his tool for self-support. This, again, may mean time taken from the standard curriculum.

Such has been the conviction of the Education Division of the Indian Service. All our experience has gone to show that a large number of Indian children have needs and background which differ noticeably from those of, the English-speaking child as usually planned for in our public schools. We feel that the lack of English and the lack of home training in modern skills constitute a draw back which requires attention and time. A school program planned without reference to these problems will not meet the Indians' needs. In fact, it may leave him so bewildered that he cannot make efficient progress in any line.

Have we been right? There can be no greater responsibility than planning a preparation for life for thousands of young people who, themselves, have no way of deciding what they want. We have devoted immense care to the planning of school programs, using all the expert knowledge available to us. However, the usefulness of the program will depend on the correctness of our premises. Are we right in our picture of the widespread lack of English and of common practical skills? If such lacks exist and if one of our chief aims is to supply them, has that aim been achieved? Are we using the best means for the teaching of children who know no English? Are they acquiring enough practical skills to compensate for what they don't get at home?

Over the years, the administrative and supervisory staffs have recognized the presence of these questions. Close observation by staff members has been piling up evidence which points toward the answers. Still, this evidence has not been equally obvious to other federal employees, to missionaries, to traders, or to public school teachers just entering the Indian Service. The necessary differences in Indian school practices which are required to counteract the differences between reservation Indian children and those living among whites and attending the public schools have seemed unnecessary to many outsiders. This is because the differences between the children have not been so obvious to employees dealing only with adult Indians or to persons who have not had the opportunity to compare Indians in different parts of the country.

We in the Indian Service have not undertaken to give the Indian children in our schools a lesser education than that afforded by the public schools. Instead we have been convinced that our schools must do much more for many Indian children than is expected of an ordinary rural public school. We haven't been willing to drift with a "just as good curriculum." We have wanted the best curriculum with the wisest grade-placement of materials of instruction that is possible, in the light of educational research. How well are we succeeding in providing this?

Are Indian children of equal intellectual competence with whites? For many years, rural Indian children, handicapped by their meager knowledge of English, have been tested with many types of verbal tests prepared for English-speaking urban children. Their scores have indicated a considerably lower intelligence rating than that of whites. Dr. Thomas Garth, who devoted many years to a study of Indian intelligence, at one time reached the conclusion that Indian intelligence was directly correlated with degree of white blood?the more white blood, the higher the intelligence. Before he died, Garth realized that the determining factor was not white blood but a familiarity with the English language and with white customs. Such familiarity resulted naturally when one or more of the parents was white. His final conclusion was that a full blood Indian child, raised in a white home and exposed only to the English language, will respond to linguistic tests much as whites do.

More recently, Dr. Grace Arthur1 of the Child Guidance Clinic, St. Paul, Minnesota, developed a point performance scale, which was first standardized on whites around the Twin Cities, and then scored with Indian children at Haskell Institute and on some of the reservations. The Arthur Point Performance Scale was used in connection with the Indian Education Research, sponsored jointly by the University of Chicago, the Indian Service and the Society for Applied Anthropology. This scale was administered to two groups of children on the Hopi, the Navajo, the Sioux, the Papago, and the Zuni reservations. One group on each reservation was selected because of its considerable exposure to white culture patterns; the second was picked because it had managed to resist this assimilation.

Given to two Hopi2 groups, the more sophisticated (at new Oraibi) scored a mean IQ of 115; the more primitive (at First Mesa) scored 110.7; compared to a mean for white children of 100. At Pine Ridge,3 the more sophisticated Sioux at the town of Pine Ridge scored 102.6, while those at Kyle, in the heart of the reservation, scored 101.1.

On the Navajo4 reservation, the more primitive group was subdivided into those who have had some schooling-and those who have had none. Those with some schooling showed an average IQ of 102.5; the unschooled of 79.8. The group which had been longest exposed to white culture scored 94. For comparison, the test was given to a midwestern school group of rural whites, who scored an average of 101. This data certainly indicates that the raw material in our Indian schools is equal to that in white schools -once the language handicap is overcome.

Special attention has, therefore, been devoted to the language question. To one visiting Indian schools a few years ago, it was apparent that many students who had reached high school still suffered from an incomplete mastery of English. On the other hand, many lower grade students, with a similar background were not only speaking easily but even thinking in English. Obviously the difficulty was with the kind of teaching which the older students had received. Their teachers, entering the Service before modern methods in language teaching had come into use, were not equipped to deal with the problem. Still, they felt the pressure of a course of study. So they devoted themselves to content instruction and pushed the pupils ahead without realizing that their English was insufficient to let them comprehend the subjects presented.

Students instructed by newer teaching methods do not have this difficulty. These methods emphasize the use of spoken English before reading is attempted. The pupil therefore recognizes many of the words he is reading just as a white child does, instead of finding both the words and the printed form completely strange. Our elementary teachers, particularly, have been instructed in the use of this method and have received specialized assistance from the supervisory personnel. Our Indian Service summer schools and our divisional publication, INDIAN EDUCATION, have given constant attention to the language problem. Under such stimulus Indian children, in recent years, are showing a much greater fluency in oral English. Asia result, they are making much more normal grade progress and, as noted, some upper elementary and junior high school classes can demonstrate better English usage than will be found in some high school classes. On a basis of "sampling" the method seems to have worked. Only by a thorough testing of the work of all children at several grade levels can these samplings be wholly verified. Are the above conditions exceptional? Or can we be confident that our elementary teaching is effectively overcoming the language handicap?

Unfortunately, any testing in this respect, can apply only to an unfinished program. The present program had been in operation only six years when the war drew off many of our best trained teachers. They were replaced by temporary employees, often with insufficient training, since Civil Service had to lower its standards during the emergency. The end of the war brought no relief. As our former employees were released from war work or from the armed services many were tempted into better paying positions. The spiral of inflation had raised the pay of teachers in rural schools within the very states where the Indian Service operates. Civil Service salary schedules have not kept pace and teachers can earn more by nine months' work in the public schools than by twelve months’ work for the government. Thus, today, the Indian Service is still staffed with almost as many temporary teachers as during the war period.

Granted this handicap, we are still proceeding on the assumption that it is our function to see that the difficulties which prevent the Indian's assimilation to the white man's way of life are disposed of as quickly and efficiently as possible. We do not wish, in the process, to destroy the Indian's own ideals and skills and to make him a mere copy of his white neighbor. The Indian must learn and wishes to learn, to be a responsible, self-supporting citizen, equipped with the technical skill to earn a living either on or off the reservation.

For 12 years, the Indian Service has pursued an integrated program aimed at these goals. Now it seems well to pause for an evaluation so that we may know what changes and improvements are necessary.

Is our program an efficient one, truly adapted to Indian needs? There have been critics who proclaimed with much conviction that it is not efficient. They feel that all Indian children would do better in public schools if that were possible; at least, that Indian schools should closely follow the public school curricula. If this opinion is justified, it would mean a radical change in our program, but we are willing to make it. What we want are the facts. The Indian Service therefore invited experts, not connected with the Service, to direct an analysis of our whole program and give their opinion as to its results. We chose the Department of Education of the University of Chicago, one of the top-ranking groups of educators in the United States-a group with a national reputation in the field of educational measurements. The preceding chapters detail the tests chosen or developed and applied under the direction of Dr. Shailer Peterson of the university and his colleagues.

Dr. Peterson's conclusions, summarized in Chapter I, are the answers to a series of questions which were phrased by the supervisory staff of the Indian Service after an analysis of Indian Service problems similar to that contained in this chapter. In general, these conclusions support the basic Indian education program of the last dozen years. The tables and graphs which illustrate the middle chapters give us for the first time an accurate picture of the Indian children who are being educated in federal, mission, and public schools. They show the differences in raw material which the schools must deal with in the different Indian areas. Dr. Peterson states that there is evidence of substantial accomplishment in Indian schools during the last decade-and every indication that Indian schools today are doing a still better job with the young pupils who have begun school in the last six to eight years.

Dr. Peterson's conclusions find strong support in another quarter. During the lost dozen years the elementary schools of the Indian Service have been accredited (wherever such accreditation is standard practice) by the state departments of public education of the states wherein the Indian Service operates. This is an affirmation that the educational program of Indian Service schools satisfies the state standards for rural public schools. During the same period (between 1936 and 1948) all Indian Service high schools except those in Arizona have been accredited by the states within which they operate. Certain technicalities of teacher qualification, which are now being satisfied, have delayed accreditation in Arizona. However, in Arizona as well as in all other states, an Indian Service high school graduate who receives the superintendent's recommendation as competent to succeed in college is admitted to any of the public colleges of his state without discrimination.

He also finds evidence that not all of our plans have resulted successfully and offers suggestions as to possible improvements. It is unfortunate that the planning to correct these weaknesses and build a still stronger program for the future must be done by a greatly reduced supervisory staff and applied by temporary teachers. The Indian Bureau budget cuts for 1948 wiped out the supervisory employees of the Central Office and reduced by 50°% those headquartered in the District Offices. The leadership in educational practice furnished by 26 specialists in elementary and secondary education, home economics, agriculture, mechanical and building trades, language, health education, and personal and vocational guidance has been reduced to that which can be contributed by a staff of eight supervisors. Much of the creative work which has built the present distinctive program in Indian education will inevitably be absent during the years immediately ahead.

This monograph at least records the measured results of the present program and may serve as a basis for comparison for future studies of achievement in Indian Education.

Willard W. Beatty,
Director of Education,
U. S. Indian Service.

March 1948.


The Department of Education of the University of Chicago cooperated in this study of the education of Indian children not only because of the knowledge that would be obtained regarding the teaching and learning of Indian children, but also because of the light it would shed upon important problems facing a majority of American public schools.

The problems involved in the education of Indian children are not unique. All schools in which there are children from varied backgrounds encounter many of these problems, Particularly serious are the problems involved in educating children who come from well defined groups in the total population in which the customs, practices, and attitudes of the adults have built up in the children habits, attitudes, practices and vocabularies of communication that are sharply different from those of the teachers and others responsible for the public school program.

Our American public schools over the years have been most closely identified with the middle-class white groups of old American stock. For example, the primers used to teach children their first steps in reading have assumed a background of home experiences and vocabulary typically found among middle-class white children of old American stock. Bit by bit we have come to recognize that such an educational program does not work equally well with children from other backgrounds. First we noted that first and second generation children of foreign language speaking immigrants did not generally progress normally through our curriculum. Then we found that rural children had more difficulty than urban children with a curriculum based on urban goals and urban experiences. Next our attention was directed to the difficulties of minority racial groups, and most recently to the special learning problems of the various social classes. We have finally come to understand that for our American public schools to provide a good education for all the pupils we must learn how to build appropriate curricula and utilize teaching methods appropriate to the special backgrounds of the pupils enrolled in a given school, and that differences in ethnic origin, in race, in social class and in urban or rural experience must all be considered.

The experience in the United States Indian Schools provides an excellent basis for study of this general problem. In planning the curricula and teaching procedures the Indian Service has recently taken cognizance of the fact that the Indian child comes to school with a different language background, a different experience with books, with activities in the home and with games and informal play, with different ideology which he has heard adults express as proverbs, explanations, admonitions, and the like, and even with different motives and interests that impel him to effective work.

The Indian Service recognizes that these differences are important in the education of the Indian child. They affect the work of the school in several fundamental ways; namely, by helping to determine appropriate goals or objectives of the school, by indicating a different division of labor between the school on the one hand and the home and other social institutions on the other hand in providing for the total educational experience of the child, by determining the kinds of previous backgrounds -that can be built upon by the school in his further education, and by having channeled his motives so that the motivation for learning which the school can employ effectively must utilize these channels.

Students of education are generally interested in examining the effectiveness of the modifications made in the educational program of the Indian schools. We now know that we are not reaching satisfactorily many minority groups in our public schools. We have come to recognize that our typical educational program has been based primarily upon the needs and experiences of middle-class white children of old American stock. It is true that this program aims at goals that are important for the development of these particular children if they are to live successfully in the typical urban or small town culture of our country, but in many cases these are not the most appropriate goals for all children. Similarly this program assumes that the home, the church, the youth organizations and the like will carry certain fairly well understood aspects of the total educational task leaving the school a clearly defined area of work. If these other institutions did not bear this expected educational burden the child's education would be totally inadequate, including that part of his education for which the school accepts responsibility.

Furthermore, our present educational program commonly assumes that the child has an extensive oral language experience in English which can be used in teaching him to read and write, that he has had training in simple health and toilet habits, and in sharing responsibility for caring for toys and tools and keeping the rooms clean. It is also assumed that a multitude of other basic experiences will have been provided in the home and community upon which the school can build its work. The lack of such background makes necessary many marked changes in the school curriculum if it is to be effective in educating the child.

Finally, the typical educational program used in many American schools gets the active participation of the child in study and work by appealing to motives that are common among middle-class whites of old American stock, namely, the child's interest in reading for himself the stories that his parents read aloud to him, his interest in doing the various literate activities that his parents and other adults he admires are carrying on, his desire to get ahead and to excel others which is so commonly instilled in middle-class children. Where these motives are not found, the child does not put forth effort to learn when appeals to such motives are made. An educational program that is to be effective for children whose motives have been channeled in other ways must capitalize on the motives its pupils actually possess.

The Indian Service, having recognized these problems, developed an educational program definitely planned to utilize the background and experience of Indian children. The curriculum set goals aimed both at developing those competencies required for effective living in the Indian community and also those which would help to develop a closer assimilation into the dominant American community. The school's responsibility in the division of labor for the total educational task was assigned on the basis of an analysis of the contributions which the Indian home and community could actually make. The teaching procedures were planned to utilize the background and motives common to Indian children. This is the kind of attack upon the problems of educating minority groups that appears logical and in harmony with established principles of learning but heretofore we have had no evidence to corroborate the efficacy of this kind of solution. The present investigation thus serves a very important means of testing the value of this kind of attack upon one of the serious problems of American education.

The reader will have noted that the data presented in Chapters III, IV and V provide significant evidence on the issues outlined in the preceding paragraphs. The importance of the home background in relation to the work of the school is clearly indicated in the fact that the test results are in general higher where the parents are more largely assimilated into the white culture. Thus the pupils' achievements are generally higher for children of mixed blood parentage than for full bloods. They are higher where English is spoken in the home than where it is not, and they are higher for pupils whose parents have more education than for those with less. These results are in harmony with the basic assumption upon which the Indian Service has acted to revise the educational program of the Indian Schools.

The study also sheds light on another issue in public school education-the relative value of segregated and non-segregated schools in promoting effective education of children. In general, Indian children make higher educational achievement on the tests when they are attending schools with white children. It appears that the greater contact with white children facilitates educational progress probably by providing more experience with the vocabulary and background experiences expected by the school. Unfortunately, many Indian children live in areas where they cannot easily attend schools with white children but the data provided by this study suggest answers to the question of segregation of other groups in American schools.

This investigation also provides additional evidence that an educational program is more effective when it is closely related to the opportunities outside the school for applying what is learned in school. The Indian homes and communities are commonly short in their provision of reading materials for children but they provide many opportunities to use arithmetic in counting, weighing and measuring. The greater relative achievements of Indian children on the arithmetic tests than on the reading tests are in harmony with the closer relation between the school program in arithmetic and the opportunities for use outside the school.

For most students of education the most important findings of this study are the various tables of test results which corroborate the hypothesis upon which the Indian Schools have been operating in planning the new curriculum and methods of teaching.

The tests results show that children in the fourth grade who have had their total schooling under the new program have made relatively greater progress than pupils in the 8th or 12th grades who have had but a part of their schooling under the new program. This is true in each of the major fields, reading, writing, arithmetic, natural resources and health and safety. More specifically, the children coming through the new program gain not only knowledge of matters related to life in the Indian home and community but at the same time acquire greater competence in the tools of learning. By dealing in school with matters of interest to Indian children that they can actually use in their own lives, not only do they learn about these things but they acquire greater skill in reading, writing and arithmetic as these abilities are used in study of matters that are interesting and helpful to them.

Finally, it is significant to note how the interests of the Indian children indicate good motivation in the new educational program. A large percent of the Indian children tested reported preference for or interest in arithmetic, English and reading and a considerable percent plan to continue their education through the high school and even on into college. These favorable attitudes toward academic subjects and toward continuing in school are not characteristic of many of the other minority groups found in public schools.

The new educational program of the United States Indian Service attacks a problem found in most public schools enrolling minority groups. This investigation should be of value to teachers, administrators and students of education generally because it deals with a problem of general concern and because the Indian Service has been developing a promising solution for it.

Ralph W. Tyler, Chairman,
Department of Education,
University of Chicago.

June 1948

* About fifteen thousand of these are on the Navajo reservation; several hundred are on the Papago reservation; a few hundred more are on the Ute and Apache reservations. The rest are scattered throughout the Indian country.

1 Arthur, Mary Grace. A Point Scale Of Performance Tests. 2 Vols. New York. Commonwealth Fund, 1933.

2 Thompson, Laura, and Joseph, Alice. The Hopi Way. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1944. Pg. 101.

3 Macgregor, Gordon. Warriors Without Weapons. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1946. Pg. 187.

4 Leighton, Dorothea, and Kluckhohn, Clyde. Children of the People. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 1947.Pg. 149, 152.



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