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Native Pathways to Education
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Bureau of Indian Affairs Alaska Native Enrollment Statistics 1953 - 1977

by Thomas (Tom) R. Hopkins, Ed.D.
March 2006

The pdf verion of this document is:


Starting in fiscal year 1953 the BIA published annually, “Statistics Concerning Indian Education.”(U.S. Department of Interior) The BIA ceased publication in 1977. My last job with the BIA was division chief for the system in Education Evaluation and Research. This office was abolished by a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior in 1979, the year I left BIA. My division had the file copies of all the statistical publications from Fiscal Years 1953 – 1977 . Since they were to be trashed I took them with me. The enrollment statistics reflect a history of BIA Education Policy regarding Alaska Natives. The enrollment report was developed during the summer at the end of the school year, i.e. 1953 Fiscal Year was for the school year 1952-53. The data have a general accuracy that can be useful to researchers and/or community people. It is assumed that some libraries will have complete sets of the Statistics.

Regarding myself, I worked at three BIA Alaska Native schools: Barrow 1953-54; Shungnak 1954-56 and Mt. Edgecumbe 1958 – 63. I continued my involvement in Native education from 1964 – 79 as a member of the BIA’s Washington Office. At the Washington Office level I was able to stay involved through initiating and supporting Bilingual Education, a needs assessment and school evaluations.

It is important that during the years covered in the statistics BIA Education employees, including teachers, were classified civil servants and worked twelve months a year. The Statistics were developed during the summer months when the BIA teachers conducted the, “Annual School Census.” Later, when the Congress passed a law (95-561) removing teachers from the Civil Service and making them nine or ten month contract employees, on the pattern of public schools, the Annual Census was lost.

The introductory pages to the Statistical reports contained excellent descriptions of the BIA’s Education Program objectives. For example, The FY 1957 report includes an historical sketch as well as an expression of the Education Program’s objective. It said:

For more than three centuries Indian education in the United States was largely under the direction of missionaries. As early as 1568 the Jesuit Fathers organized a school at Havana, Cuba, for Indian children from Florida. This was the first school attended by Indian children who lived within the United States

The primary objective of Federal schools is to prepare Indians for successful living. In Federal schools children develop basic academic skills, acquire an understanding of the social and economic world, learn improved standards of living, follow practices which assure optimum health, acquire the necessary vocational training to qualify for gainful employment, and obtain sufficient education to enter special schools and institutions of higher learning. (pp. 1-2)

In these days of high stakes testing and accountability, the FY 1957 report expresses reasonableness that has been lost.



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Last modified August 14, 2006