For the second installment in the Education World series Lessons
from Our Nation's Schools, editors Diane Weaver Dunne and Ellen R.
Delisio traveled to rural Maine to visit two Native American reservation
schools. They learned about Native American culture, learning styles,
and the people who teach and learn at these schools. Included:
Descriptions of how the relationship between Native Americans and the
U.S. government evolved from enmity to separation.
Last spring, Education World editors Diane Weaver Dunne and Ellen R.
Delisio visited two Native American reservation schools in northern Maine:
Indian Island School on the Penobscot reservation north of Bangor and
Beatrice Rafferty School on the Passamaquoddy reservation in Perry. Learn
more about their visit in our five-part series. The five articles are
detailed below. Click on any headline for a complete report.
Teachers on Mission to
Native American students have responded eagerly to the introduction of
native studies to the curriculums at Indian Island and Beatrice Rafferty
schools. Tribal leaders are hopeful that the resurgence of native studies
will help this generation recapture its now struggling culture.
Reservation Schools Preserve
Cultures, Boost Academics
Infused with state and federal money but facing more requirements and
students with challenges, staff at two Native American schools talked
with Education World about meeting their two missions: passing on Native
American culture and boosting academics.
Native American Schools
Ponder, Assail Dropout Rates
With the high school dropout rate for Native Americans among the highest
in the country, reservation and school officials are searching for new
ways to keep teens in school. News editor Ellen Delisio explores programs
designed to reduce the dropout rate of Native Americans.
Principal Primes Kids
A Texas transplant, principal Donald W. Salm told Education World he is
impressed with the caring staff and community members of Beatrice Rafferty
School. Salm talks with Education World editor Ellen R. Delisio about
life on the reservation and his goals for the school's students.
Indian Island Principal
Reflects On Native Schools' Goals, Challenges
Education World news editor Diane Weaver Dunne talks with Linda McLeod,
principal of Indian Island School. McLeod reflects on the challenges reservation
educators must overcome, and how those challenges are often similar to
those at other rural public schools.
The two schools that Education World visited -- Indian Island
School and Beatrice Rafferty School -- receive funding from
the Bureau of Indian Affairs in addition to other federal
money such as Title I; they also receive funding from the
state of Maine. The Maine schools are among 187 schools located
on 63 Indian reservations in 23 U.S. states.
The Native Americans in northern Maine are among an estimated
2.1 million Native Americans in the U.S., according to the
1990 Census. Within the native population, there are 250 living
languages and dialects spoken by about 282,000 individuals,
which is about one-eighth of the entire native population.
The two reservations Education World visited reflect the
national economic profile of Native Americans, according to
the 1990 census data. Native Americans generally are poor:
about one-third live in poverty compared with 13 percent of
the U.S. population. Native Americans' per capita income is
$8,232 compared with the average U.S. per capita income of
$14,420. Their unemployment rate of 14.4 percent is significantly
higher than the national rate of 6.3 percent.
Native Americans also have a lower overall high school graduation
rate: about 65 percent earn a high school diploma compared
with 75.2 percent of the U.S. population. Their college graduation
rate is also much lower, with 9.3 percent earning a college
degree compared with the national average of 20.3 percent.
Educating our nation's Native American children has changed
dramatically over the past 400 years. When indigenous Americans
were in charge of teaching their children, they did so by
playing games, telling stories, practicing hunting, as well
as teaching other skills the children would need to survive.
That would change as Europeans came to control this continent
-- and eventually the Native American culture. The traditional
European-style education emphasized structured classroom learning
and rote memorization -- a stark contrast from the native
style of hands-on learning, which took place mostly outdoors.
More than 200 years ago, the U.S. government viewed most
Native Americans as enemies, and its policy was to remove
tribes from their lands, often by force. Later, the government's
role shifted to assimilating Native Americans into mainstream
American society as it became trustee for their tribal lands
and monies. Part of the method to assimilate Indians was to
remove native children from their parents' homes and board
them at schools where they were forbidden to speak their native
During the 1900s, the push to absorb Native Americans into
American society gradually changed. In 1975, the U.S. government
permitted Native Americans to become autonomous. According
to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, tribes then were allowed
to preserve their culture and reclaim their future. Since
that time there has been a resurgence of interest in native
studies at reservation schools, while at the same time, they
prepare students academically for mainstream public and private