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History of Indian Education

The beginnings of Indian Education began with colonization of the frontier. The federal government created “Indian Schools” as a way of dealing with the education of American Indians. In 1879 Carlisle Institute, the first federally created boarding school opened. Numerous off-reservation boarding schools were then opened. In the early 1930’s with John Collier as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Indian Education began to change. Several large off-reservation boarding schools were closed. There then began an emphasis on local day-schools on reservations. Beginning in the 1950’s, many American Indian families moved to urban areas and Indian students attended public schools. Consequently, public schools became a venue of serving a large number of Native students. Legislation in 1972 created the Indian Education Act as a result of American Indians actively promoting self-determination.

The federal government recognized that it had a special responsibility through historical treaty rights to ensure that educational programs for all American Indians and Alaska Native children be responsive to the needs, and under the direction of, Indian people themselves.

Therefore, the Office of Indian Education (OIE) under the United States Department of Education was created to focus on the educational needs of American Indian students.