Power and Place: Indian Education in America
by Vine Deloria, Jr. & Daniel R. Wildcat
Fulcrum Publishing | 176 pp | $12.08
Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Entertainment. Discussion »
At the result of President Obama's Executive Order last December called "Improving American Indian and Alaska Native Educational Opportunities and Strengthening Tribal Colleges and Universities," four roundtables were held in Indian Country to solicit ideas on accomplish the intent of the order.
Many American Indians attended the roundtables and made passionate testimony about the current conditions of the education in Indian Country and plausible recommendations were often presented.
In addition to the roundtables, the process to produce a workable Memorandum of Understanding will be aided by four upcoming tribal consultations.
Among the strategies proposed to achieve these outcomes are capacity building for tribal educational agencies, enhanced teacher training and recruitment, pilot demonstration projects, effective reforms, improved accountability, partnerships with public, private and philanthropic groups, and national networks to share best practices.
The initiative would improve educational opportunities for all American Indian and Alaska Native students, including those attending schools operated and funded by Bureau of Indian Education, those attending public schools in cities and in rural areas, and those attending postsecondary institutions, including tribal colleges and universities.
The whole issue of improving Indian education made me do a quick reread of a book I read a number of years ago by the late Vine Deloria, Jr. and Daniel R. Wildcat called "Power and Place: Indian Education in America." The book was published by Fulgrum Books in 2001.
Those who will soon embark on authoring the Memorandum of Understanding would do well to obtain a copy of the book because in Indian education some things never seem to change.
Vine Deloria Jr, was a leading Native American scholar, whose research, writings, and teaching have encompassed history, law, religious studies, and political science. He is the former executive director of the National Congress of American Indians.
Daniel R. Wildcat, Yuchi, Muscogee, is the director of the American Indian studies program and the Haskell Environmental Research Studies Center at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas.
"Power and Place: Indian Education in America" consists of 16 essays written by the two authors. Each writer authored eight each. A common theme in the essays is the difference in Western thought versus American Indian or Indigenous thought.
Both authors argue the differences have translated into difficulty teaching American Indian and Alaska Native students.
Deloria in "Power and Place Equal Personality" writes: "While tribal peoples did not have a detailed conception of the whole planet in the sense that Western scientists presently do, they did have a very accurate knowledge of the lands they inhabited and the plants, animals and other life forms that shared their environment."
"Today what counts as knowledge in mainstream education is too often short-term memorization of 'facts.' understanding or wisdom ought to be the goal of education," writes Wildcat in the essay "Understanding the Crisis in American Education."
Deloria, who is known as one of the best American Indian authors of the last century writes in an essay called "The Perpetual Education Report": "Instead of boring us with another tedious recital of the failure of the federal government to educate Indians which is embarrassing obvious the Secretary of would do well to find some way to confront the reality of Indian culture, community, and history and devise an educational program to meet this specific challenge After five centuries of contact it does not seem too much to ask non-Indian educators and institutions to come to grips with the reality that is the American Indian."
Deloria wrote the essay in 1991 in reaction to the Secretary of Education's desire to conduct a new study of Indian education.
Some things never seem to change. Deloria could have been writing about 2012.
posted May 5, 2012 6:30 am edt