Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke speaks at the Riverside Indian School, a Bureau of Indian Education institution, in Anadarko, Oklahoma, on January 25, 2018. Photo: Office of Public Affairs - Indian Affairs
Education | Opinion

Denise Juneau: The Bureau of Indian Education is failing our people




Why are Bureau of Indian Education schools some of the worst-performing in the nation? Denise Juneau, a citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation who served as the head of education for the state of Montana for eight years, believes it's because the federal government isn't really listening to tribes:
For over a century, the federal government has proven that attempting to control and oversee a nationwide network of schools leads to an ineffective and disheartening system of education that fails to address the cultural, linguistic, and overall learning needs of American Indian children. If the BIE's record of failure reflected on any other group of students, there would be a national outcry.

In 1953, as Congress was adopting its official Termination Policy to eradicate Indian tribes in the United States, the late Indian law scholar Felix Cohen wrote about the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs: "It is a pity that so many Americans today think of the Indian as a romantic or comic figure in American history without contemporary significance. In fact, the Indian plays much the same role in our society that the Jews played in Germany. Like the miner's canary, the Indian marks the shift from fresh air to poison gas in our political atmosphere; and our treatment of Indians, even more than our treatment of other minorities, reflects the rise and fall in our democratic faith."

The vast majority of Native students in the United States attend public schools. Although only 8 percent of Native students actually attend schools managed by the BIE, they often post the lowest achievement outcomes of all students in their respective states. This poor performance is not due to the lack of caring by BIE school administrators and teachers. One can also not point a finger at the students. They are smart, creative, and ready to learn. They only need the adults in the bureaucratic maze of the BIE to deliver the programs and services they need.

Read More on the Story:
Denise Juneau: The Bureau of Indian Education Is Broken (EdWeek February 6, 2018)