Native American Education

Native American education can be categorized into two sections: the method of education before the arrival of the Europeans, and the method of education after European colonialism and conquest.

Native American Education before Europeans arrived

Before the Europeans arrived in the Americas in the 15th century, the Native Americans lived with relative peace and stability. They lived closed to nature and closely followed their traditions and culture.

The children were educated by the elders from an early age. Education was provided in a very practical way. The boys were taken by the elders to the fields, on hunting trips and on other outdoor activities.

Girls were instructed at home by their mothers in performing various household chores as well as agricultural tasks.

Native American Storytelling

Storytelling was a very important part of the traditional Native American education. The young children would sit by the elders and listen to different stories.

The stories educated the children about the history of their tribe, their culture as well as their traditions. The Native Americans considered it very important to educate the kids about traditions.

Purpose of Native American Education

The education of the Native American children in the traditional way served many purposes. It prepared them for their later life as adults.

It also taught them how to behave and interact with other members of the tribe. It encouraged them to work hard and make their own living. It also inculcated a sense of respect in them so that they would listen to their elders and obey their decisions.

Education after Europeans

When the Europeans arrived in the Americas, they misunderstood the Native Indian educational system. They thought that the European system of education was better.

So they tried to impose this system on the Native American tribes. This was first done through religious missionaries who would teach the Native American children in Christian studies as well as secular subjects.

The Europeans simply wanted the Native Americans to gain education and learn in the European way. They thought that this would help the Native Americans become a part of the European culture.

Native American Education in USA

After United States of America came into being, it gradually expanded into the west where most Native American tribes lived. By the 19th century, the U.S. government started efforts to implement a new form of education for Native Americans.

Native American children were forcibly taken from their parents and placed at boarding schools. They were then educated at these schools in the European style.

It was forbidden for them to speak their native language or practice their culture. As a result, the children became confused and lost their sense of cultural identity.

Day School Education for Native American Kids

The boarding school system was a failure because the Native Americans considered it a cruel way of educating their children. In the mid 20th century, the U.S. government started educating Native Indian kids at day schools.

These schools were located near the reservation sites, so the kids could go back to their homes every day. This was a better method of education and helped the children learn more effectively.