OF INDIAN EDUCATION
PROF. RICHARD G. BENEFIELD
NOTE: At the time this was published in 1992, I was teaching college and university courses at an Indian Tribal Complex.
Indian education is a must! The American National Government signed its first treaty which provided for Indian Education in 1794. The guarantee of education was partly in exchange for land occupied by three (3) tribes.
In 1802 a congressional act made the national government responsible for Indian Education. Later acts and treaties further set a legal basis for government involvement and promises of education. As tribes gave up lands it became a common thing to demand the opportunity to have a chance to get an education.
Responsibility for Indian education was placed with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and schools were established for Indian people in various tribes. Churches also established missions and schools among many tribes, and more and more Indians took advantage of education. Many of these schools not only included the basics of education but also such subjects as Latin, Greek, Law, Astronomy, Art, and the study of Christian theology. Many Indian schools operated by the BIA and churches were ahead of public schools in the variety of courses they offered.
Catholic missions dotted the frontiers in early American history, and Protestant churches were dedicated to instruction for Indian tribes. When Rev. Thomas Morgan, an ordained Baptist minister, served as Commissioner of Indian Affairs from 1889 to 1893, he pushed hard for the advancement of learning. Rev. Morgan thought that races of people would only learn to fully appreciate each other if they obtained education.
We see tribal governments abounding in this state mostly because of three reasons: the Indian wars, Indian removals to Oklahoma by the National Government, and treaties. Treaties include contract obligations, and this is how it is today. Some treaties include Indian education.
I have taught in university programs for Indian education, and general education, for the past fourteen (14) years. I saw many Indians of various tribes, and many non-Indians, start in those programs, and go on and complete degrees. Many of those people obtained jobs, and some got better jobs.
Right now, education is a must given the job problems in our society. Recent BIA statistics for this area show more than a 45% unemployment rate almong Native Americans. Unemployment is severe among non-Indians as well. If many people are to solve this problem for themselves, and have a chance for a good job, then the road to college is certainly one answer.
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