Historically, Native American children have faced serious disadvantages in their educational pursuits. Students often take classes in aged, dilapidated buildings, and complaints abound about the 183 federally-managed schools on Native American reservations. Although the Obama administration vowed to make a change, it has, like many of its predecessors, been slow to act.
In an interview with HuffPost Live, Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney and Standing Rock Sioux national, weighed in on the crippled educational system. While most reservation schools are run and owned by Native Americans “on paper,” the tribes don’t “control” or develop their own curricula, meaning the lessons often lack the crucial addition of Native American culture and values, he explained.
Aside from lacking a culturally-sensitive curriculum, reservation schools also tend to be disproportionately low-achieving, Iron Eyes explained. Reports show that American Indian and Alaska Native students have higher dropout rates and are much less likely to enter and complete an undergraduate or graduate school program.
“I was underprepared by the reservation school system. I really had to try hard as soon as I left for post-secondary educational pursuits,” Iron Eyes said of his own experience with the schooling system.
Iron Eyes urged Native American tribes to take control of their educational system by creating more infrastructure with their own funding.
“We have to stop relying on the federal government to provide anything. I mean, they should, but the treaty relationship is sort of a double-edged sword because it creates this expectancy. It creates, almost, a dependency,” he said. “We need to be able to fund our own schools so we’re not subject to any funding cuts or anything like that.”
Watch the full HuffPost Live interview here.
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