Education On Native American Reservations

In the modern world, education is best conducted with access to a variety of resources. Many schools on Native American reservations do not have the money for these resources and are unable to create engaging opportunities for their students.

According to a 2016 report, Native American teens are more likely than teens of any other races to be neither in school nor working. "The report also outlines problems at home. Native American students are the most likely to have parents who lack secure employment. Thirty-six percent live in poverty, compared to the national average of 22 percent." ( Many students often do not have internet access at home, or a reliable way to commute to school. They are often exposed to violence, abuse, and the losses of close family members. At the 7th annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, Valerie Jarrett said, in reference to reservation students, "The stories the young people shared are challenges no child should have to face." (

Native American students, on average, post the lowest achievement scores and the lowest graduation rates of any student subgroup in the United States. "Last school year 67 percent of American Indian students graduated from high school compared the national average of 80 percent. And many of their school facilities have been equally neglected, lacking even basic essentials such as heat and running water." (

Through statistical research, it has been shown that, "in fact, while [standardized test] scores for other groups of students have generally hovered around the same point for the past few years, Native students’ scores have been on the decline since 2010." ( Through constant neglect of reservation school systems, students have had less opportunities to become engaged in their studies and curriculum. It has also been shown that indigenous students have less access to higher level courses than others and "eighth-grade Native students tend to have only basic skills in reading and math." (

Test performance of Native American students has declined over time.

The U.S. government has made (and will most likely continue to make) efforts to improve the education systems of tribes across the country. By removing federal regulations, tribal schools and governments are able to integrate Native American culture into their curriculum to engage their students. A 2011 report by Arizona State University shows that "strong Native American language and culture programs have been found to lower attrition, enhance student-teacher and school-community relations, and improve attendance and the rate of students who go to college." (

Many reservation high schools do not offer AP courses.

"The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie, mentions many of the problems faced in reservation school districts and those faced by the students themselves. In the book, the protagonist, Junior, is constantly faced with the deaths of close friends and family members. His family lives in poverty and it is difficult for him to commute to school. While attending Wellpinit High School, he has little access to new material and resources.

As quoted by Junior, "My school and my tribe are so poor and sad that we have to study from the same dang books our parents studied from. That is absolutely the saddest thing in the world. And let me tell you, that old, old, old, decrepit geometry book hit my heart with the force of a nuclear bomb. My hopes and dreams floated up in a mushroom cloud. What do you do when the world has declared nuclear war on you?" (pg. 31) Junior feels that the poverty of his tribe and the insufficiency of its education system are extremely unjust.

In the novel, Junior wishes to leave Wellpinit to attend Reardan High School. "Reardan has one of the best small schools in the state, with a computer room and a huge chemistry lab and a drama club and two basketball gyms. The Reardan kids are the smartest and most athletic kids anywhere. They are the best." (pg. 46) His description of Reardan High School shows the noticeable difference between the schools on reservations and those elsewhere.

Wellpinit High School (Spokane Indian Reservation)


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie


Created with images by pruzi - "wood carving man"

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