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History of Indian Education in the United States

The 1980-1990s: Self-determination for American Indian schooling is at risk

While self-determination for American Indian schooling was the watchword of the '70s, federal attempts to refute the legislation characterized the 1980s.

The Office of Indian Education (OIE) was originally created by Title IV of Public Law 92-318. The Act was commonly referred to as the Indian Education Act of 1972, and is currently known as Part A, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1994 (Public Law 103-382). The legislation is unique for it is the only federal legislation that provides direct financial support for the education of all American Indian and Native Alaskan students in public, tribal, as well as Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) schools.

In 1995, the OIE was almost voted out of existence, with a budget of $1. Tribal leaders and pan-Indian organization leaders traveled to Washington, lobbied Congress, held prayer vigils in DC, and called press conferences to ensure continued funding. In September 1995, President Clinton rescued the BIA and OIE funding when he vetoed the budget.

After the budget fight tribal leaders formed the National Unity Task Force, the first American Indian political action committee. By 1997, intense lobbying had shifted the jurisdiction for OIE appropriations to the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee. This change in the funding parent from the Department of the Interior to the Education Department opened the possibility for restoration of the OIE budget reductions. In the United States Senate, Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado was confirmed as chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.