Tribal Strengths and Native Education

Voices from the Reservation Classroom


In 1889, Sitting Bull addressed the formal, Western-style education of his people. "When you find something good in the white man’s road, pick it up," he intoned. "When you find something that is bad . . . leave it alone. We shall master his machinery, and his inventions, his skills, his medicine, his planning, but we will retain our beauty and still be Indians."

Sitting Bull’s vision—that cultural survival and personal perseverance derive from tribal resilience—lies at the heart of Tribal Strengths and Native Education. Basing his account on the insights of six veteran American Indian educators who serve in three reservation schools on the Northern Plains, Terry Huffman explores how Native educators perceive pedagogical strengths rooted in their tribal heritage and personal ethnicity. He recounts their views on the issues facing students and shows how tribal identity can be a source of resilience in academic and personal success. Throughout, Huffman and the educators emphasize the importance of anchoring the formal education of Indian children in Native values and worldviews—in "tribal strengths."

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