Federalism (Native Boarding Schools)

This Inquiry Set, “Native American Education and the United States Government (Boarding Schools)” is a case study that highlights how local, state, tribal, and federal government authority impacted children’s lives. The topic of education touches all California students and provides us with an example of the ways that government power from a variety of levels intersect, overlap, and compete to govern our path through K-12 and beyond. This inquiry set offers students an opportunity to consider Native American education, guided by federal Indian policy, which created a system of coerced education in the form of boarding schools. While Native nations are sovereign, the implementation of this policy beginning in the late 19th century, created the context of “Indian” students, further marginalizing tribal authority over their own members. Native American students had their culture and language systematically erased by the educational institutions with the goal of replacing these with “American” values and the English language. The sources in this set allow students to consider the goals of the federal government, the consequences of these policies on children, and how Native Americans navigated their relationships between the levels of authority (federal, state, local, and tribal) that they encountered.

Inquiry Question

What level of government is the most important to me – local, state, tribal, or federal?