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Camp Report 2004



The following article appeared in the Fall/Winter 1999/2000 issue of the Indian Education Newsletter. The basis for much of the information in the article was taken from Portland Public School's "American Indian Baseline Essays" written by C. Landon and Gary Fields. Additional updated information on Indian students was provided by Jeanne Nathanson of the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES).


The over-hype of the new millennium is just about over for now, but it should get us thinking about how we should celebrate the conclusion of the last one hundred years. During the 1900s, there were major events that took place over the 20th Century that involved American Indian and Alaska Natives.

Beginning in 1900 with Charles Curtis (Kaw/Osage) who was named to chair the U.S. House Committee on Indian Affairs (he later served as a Congressman and Senator before being elected as Vice- President of the United States under President Herbert Hoover), there was a concerted effort to do away with American Indian Tribes and pursue a policy of assimilation that proved to be so destructive to Tribes. Later, the U.S. Congress would formally apologize for its errors in judgement. The efforts made it very difficult for Tribes to maintain their traditional governments and sovereignty, but they did. This was especially true in Oregon where Tribes were formally terminated by the U.S. government as a means to disband them. These and other efforts were difficult times for the Tribes since most reservations were either abolished or severely shrunk in size using the Dawes General Allotment Act to legitimatize those efforts. Still, Tribes continued to maintain their Tribal governments and eventually almost all of the Oregon Tribes regained their Federal recognition. All this happened within the last one hundred years.

In World War I, about 8,000 American Indians joined the armed services where they were most often assigned to reconnaissance duties on the assumption that they would be superior scouts. They suffered higher casualty rates because of stereotypes that continued to adversely affect them. Two years after World War I, Congress passed a law granting citizenship to any honorably discharged non-citizen Indian veteran who served for the U.S. and choose to apply to an appropriate court for citizen status. It wasn't until 1924 that Congress passed an Indian citizenship act to make citizens of all other American Indians not yet deemed citizens (about 1/3 of the total Indian population). Later, during World War II when over 25,000 Indians entered the Armed Forces, two Indians won the Congressional Medal of Honor, 51 received the Silver Star, 47 the Bronze Star, 34 the Distinguished Flying Cross, and 71 the Air Medal. The Navajo "Code Talkers" helped win the war with their unique language skills that were coded and proved indecipherable by the enemy - but were not formally honored for their work by Congress until 1999. During the Vietnam War, 41,500 American Indians served in the U.S. combat forces with distinction. During the infamous My Lai massacre, Hugh Thompson (Cherokee) risked his life to protect civilians by repeatedly putting his helicopter between civilians and the firing of unfriendly troops. During Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, 12,000 American Indians served in the U.S. volunteer military forces and made up almost 25% of the total complement of 48,300 active military personnel involved in the conflict. During these and other wars, American Indians fought for the U.S. with distinction during the last one hundred years.

Congressional Actions:
In 1934 Congress passed legislation for the Johnson-O'Malley Act (JOM) which provided funds to states for having Indian students in public schools. Previously, Indian students did not attend public schools since their parents did not pay property taxes on reservation land holdings. In the same year, Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) that ended the practice of allotment of tribal lands to individual non-Indian ownership and repealed the Curtis Act of 1898 that outlawed legitimate Tribal governments. The Bureau of Indian Affairs also did away with its efforts to eliminate traditional Indian ceremonial practices. In 1940 Felix S. Cohen published the Handbook of Federal Indian Law that summarized and analyzed statutes and case laws applicable to Indians in the U.S. Still used today in regularly updated editions, it was followed the next year with the completion of another monumental compilation of Indian law documentation by Charles J. Kappler listing Indian treaties, statutes and leading Supreme Court cases that became the foundation for future Indian law efforts. In 1944 the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was formed and evolved eventually into a lobbying, networking and educational group to counter the Federal "termination" policies that began in 1953 to terminate the treaty-established, government -to-government trust relationships between the U.S. and Indian Tribes. In Oregon, termination was a terrible ordeal for terminated Tribes to go through and they each began work to regain their Federal Tribal recognition during the last one hundred years.

Educational Growth:
At the start of 1960 there were only 2,000 American Indians enrolled in higher education in the United States, 12,000 by 1970, and by 1980 109,000 had completed four or more years of college. By the end of the 20th Century, enrollment of American Indian/Alaska Native students in public institutions increased substantially. By 1997, 138,800 American Indians were enrolled in all institutions of higher education, up from 76,100 in 1976. A greater percentage of American Indian students than all other students were enrolled in public institutions. In 1994, 87 percent of American Indian students compared with 78 percent of all students attended public institutions. Since many Indian students attended 2-year institutions (which were mostly public) this impacted the percentage of Indian students attending public institutions. Enrollment jumped from 34,900 in 1976 to 74,500 in 1997 for American Indian women, while American Indian male enrollment rose from 34,800 to 52,600 during the same period. As for tribally-controlled colleges, by 1995 more than 12,000 American Indian students were enrolled in tribally controlled colleges, or about 8 percent of all American Indian/Alaska Native post secondary students. The total Fall 1997 enrollment of American Indian/Alaska Native students in degree granting institutions for the state of Oregon was 2,736. This was an impressive growth in higher education for American Indians/Alaska Natives during the last one hundred years.

"Termination" And Self-Determination:
By the close of the active period of the U.S. Federal governmentÍs policy of "termination" in the mid-1960s, 109 Indian Tribes and over 12,000 individual Indians lost official recognition of their treaty status as legally-recognized Indians. Over 2.5 million acres of reservation land formerly protected by the trust relationship between treaty Tribes and the Federal government had passed into non-Indian control. Among the largest Tribes affected were the Menominee in Wisconsin and the Klamath Tribe in Oregon. Northwest Tribes conducted a long struggle to regain their recognition and honoring of their treaty fishing rights. In a landmark case, the "Boldt Decision" finally passed through the U.S. Supreme Court in 1980 to recognize those treaty rights. Confrontation increased in the 1960s to maintain treaty rights of Indian Tribes and its members. The American Indian Movement (AIM) and other Indian activist organizations were formed to maintain treaty rights, tribal sovereignty and traditional cultures. By 1970 the U.S. census reported that 44.6% of American Indians were living in major urban centers - away from reservations. In 1971 Congress passes the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act that took traditional village governments off their land base (almost 90% of Alaska) and many powers of self-rule by creating 13 regional corporations in their place that could be purchased by non-Native investors after 1991. In 1972 Congress created the Office of Indian Education in the U.S. Department of Education to involve local Indian parent committees to work with local school districts in being more involved in the education of their Indian children. A National Advisory Council on Indian Education (NACIE) was also formed. The National Indian Education Association (NIEA), the Oregon Indian Education Association (OIEA), and other Indian education organizations were formed. In 1975, Congress passed the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975 which significantly increased tribal control over programs on Indian reservations and helped fund public school construction on and near reservations. In 1976 the Coos County Indian Education Coordination Program was initiated with Jim Thornton as its Coordinator. From Coos Bay School District's first Indian Education Program, Indian Education Programs quickly grew into all six Coos County school districts and also began in five other Oregon south coast school districts with Jim's active participation. Education has been a major goal of American Indians/ Alaska Natives over the last one hundred years.

Restoration And Growth:
In 1978 Congress passed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act that declared the public policy of the United States to "protect and preserve for American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise the traditional religions of the American Indian, Inuit, Aleut, and Native Hawaiians, including but not limited to access to sites, use and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through ceremonials and traditional rites." The same year, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act that gave Tribal courts jurisdiction over reservation Indian children in an effort to stop the placement of Indian children into non-Indian families. In 1977, the terminated Confederated Tribes of Siletz in Oregon were restored to their Federal recognition of their Tribal existence and government through an act of Congress. In 1982, the Cow Creek Band of Upper Umpqua Indians in Oregon regained their status as a Federally-recognized Indian Tribe, followed by the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde of Oregon the following year. During that year, President Reagan issued a statement reaffirming the government -to-government relationship between the U.S. and Indian Tribes and the Federal government's policy of self-determination for Indian nations. Other Oregon Tribes that regained their Federal status included the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, the Klamath Tribe, and the Coquille Indian Tribe. By the early 1990s, there were 325 recognized American Indian tribes in the U.S., including another 242 recognized Alaskan Native bands and village governments. There are also almost 200 unrecognized or terminated tribes and bands who continue to struggle to obtain Federal recognition. "Indian Country" land base in the U.S. has been reduced to a total of about 53 million acres out of the 2,316,012,800 acres of land used by American Indians at the time of non-Indian contact - 2.3% of its initial land base. The 1990 U.S. census reports that just under two million U.S. citizens claim American Indian or Alaskan Native heritage. There are 27 Indian-controlled accredited colleges operating in the United States and over 138,800 American Indians are enrolled in these and other colleges and universities throughout the U.S. There has been major progress for American Indians/Alaska Natives during the last one hundred years - and much more to achieve in the new century!


Jim Thornton, Indian Education Coordinator, Coos County Indian Education Coordination Program,
90633 Cape Arago Highway, Coos Bay OR 97420-7635