Future of Education

Resources with Implications for Transformational Education

While there are common themes among Indigenous Knowledge teachings such as language, historical, and cultural teachings, no single blueprint for Native self-government in education exists. Thus, adequate funding is needed to support the various and self-determined needs and goals of different communities in developing their curricula.

Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative

In 1994, the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative (AKRSI) was developed as an educational reform strategy, fostering connectivity and complementarity between the formal education system and the IK systems in rural Alaska. In 2006, a final report on the AKRSI was published, detailing the success of the initiative. The report demonstrated that over the course of ten years, the AKRSI led to an increase in student achievement scores, an increase in number of rural students attending college, an increase in the number of students pursuing STEM, and a decrease in the dropout rate. AKRSI was sponsored by the Alaska Federation of Natives, the University of Alaska, the National Science Foundation, and the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development.

Broadband and Tele-Education Resources

Department of the Interior MOU Among the U.S. DOI, FCC and U.S. Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration (Nov. 23, 2022)

Additional Information: Link

Summary: This MOU relates to increased coordination among Federal agencies to promote the deployment, coordination, and development of broadband and other wireless communications services on, and expand access to spectrum over, Tribal lands and Hawaiian homelands.

DOI Office of Indigenous Communications and Technology (OICT)

Additional Information: Link

Summary: This newly established office was developed to assist Tribal Nations and entities in managing and developing new technological and wireless services on Tribal lands to advance true self-determination over digital resources.

Indigenous Knowledge Authorities and Resources

This section includes links to academic articles exploring how and why IK benefits student learning.

The Gift of Education: How Indigenous Knowledges Can Transform the Future of Public Education

This article discusses how Indigenous Knowledge systems can generate new visions and practices of public education through culturally sustaining and revitalizing pedagogies. It also highlights statewide efforts to integrate IK into schools in Hawaii, Alaska, Montana, and beyond. An attached Appendix has a chart of Statewide Indigenous Curriculum Initiatives.

“All public education takes place on Indigenous lands and so must necessarily foster respect for those lands, Indigenous peoples, and Tribal sovereignty.” (174)

When Learning Is Life Giving: Redesigning Schools With Indigenous Systems of Relationality

Designing schools with Indigenous systems of relationality can be life giving for a healthier post-COVID world. This article considers the ways in which Indigenous systems of relationality —the ethics, worldviews, beliefs and practices, and moral precepts of being in relation with the rest of the living world— can offer strategies for educators, families, and communities to redesign approaches to learning in schools in ways that sustain and promote life.

Using case studies in Thailand, Mexico, and Colombia, the authors focus on three interrelated principles of Indigenous systems of relationality: (1) centering personality of land and place in every-day practices, (2) process-based orientations to learning, and (3) participating in family and community endeavors. Their research showed that relational orientation enhances a community’s resiliency and well-being through consensual and reciprocal relationships with each other and the living world.

Can we keep up with the aspirations of Indigenous education?

This article speaks to the rights-based agenda articulated in the Coolangatta Statement on Indigenous peoples’ rights in education, a product of global Indigenous educators engaged in the World Conference of Indigenous Peoples in Education (WIPCE).

This article also highlights the value of storytelling; recovering and remaking knowledge systems; ways of knowing, being, and relating; and place-based knowledge.

“[I]t is no longer acceptable that the role and voice of those that are the subject of educational policies, be excluded and marginalised from the creation and enactment of policies.” (8)

The Value of Culture-based Education for Native American Students

Schools employing culture-based strategies are better able to develop students’ identities and cultures, which has critical implications for overall student learning. Native American students in culturally responsive classrooms:

  • Have higher socio-emotional well-being and report higher levels of trusting relationships with adults.
  • Experience a deeper sense of belonging at school.
  • Demonstrate enhanced motivation, self-esteem, and ethnic pride.

The following strategies can help build a culture-based classroom:

  • Telling everyone’s story – more accurate and comprehensive history.
  • Welcoming use of heritage language.
  • Embracing family histories.

This article also has references to other great sources on culture-based teaching.

How to Make the Small Indigenous Cultures Bloom? Special Traits of Sami Education in Finland

This article offers a discussion of Sami educational history and present education, arguing for educational sovereignty and language revitalization.

Transformational Education Models

A review of existing programs emphasizing education through an Indigenous cultural focus generally shows a focus on language, historical, and cultural education. Domestic models generally focus on historical and cultural teachings, while international models in the arctic region generally focus on language education. Domestically, most schools and programs exist primarily in Western regions and the Northeast. Internationally, Canada and Finland are strong models, in part due to support from the national government.


In 2020, the Tribal Education Alliance of New Mexico published a report titled Pathways to Education Sovereignty: Taking a Stand for Native Children, which can be found here.

In 2012, the Regional Educational Laboratory at Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning published a report that can be found here about partnerships between tribal education departments and local education agencies in the Midwest and West.

In 1998, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) published a compilation of cooperative agreements among federal, public, and tribal schools and between Indian organizations regarding various Indian education matters at the time. This report, titled Indian Education Legal Support Project, can be found here. The materials are intended to be a general resource for tribal, state, and federal officials, schools, and other interested persons.

The following list, which is by no means comprehensive, has examples of present-day and upcoming schools or programs within the U.S. that have an Indigenous focus. These schools and programs range in scope from the school to state level and serve students in K-8 up to college.


Faithkeepers School Montessori Seneca language Nest fosters independent, confident, and socially responsible citizens who are exposed to the traditional teachings of Gaiwi:yo:h and the traditions of the Seneca people. The school is committed to fostering a child's love of learning and respect for self, others, and the environment.

The Onondaga Nation School has nearly 100% Native enrollment. The school employs an in-house Native American Home School Liaison, and the building’s architecture is full of Onondaga symbolism.

The Akwesasne Freedom School is an alternative school providing full Mohawk Immersion education to reservation students. According to their website, as an independent elementary school, AFS has existed on a shoestring budget for over 25 years. In 1985, AFS was the first to implement a total Mohawk immersion curriculum and did so without approval or funding from state, federal or provincial governments. Pre-K to 8 education is offered in the Kanienkéha (Mohawk) language and culture. All instruction, as well as recess periods, outdoor activities, field trips, meals and extracurricular activities are conducted in the Mohawk language.


The MN DOE IEFA intends to create a curriculum that teaches Minnesota’s rich cultural heritage and contemporary contributions of the Anishinaabe and Dakota people. Required academic standards include the contributions of Minnesota’s Tribal Nations and Urban Indigenous Communities. This curriculum is intended for all students in Minnesota, as well as their teachers and school administrators to better understand their Indigenous peers.

The curriculum is currently in development. The tentative timeline is:

  • 2023: Tribally-centered and Urban curricular resource development
  • 2024: Pilot programs for professional development; continued resource development; pilot curricular resource launch
  • 2025: Implementation of curricular resources and professional development

This program aims to preserve and present the unique political, sovereign, cultural, traditional, and spiritual values of American Indian Nations through Education. Priorities include assisting American Indian students in graduating from high school with a quality education and a positive cultural personal identity.

This program provides academic interventions, place-based supports, cultural involvement activities, and partnership-based student projects to meet the unique educational needs of American Indian students.

This academy is a Lakota-centered and -led school. The Academy’s inclusive and diverse education is driven by rigorous academics grounded in the thought and philosophy of the Oceti Sakowin.


The OPI Indian Education for All (IEFA) Unit works with districts, tribes, and other entities to ensure all schools have the knowledge, tools and resources necessary to honor the IEFA requirement and integrate it into their teaching materials and methods.

The Salish Language School is a non-profit providing instruction to children in preschool through the 8th grade. There is also a Nk̓ʷusm adult language program.

NACEP’s goal is to shape a culturally responsive system for educators to have relevant and accurate content material related to the experience of Native American Indians in Nevada. The curriculum is currently in development.

This program supports the efforts of local educational agencies, Indian tribes and organizations, post-secondary institutions, and other entities to meet the special academic, cultural, and linguistic needs of American Indian students to meet state academic content standards. It is funded by a Formula Grant.

Oregon’s DOE offers several curricula. Currently, the Siletz, Klamath, Grand Rond, and Cow Creek Band on Umpqua Tribes each have their own curriculum. The Burns Paiute Tribe, Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw, and Coquille are developing their curricula.

The OR DOE also has a Tribal Attendance Promising Practices (TAPP) program. The Government to Government Education Cluster (comprised of representatives from each of the nine federally recognized Tribes in Oregon) created a Policy Option Package (POP) to solicit state funding to reduce chronic absenteeism of American Indian/Alaska Native students. The OR legislature set aside funds for the 2021-2023 biennium to operate TAPP projects focused on supporting the attendance of Native students in nine preselected Oregon school districts. TAPP enables participating districts to receive up to $186,530.55 for their Family Advocate position, which has deep local connections, to create school-wide initiatives focused on reducing chronic absenteeism.


KCLC is an independent nonprofit organization, operating with the blessing of the Cochiti Tribal Council, and supported by foundations, individuals, the Administration for Native Americans, and New Mexico’s Indian Affairs Department. It is also a Keres-language revitalization school using an intergenerational approach to immersion and dual language with Montessori pedagogy.

The Albuquerque Public Schools CEC has a High School Curriculum offering:

  • Native American Government/Economics and Native Studies I and II
  • Native American Leadership and Performing Arts
  • Navajo History and Government
  • Navajo Language I and II
  • Zuni Language I and II

This community college aims to facilitate preservation of Tohono O’odham culture and tradition. The school requires all students in degree programs to study Tohono O’odham language and culture. In addition to having a program in Tohono O’odham Studies, the school reaches out to people across the Tohono O’odham Nation through community education courses and community engagement programs.


In recent years, Arctic countries have made large strides in Indigenizing education, both in its pedagogies and curricula. This section focuses on Arctic regions due to closer physical and cultural proximity to Alaska, but international models of indigenous-centered education exist all around the globe.

The Sámi across Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia

The Sami are an Indigenous people across Nordic countries. The Sami Parliament leads education efforts through its Educational Committee, advancing teaching of the Sami language and culture. The Parliament has an official presence in Finland, Norway, and Sweden.

The article Timelines and strategies in Sami education examines the historical and present-day status of Sami education. See the article How to Make the Small Indigenous Cultures Bloom? Special Traits of Sami Education in Finland for a discussion on Sami educational history and present education, as well as an argument for having educational sovereignty and language revitalization.


Finnish law requires instruction in Finnish, Swedish, or Sámi, depending on students’ native language. The national curriculum emphasizes education in Mother tongue and literature, second national language, and foreign languages.

  • The Constitution of Finland and Sámi Parliament Act recognize the Sámi as an Indigenous people.
    • The Sámi Language Act – safeguards the right of the Sámi to use their own language (North, Inari and Skolt Sami) when accessing public services and imposes an obligation on public authorities to promote the linguistic rights of the Sámi in Sámi homeland municipalities (Utsjoki, Inari, Enontekiö and Sodankylä) and outside these municipalities.
    • The Basic Education Act – Requires that Sámi languages are taught in Sámi homeland municipalities.
      • Sámi-speaking pupils living in the homeland should mainly be educated in the Sámi language. Outside this area, a special, additional education in Sámi-language learning is provided for two hours per week.
      • 75% of Sámi children currently live outside the core Sámi areas and only 10% attend the Sámi-language teaching.
      • As a result of the low status of the language and the fact that most people are bilingual, registered Sámi speakers may not officially identify themselves as Sámi speakers or may not even speak Sámi.
    • The Early Childhood Education and Care Act – Requires Sámi language early childhood education, language nests (immersion-based approach). This Act has been quite successful.
  • Finland’s general education structure:
    • There are very few private schools (mostly religious). Those that exist are granted the same government funds as public schools and are required to use the same admissions standards and provide the same services as public schools.
    • Funding: The central govt covers 40%, municipal covers 60%. Additional funds to municipalities for immigrant students who have been living in Finland for less than four years, for low-income students, for students in single parent families, and for students with parents who are unemployed or undereducated. Municipalities can distribute these funds to schools as they see fit.
    • School structure:
      • Early primary school/basic education:
        • Students generally stay together in a class with the same teacher for several years, allowing teachers to build more personal, lasting relationships with students and closely follow their development.
        • Students then choose academic or vocational secondary schools.
      • Grading and Testing:
        • GPA and verbal assessments
        • Final assessment at the end of basic education--those who score above 5/10 get a certificate.
      • The National core curriculum includes learning objectives for core subjects; suggested time allotments for each subject; and requirements for assessment, with guidance on how to grade assessments at two benchmarks.
      • Municipalities and local governments either develop their own curriculum based on the national curriculum and reflect local contexts or develop curriculum guidance, allowing each school to develop its own curriculum. The local curricula define in much greater detail what instructional objectives teachers should follow and how students should be assessed.



The Sámi Act of 1987 codified rights for the Sámi, including establishment of the Sámi parliament. Norway is the only country with a Sámi population to ratify the ILO 169 Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Conventionin 1989.

The Sámi Language Act of 1992 gave Sámi languages official national language (North, Lule and South Sámi) status, supported by the constitution.

The Basic Education and Upper Secondary Education Act created Sámi language schools.

  • Students in the Sámi language administrative area have the right to study the Sámi language and participate in Sámi-language-speaking classes.
  • Students who do not live in Sámi language administrative districts should be ethnically noted as Sámi and eligible to be added to the Sámi electoral roll.


The Swedish Parliament recognized the Sámi as an indigenous people in 1977 and as a nation in the constitution in 2011. Sámi languages have official minority language status.

A separate Sámi school system for 1–6 graders has been in place since 1981, with their own curriculum in six municipalities. The Education Act supports Sámi language teaching in Sámi administrative areas with minority language law support. Integrated Sámi language education is conducted in Sámi schools. There are also regulations in support of distance education.


Russia (Kola Peninsula)

Currently, only a couple of hours of Sámi language instruction are conducted in the Lovozero village for the early years of primary school as an extracurricular activity. There is no education-based legislation for teaching the Sámi language. Support is based on the state support for the Indigenous small-numbered peoples among other regional and federal legislation.

Greenland and Denmark

The Home Rule Act and Self-government referendum of 2008 made Greenlandic the sole official language of Greenland. The School Act of 1990 states that Danish speaking students shall be integrated into Greenlandic/Kalaallisut (Inuit language) speaking classes starting with Grade 1.

Greenlandic dialects: Students from the East Coast learn Tunumiisut (around 3000 speakers), while those on the Northwest speak Inuktun or Avanersuarmiutut (around 1,000 speakers).

The Denmark Senior High School Indigenous Education has formal partnerships with programs that allow students rich cultural, academic and individual learning experiences.

  • Follow the Dream Outreach Program – assists aboriginal students by providing individual learning plans, fully paid tutoring, career counseling, university tours, cultural camps, role models, and scholarship assistance.
  • Aboriginal Islander Education Officer (AIEO) – school official that promotes cultural awareness in the High School by supporting regional and national events and programs.


First Nations and Canada

First Nations and organizations designated by First Nations are responsible for managing and delivering education programs and services for students who are living on-reserve. Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) provides funding for students who live on reserve, are 4 to 21 years old, or the age range for elementary and secondary education support in the province of residence and are enrolled in/attending an eligible elementary or secondary program. The ISC has K-12 Programs.

The Anishinabek Education Agreement Act of 2017 granted 23 First Nations the power to control education on their reserves, creating the Anishinabek Education System that promotes Anishinaabe culture and language.

Examples of Indigenous-led education:

  • Cree School Board – largest First Nations-controlled school board in Canada, funded jointly by Québec and Ottawa.
  • Kativik School Board – provides elementary and secondary education within an Inuit environment for children in 14 schools in Nunavik.
  • Manitoba First Nations School System
    • Although the First Nations in Manitoba must still follow the provincial curriculum, they can add customized language and history courses and more.
    • Not every First Nation in Manitoba has signed onto the school system because they would have to give up control of education funding.
  • Nunavut was created in 1999 and led to an Inuit -based and -defined education system.
    • The Nunavut Education Act requires bilingual education for all students (an Inuit language and English or French), incorporation of Inuit culture into all aspects of the education system (including consultation with communities and elders) and additional support for students to stay engaged in the educational process.
  • The Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care (ELCCC) Framework represents the Canada Government and Indigenous peoples’ work to co-develop a transformative Indigenous framework that reflects the unique cultures, aspirations and needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children across Canada.
  • The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Tool Kit for Educators is a free toolkit of lesson modules on subjects relating to the First Nations, including resources for both students and instructors. The toolkit is meant for use in classrooms to raise awareness and provide history and a cultural perspective for Indigenous Education.
  • The Kaniyasihk Cree Immersion Land-Based School has a program that aims to connect students to their Cree heritage through land-based education.

Current trends:

  • Provincial teacher training programs are beginning to incorporate cultural dynamics in Indigenous classrooms as a key element in preparing teachers in Indigenous schools.
  • Greater consideration is being given to instructing children in primary grades in the language of the home and community, particularly in areas where the Indigenous language is in danger of becoming extinct.
  • Efforts to create urban Indigenous high schools in Edmonton, Winnipeg and Saskatoon have contributed to stronger student retention rates because of emphasis on culture, language, and student remediation.