Schools, School Attainment, and Literacy
This general substantive research area focuses on a number of interrelated topics of American Indian life concerning schools, school attendance, years of schooling completed, and literacy among Native people from the 1820s through the 1930s. We are using Bureau of Indian Affairs data to document American Indian levels and trends in schools and school enrollment from the 1820s through the 1930s. We are using 1900-1940 decennial census data to document levels and trends of American Indian school attendance, school attainment, and literacy across those years. In addition, because each of the decennial censuses include people of all ages, we are documenting levels and trends of school attainment and literacy across birth cohorts of people born from the early 1800s through the early 1900s. We are also relating the historical trends in schooling to other policies and events of the period. In addition to documenting national levels and trends, we are conducting sociological analyses to document and explain differences in schooling levels and trends across gender, state of residence, rural-urban residence, level of integration into the Euro-American community, and extent of Euro-American ancestry. We are conducting these analyses with the national American Indian population and more intensively within particular tribes and regions.
Project 2.01: Literacy Among American Indians: Levels and Trends from 1900 to 1930 and Across Birth Cohorts from 1830 to 1920
Arland Thornton and Linda Young-DeMarco
We investigate levels and trends in literacy–being able to read and write–among American Indians in the United States. Using 1900-1930 decennial census data, we document levels and trends in reading and writing for the 1900 through 1930 period and for birth cohorts from 1830 through 1920. We thus provide for American Indians a large-scale picture of the history of literacy. We document the pace and extent of American Indian literacy from very low for the birth cohorts of the early 1800s to fairly universal for the cohorts of the early 1900s. We also demonstrate that the increases in Native literacy were closely related to birth cohort, with successive new birth cohorts having higher levels of literacy. We found little evidence that increases in reading and writing from 1900 to 1930 happened because adults increased their literacy after the school years and as they matured across the adult life course. We also document important gender differences in American Indian literacy, with the proportion literate being lower for women than for men, but with the gender gap decreasing in later birth cohorts. There were also substantial literacy inequalities across geographical regions of the country—ranging from 19 to 74 percent literate across regions in 1900. The trajectories of literacy attainment also varied across regions in interesting ways. We also document that American Indian literacy was higher among those living in urban areas, those more integrated into the Euro-American community, and those with Euro-American ancestry.
Project 2.02: Levels, Trends, and Differentials in Education among the Anishinaabe People
Arland Thornton, Eric Hemenway, Linda Young DeMarco, Alphonse Pitawanakwat, and Lindsey Willow Smith
This project is investigating schools, school attendance, years of schooling completed, and literacy among the Anishinaabek from the 1820s through the 1930s. The Anishinaabek are a Native American group consisting of the Odawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi that historically resided primarily in the Great Lakes Region, but also in states such as Montana, North Dakota, Kansas, and Oklahoma. We use Bureau of Indian Affairs reports to document Anishinaabe levels and trends in schools and school enrollment and decennial census data to document levels and trends of Anishinaabe educational attainment and literacy. Because each of the 1900-1940 decennial censuses include people of all ages, we document trends across birth cohorts of people born from the early 1800s through the early 1900s. We conduct analyses with the national Anishinaabe population and more intensively with the Odawa of northwest Michigan. Our northwest Michigan analyses identify and map intensively the schools attended both inside and outside the area. In addition to documenting national levels and trends, we provide sociological analyses documenting and explaining differences in education levels and trends across gender, state of residence, rural-urban residence, level of integration into the Euro-American community, extent of Euro-American ancestry, and specific Anishinaabe groups.
Project 2.03: American Indian Schools and School Enrollment: 1819-1940
Arland Thornton and Linda Young-DeMarco
In this paper we investigate schools designed for American Indians and student enrollment among American Indian students from 1819 through 1940. For the 19th century, we use data from the annual reports of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to assemble a time series of schools and student enrollment in schools in the BIA system. For the 20th century we rely on data from both the BIA and the U.S. decennial censuses. National estimates are provided for the total population of American Indian schools and students across three subgroups: New York Nations; the Five Nations originally located in the Southeast and later moving to what is now the state of Oklahoma; and all Other Nations. We also document the introduction and expansion of national boarding schools in the last decades of the 19th century. For the early 20th century we describe the BIA’s incorporation of standard neighborhood schools into its American Indian education program. We also incorporate estimates of the school age population for this time period along with numbers of students, to document the percentage of Native youth enrolled in school. Our data show moderate increases in the number of American Indian schools and students through the first half of the 19th century, along with fluctuations associated with the program of expulsion of American Indians from the eastern to the western part of the country and with the disruptions of the Civil War. We also describe rapid increases in American Indian schools and students, along with increases in the size of schools across the last half of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century. Particularly important for the early 20th century is the incorporation of large numbers of standard neighborhood schools into the BIA program for Native education. During the early 20th century both the number of students and the rate of enrollment increased substantially.