Las Cruces, NM -- The following report prepared by William

Brescia and Jim C. Fortune discusses the difficulties of using

standardized testing on American Indian students.


CONTACT: ERIC/CRESS, Department 3AP, Box 30001, New Mexico State

University, Las Cruces, NM 88003-0001 (505) 646-2623.





Testing students from backgrounds different from the culture in

which the test was developed magnifies the probability of invalid

results. In addition to the limits of test theory and the the

constraints associated with a given test, the test administrator

is faced with several potential sources of error arising from

the differences in the two cultures. these include lack of

compatibility of the languages, differences in the experiential

backgrounds of the students being tested and those for whom the

test was developed, and differences in affective dispositions

toward handling testing environments between the two groups of



The testing of many American Indian children using exams

developed for the majority of American society represents a case

of cross- cultural testing which is likely to produce invalid

results in the form of underestimation of student performance.

In this digest limitations of the use of standardized these with

many American Indian students are discussed as a problem that

must be addressed by educators who use these tests for placement

and grading of students. Sources and consequences of invalid

test results ensuing from the administration of standardized

test to unacculturated American Indian students are delineated.






Technically, a standardized test is a systematic process for

assigning numerical values to samples of behavior, such that the

same or equivalent items are administered to all test-takers

using uniform directions and scoring methods (Brown, 1976).

Standardization can be extended to include uniform methods of

test interpretation derived through the development of norms for

the group for which the test was designed, information on the

consistency of test performance (reliability), and evidences

that the test measures what it was designed to measure

(validity) (Aiken, 1976).


Tests addressed in this digest will be limited to four types

which are commercially available. These include achievement,

aptitude, ability, and intelligence tests. These tests are

those that are most frequently used in educational placement and



ACHIEVEMENT TESTS. An achievement test is one that has been

designed to measure the knowledge and skills accrued in a

specific content area. The content areas are usually school

subjects taught at a given grade level. Commercially available

achievement tests are most frequently multiple choice,

group-administered tests of content selected to apply to a wide

range of school programs.


APTITUDE TESTS. An aptitude test is a test that has been

designed to measure the capability of an individual to profit

from instruction in a specific content area. An aptitude test

is designed to measure skills, traits, and talents predictive of

future performance in the area.


ABILITY TESTS. An ability test is one designed to measure the

capability of one to perform in a content area. The difference

between an ability test and an aptitude test is one of status;

present capability versus potential (Brown, 1976).


INTELLIGENCE TESTS. An intelligence test is one designed to

measure an individual's ability to reason and to perform

verbally. The IQ test is a generalized form or aptitude test

for scholastic work (Aiken, 1976).




Criteria for the performance of a standardized test can be

classified into two categories: requirements for obtaining

accurate and appropriate scores; and requirements for making

accurate and useful interpretations of the scores. Requirements

for obtaining accurate and appropriate scores include matched

level of test to the students, clarity and comprehensiveness in

the administration of instructions, and logistics. Requirements

associated with test interpretation include norms, reliability,

and validity.


LEVEL OF TEST. Tests are designed to measure specific knowledge,

skills, and abilities of students sharing a particular array of

characteristics. The test will likely not perform for students

who do not have the characteristics. Hence, tests should be

used with students for whom test norms exist.



testing, distractions, incomplete instructions, failure to allow

the time allotted to the test (mistiming), and inadequate

coverage of practice examples can reduce student performances.

Instructions should be brief and clear. They should also show

what the test-taker should do to respond, and tell that

individual how much time is available for each part of the test.


LOGISTICS. Tests should be administered under favorable

conditions and should be monitored. Rushed, disorderly

arrangements raise the potential of test anxiety. Cheating

either from copying or from obtaining prior copies of the test

can invalidate any test. Harshness or condescending remarks can

lower the performance of a student on a test.


NORMS. Norms permit an interpretation of a test taker's score to

be made relative to the scores made by a large number of similar

individuals. these interpretations do not address how much

content was mastered by how well the test-taker did in

comparison to his/her peers. In the case of achievement

testing, test administration should be in the same time of the

year as the test was normed. Most achievement test have fall

and spring norms. When tests are administered to members of a

minority group, it is very important to have norms on the

minority group or to assure that the norm group includes

adequate representation of the minority group.


RELIABILITY. Reliability addresses the reproducibility of test

performances across time, as well as forms of the test and items

in it. Low reliability is due to unsystematic errors which

affect test scores in unpredictable ways. These unsystematic

errors may occur due to ambiguous items, guessing, or poor

content coverage. Poor content coverage may involve uneven,

sparse, or spotty coverage of content. Standardized tests used

for educational decisions concerning individual students should

have reliabilities greater than 90 percent.


VALIDITY. Uses of a test are subject to validity concerns. One

test may be valid as a measure of the achievement of a

mathematics unit within the context it was taught and yet not be

a valid measure for the generic achievement of the mathematics

included in the unit. If addition of several numbers is taught

vertically and all of the test items are arranged vertically

then the test may be a valid measure of the unit within the

instructional context. Yet, the test is not a valid measure of

the addition of several numbers, since the numbers can also be

arranged horizontally. Validity refers to measuring what the

use is referencing.


In tests designed to measure acquisition of a body of content,

such as achievement tests, content validity is a required

criterion. It is of vital importance that the designated

content is covered adequately and in the appropriate

proportions. Administrative manuals of tests usually describe

the table of content specification as evidence of content

validity . In achievement testing, instructional validity or

evidence that the content was taught is also important.


In tests designed to measure potential, predictive validity is

required. Predictive validity is evidence that shows that

performance on the test is correlated with future performance in

the content area. A second validity concern with tests that

measure potential is that of test bias. Test bias occurs when

individuals with a given characteristic not logically related to

skill consistently score differently than the norm group on the






Standardized test scores are used to make decisions about

programs and to make decisions about individuals. Although all

four types of tests can be used indirectly to make decisions

about programs, the primary uses of tests to make program

decisions involve the use of ability tests in program design and

the use of achievement tests in program evaluation.


All four types of tests are used to make decisions about

individuals. Aptitude, ability, and intelligence tests are used

primarily in the rendering of decisions involving selection and

placement or to provide feedback to the test-taker concerning

his or her capability. Achievement tests may be used in four

ways to make decisions about individuals as a survey of

attainment in a content area, as a diagnostic instrument to

identify the strengths and weaknesses of an individual in a

content area, as a readiness indicator to determine if an

individual has attained enough prerequisite material to continue

study in a given content area, and a performance test to

estimate the degree of learning of a body of content defined by





Generally, when standardized tests are used with American Indian

students (on the reservation or in settings with low levels of

acculturation) and produce invalid results, the tests usually

produce lower or less desirable scores for the Indian

test-taker. These score variations are not really explained by

program related factors nor correlates of test performance which

are frequently found in other situations.

In program-related decisions the underestimation of Indian

performance on ability tests may result in the development of an

inefficient program design. Underestimation on achievement tests

may result in the demise or modification of what in reality is an

effective program.


In test-based decisions concerning the American Indian student

underestimation can do grave harm to the individual. In both

selection and placement the Indian student can be denied

opportunity, can be relegated to low-paying work or unemployment

or can be placed in a program that is too easy or boring. As

feedback, the test results can do harm to the self esteem and

confidence of the Indian student, sometimes resulting in the

student giving up or dropping out. With regard to the

interpretation of achievement test results, false conclusions

concerning the Indian student may result leading to teacher

allegations of laziness, disinterest, or stupidity.

Underestimation may result in the student not being promoted to

advanced levels of instruction, being placed in low-achieving

groups, or having to do remedial work.




It should be recognized that American Indian tribes embrace a

wide range of differences with regard to culture. To treat

American Indians as a collective group, regardless of tribe, is

to make the same error of consideration as is made in testing

Indian students with standardized tests that have less than

three percent Indian students in the norming sample. Uniform

research results across tribes is simply nonexistent.

Nevertheless, bias found in the study of one tribe likely exists

for several other tribes. A source of underestimation

documented for one tribe should in fact be considered as a

potential source of underestimation for other tribes until

research indicates the contrary for a given tribe.


Underestimation may occur in the standardized testing of American

Indian students in several different ways. These include

students not exhibiting behaviors required in successful

test-taking; students not reading the questions accurately;

students not having the assumed experience or cognitive

structure to respond to certain items; and students lacking the

opportunity to practice key behaviors required by the test.

Each of these differences in the behavior of Indian

students in the testing situation reflects cultural differences.


The factors that influence Indian test scores, usually considered

as forms of bias, are well-documented in the literature (Neely

and Shaughnessy, 1984). If only one of the unsuccessful

test-taking behaviors of the students is present in certain

situations or if these behaviors could be tracked

systematically, then a methodology could be developed to correct

the problem of underestimation. However, these behaviors are

confounded in that they sometimes occur jointly and at different

times in the test-taking process. Additional confounding takes

place because many Indian students possess the other individual

characteristics which normally present testing problems:

poverty, low parental education, broken homes, and nonstandard

English backgrounds. McDiarmid (1972) discusses the role that

poverty, health and nutrition, social conflict, language, and

test motivation play in the interpretation of test data on Indian


children. The major factors were found to be language and test

motivation. Some suggestions to facilitate test fairness have

been reported in aptitude and ability assessment, such as in the

General Aptitude Test Battery (Hunter, 1983). Measurement

professionals have addressed the problem of cultural influence

on test performance, but to this date an optional functional

treatment of the problem still does not exist.


Many American Indian students fail to exhibit successful

test-taking behaviors due to a multiplicity of underlying

causes. Cultural beliefs in some tribes may bar competitive

behaviors in an academic setting. The student may underestimate

the seriousness of the test or fail to adopt a successful

response strategy which may involve selective scanning for known

items, techniques of using partial information to guess correct

answers, or efficient time use. Students possess a

dichotomy with regard to their perceptions of the purposes and

significance of tests (Deyhle, 1986). Acculturation has been

found as an influence on both achievement and ability tests

(Hoffman, et al, 1985; Guilmet, 1983). Both authors suggest

that acculturation and test motivation are associated.


The second most influential factor reported in the literature is

language; that is, inability of many Indian students to read the

questions accurately or to be able to give appropriate verbal

responses. Tests which avoid language use are not subject to

underestimation as much as those that depend on verbal

instructions and reading. To illustrate this the

Hiskey-Nebraska test of Learning Aptitude, a non-verbal test

designed for use with deaf children produced estimates of higher

potential for Indian children than the Wechsler Test (Shutt,

1962). The influence of English being learned as a second

language is further reinforced by the fact that many Indian

first languages are unwritten.


The deficiency of the student to have the assumed experience or

cognitive structure to respond to certain items is due both to

the culture and to the setting in which many children are

reared. The isolated, rural environment of many reservation

settings, the restricted poverty of many families, and the

cultural ties that promote continued identification with the

tribe deny students important knowledge of the outside world.

Fortune (1985) found that a majority of the Indian students in

an economically deprived reservation setting lacked experience

to understand the examples that teachers use in instruction and,

consequently, the experience to perform on achievement tests.

Studies of intelligence and aptitude test results of one tribe

suggest nonstandard Indian performances (Mishra, 1981). These

results are further substantiated by unique patterns of measured

Indian aptitude. On the WISC-R test Indian children show a

pattern of greater strength than the norm population in

relational, holistic, and right hemisphere information

processing (Browne, 1984). The Indian children in two

reservation settings demonstrated a performance pattern on the

Wechsler different from normal and learning disabled Anglo

children. Spatial abilities were more well- developed than

sequencing skills (McShane & Plas, 1982; Diessner & Walker,



Although Boloz and Varrati (1983) found that test scores for

Indian students were higher for those who had the best

attendance records and stayed in the same district, many Indian

students live in discouraging situations where there is little

congruence between their life experiences and the skills needed

for testing. These students often do not speak English outside

of school. In addition, there are few books available for them

to read. Personal and community poverty, aggravated by lack of

industrial development and employed role models, does little to

stimulate student awareness of mathematics and its applications.




Applications of the principles of test theory to the sources of

underestimation can lead to several useful maxims in using

standardized tests with many American Indian students. Prior to

the administration of standardized tests to American Indian

students or to the interpretation of American Indian test data

the test user can do several things that may contribute to

better test taker performance. For ability, aptitude, and

intelligence testing one should assure that the students have

had exposure to the experiences assumed in the design of the

test, the opportunity to develop the requisite skills, and the

circumstances necessary to value a successful test performance.

For achievement tests, one should make certain that the students

have been instructionally exposed to the content of the test and

have had opportunity to apply this content; the students have

had experience in the taking of the test, are test wise and able

to understand test instructions and time requirements; and the

test is to be or was administered at a time similar to when it

was normed and the test has Indian norms. A few of the national

testing corporations such as the developers of the California

Achievement Test are developing Indian norms for their tests.


Several papers offer additional reading and help in the area of

testing Indian students. They include guidelines for testing

bicultural children (Bernardoni, 1967) and for second language

testing (Upshur and Fata, 1968), as well as annotations of tests

found appropriate for use with American Indians (Educational

Testing Service, 1977 and 1982).


Recommendations for future research appear fraught with problems.

The natural recommendation for most tribes to become involved in

the process of developing their own tests has to be considered in

the light of the high costs and resource requirements needed to

develop a quality test. Tribal differences and dispersion of

many Indian students would suggest that tribally developed tests

may lack enough general applications across tribes for merit.

Further research may be better invested in documenting the

similarity and differences of test reactions and in the

development of intervention programs to teach test

administrators to use tests in an appropriate manner with

American Indian students.





Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1976.


Bernardoni, Louis C. "The Testing of Bicultural Children",

SHARING IDEAS 4, 2 (1967): 1-5. ED 077 977.


Boloz, Sigmund A., & Varrati, Richard. "Apologize or Analyze:

Measuring Academic Achievement in the Reservation School,"




PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTING. New York: Holt, Rinehart and

Winston, 1976.


Browne, Dauna Bell. 'WISC-R Scoring Patterns among Native

Americans of the Northern Plains," WHITE CLOUD JOURNAL

3, 2 (1984): 3-16.


Deyhle, Donna. "Success and Failure: A Micro-ethnographic


of Navajo and Anglo Students' Perceptions of Testing,"

CURRICULUM INQUIRY, 16, 4 (1986): 365-89.


Diessner, Rhett, & Walder, Jackqueline L. "A Cognitive Pattern

of the


EDUCATION 25, 2 (1986) 39-43.


Educational Testing Service (ETS). TESTS FOR AMERICAN INDIANS.

Princeton: ETS, 1977. ED 213 546.


Educational Testing Service (ETS). TESTS FOR AMERICAN INDIANS.

Princeton: ETS, 1982. ED 227 995.



Philadelphia, MS: Choctaw Heritage Press, 1985.




EXAMPLE. Los Angeles: University of California, 1983. ED 261



Hoffman, Tom, et al. "Measured Acculturation and MMPI-168

Performance of Adults," JOURNAL OF CROSS-CULTURAL

PSYCHOLOGY 16,2 (1985): 243-56.




RATES. Uses Test Research Report No. 46. Sacramento:


State Department of Employment Development, 1983. ED 237 534.



Cruces: ERIC/CRESS, 1972. ED 055 692.


McShane, Damian Anthony, & Plas, Jeanne M. "Wechsler Scale

Performance Patterns of American Indian Children."

PSYCHOLOGY IN THE SCHOOLS 19,1 (1982): 8-17.


Mishra, Shitala P. "Relationships of WISC-R Factor Scores to


Achievement and Classroom Behaviors of Native American




Neely, Renee, & Shaughnessy, Michael F. ASSESSMENTS AND THE

NATIVE AMERICAN. Portales: Eastern New Mexico University

Psychology Department, 1984. ED 273 889.




Southwestern Orthopsychological Assocation Meeting, Galveston,


TX, November 1972. ED 071 830.


Upshur, John A., & Fata, Julia, (Eds). PROBLEMS IN FOREIGN



MI: University of Michigan Research Club in Language Learning,


1968. ED 022 162.




Brescia, W., & Fortune, J.C. (1988). STANDARDIZED TESTING OF




Date: Sep 92

The Current Condition of Native Americans

Author: Hodgkinson, Harold

ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools,

Charleston, WV.


Despite all of the trauma inflicted upon the indigenous peoples of

North America during the past several hundred years, they have

survived. Today, Native Americans make up a vigorously growing part

of the U.S. population. This Digest begins with a remembrance of

Native Americans' past, followed by a brief description of their

ancient and current diversity. The Digest continues with current

information about where they live; the growth of their numbers; and

the status of their health, employment, and education. The Digest

closes with an assessment of recent progress made by Native

Americans and challenges they still face.




It was clear, as we Americans began preparations for the

celebration of the "discovery" of America by Columbus some 500

years ago, that the ground had shifted under our feet. First, we

learned that Columbus was the fourth "discoverer" of America and

that he never set foot on the land that makes up the United States.

Then we learned that at least 3 million people already lived on the

North American continent in 1492. We have also begun to appreciate

that what Columbus took back--maize, potatoes, tobacco, and

wilderness survival skills, for example--was far more important

than what he left behind--mainly horses, guns, and disease. We now

know, too, that the first real discoverers of the hemisphere

probably migrated across the Bering Strait to the western part of

the North American continent. From there, they migrated to South

America, then back north through the eastern part of what is now

the U.S. All of this took place thousands of years before 1492.


In fact, calling the Native peoples of North America "Indians"

perpetuates Columbus' error in thinking he was in the East Indies.

Indeed, given what we know today about the treatment of indigenous

peoples during the westward expansion, the notion of venerating

Columbus as a hero is unsettling. We know, for instance, how a

major food source--the buffalo--came close to total ruin, along

with Native families and tribal identities.




Any description of Native Americans must begin with a reminder of

a historical condition that continues to shape Native American

societies even today. Native Americans, originally, were the entire

American population. As such, they developed an amazing variety of

linguistic and cultural traditions. Even today, when they make up

less than one percent of the U.S. total, they represent half of the

nation's languages and cultures. This diversity within a small

population must be kept in mind, always.


Although many tribal traditions are at risk of dying out, Indians

as a group are a growing population in 1992. Some 1,959,000 people

claimed American Indian status on the 1990 Census form. There is

extraordinary diversity in this population, representing about 500

tribes in the U.S.; of these tribes, 308 are recognized by the

federal government.




Along with the 1.9 million American Indian and Alaska Natives, over

5 million Americans indicated on their Census forms that they were

of Indian descent. If even a quarter of these 5 million people

decide to reclaim their Indian heritage in the next Census (in the

year 2000), there could be an astonishing growth in population

figures for Native Americans--with no increase in birth rates.

Recent movies and novels have featured Natives mostly in a

favorable light. This improved media portrayal could increase the

numbers who make the switch in which ethnic identity they claim.

The Census taker used to decide a person's ethnic identity; today

the respondent does, which is a step in the right direction.




We know from the 1990 Census where Native Americans live. Of the

1.9 million, about 637,000 are living on reservations or Trust

Lands. However, 46,000 live in the New York/Long Island/New

Jersey/Connecticut Combined Metro Area (CMA); 87,000 in the Los

Angeles CMA; 15,000 in the Chicago CMA; and 40,000 in the San

Francisco CMA; just to name the largest. A minimum of 252,000

Native Americans lived in cities in 1990.


More than half of the Native American population in 1990 lived in

the following six states: Oklahoma (252,000), California (242,000),

Arizona (204,000), New Mexico (134,000), Alaska (86,000), and

Washington state (81,000). In growth from 1980-1990, Oklahoma led

with an 83,000 person increase. Arizona's population was up 51,000

and California's was up 41,000. One reservation dominates all

others in population--the Navajo reservation that occupies parts of

Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah has 143,000 residents. The next

largest reservation, home to the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) people, is

Pine Ridge located in South Dakota, with 11,000. Of the 500 tribes

and bands in the nation, 10 made up half of the Indian population

in 1980. This fact means there is a large number of very small

tribes; many of these small tribes have few young people, which

makes their futures uncertain. (The word "endangered" comes to





American Indians have a fertility rate about twice that of other

Americans, partly because they are, on average, about 7 years

younger than the U.S. average. Actually, the birth rate is not

increasing. Rather, infant deaths are decreasing, resulting in a

large increase of young Natives. Indeed, the Census reports that

from 1980 to 1990, Natives increased their numbers by 54 percent.

The Indian Health Service has played a role in reducing infant

mortality, from 60 deaths per 1,000 births from 1955 to 10 in 1985.

Unfortunately, despite some reduction in alcoholism rates, the

death rate from alcohol-related causes is still three times higher

among Indians than the rate in the general population. This rate

includes deaths due to fetal alcohol syndrome and drug- and

alcohol-related accidents, suicides, and criminal offenses. Of all

treatment services provided by the Indian Health Service in 1988,

70 percent were alcohol-related. With some real progress in the

areas of safe births and child health, the rest of Native health is

a mixed bag.


Thus, while Natives have made major advances in reducing infant

deaths and improving public health facilities, several major

problems remain. The most prominent of the remaining needs include

creating jobs on reservations and reducing alcohol-related

accidents, crime, suicide, and poverty.




A Native American who wants a middle class job will likely have to

leave the reservation. This circumstance may account, in part, for

the movement of Indians to metro areas. One way to increase the

availability of jobs in rural areas and on reservations is to start

new businesses. Many Natives are engaged in this strategy. In 1987,

Indians owned 17,000 businesses with cash receipts of $800 million;

Eskimos owned 2,300; and Aleuts owned 1,100. Most of these

businesses employ small numbers of workers, and not all are located

on reservations. A larger proportion of the 4,000 Native-owned

businesses in Alaska are located in Native villages compared to the

proportion of Native-owned businesses in California (numbering

3,200) that are located on reservations.




Major changes in Native education have occurred in the past two

decades. The notorious boarding schools, which took Indian children

from their families and tribes and attempted to make Anglos out of

them, are now mainly gone. More Indian youth are enrolled in

schools and colleges that are either run by tribal leadership or in

which tribal views are important to decisionmaking.


There has been a major increase in college attendance, indicated by

the increase in the numbers of Natives taking the SAT--from 2,662

in 1976 to 18,000 in 1989. Of the 103,000 Natives who were in

college in 1990, about half were in two-year colleges and half in

four-year. The states with highest enrollments are California with

21,000 native students; Oklahoma with 9,600; Arizona with 8,800;

and New Mexico with 4,500. The 24 Tribal Colleges, most of which

offer two-year programs, have rapidly increasing enrollments. In

addition, several associations currently encourage Indian youth to

aspire to higher education. The American Indian Science and

Engineering Society and the National Action Council for Minorities

in Engineering are just two of a growing number or such



Less is known about the 391,000 Indians in elementary and secondary

education. Many public schools on or near reservations are becoming

increasingly responsive to the special needs of Indian youth. In

some cases, the local tribal language and culture are taught at

school, which is a major reversal of the previous attempts (such as

in the boarding schools) to eliminate Indian language and culture.

Indian parents are becoming increasingly involved in school

activities, including holding offices as school board members.


Many expect these improvements will help young Indians take pride

in their language and cultural traditions, which should be

important in increasing the number of youth who attend college.

More needs to be done to provide information about college to youth

in elementary and junior high school. Many Native students do not

take the courses required for college admission, particularly in

math and science.




This is a period of great possibilities for Native Americans. After

centuries of misinformation, the average American has now gained a

limited knowledge about the historical mistreatment of Natives, the

importance of treaty rights, and the differences in world views

between Americans of European descent and Native Americans.

Examples of Native beliefs that are different from European-based

beliefs include the following:


* that land is sacred and cannot be owned;


* that one is wise to wait for a speaker to finish and think

deeply about what was said before formulating a response;


* that to foul the land is to insult your ancestors;


* that all things have their own identities, such as plants,

which are "the rooted ones."


These are all ideas that many Americans find appealing. It may well

be that many Native views of the world will become "mainstream" in

the next decade.


Many of the problems faced by Native Americans can be traced back

to the conflicts between their desire to perpetuate their cultural

heritage and the pressure to assimilate into the larger society.

All ethnic groups wrestle with this conflict to some extent. A

complicating factor for Native Americans is that there is an

incredible diversity of cultures that falls into the category of

Native American. Rather than preserving one language and way of

life, they must preserve hundreds of relatively complete cultures.

The current generation of American Indian and Alaska Native youth

have a genuine choice between being proud to be an American and

being proud to be a Native. As stated, those choices appear

mutually exclusive. If they wish, they can live a

tradition-oriented Native lifestyle, or they can move completely

into the mainstream American middle class. Or (and this is the more

complex choice) they can lead lives that include productive

elements of both. Given the pluralistic American tradition, many

share the hope that Indian youth will find ways to do the latter,

both for the sake of their fulfillment as individuals and for the

enrichment of American society.




Evangelauf, Jean. (1992). Minority-group enrollment at colleges

rose 10% from 1988 to 1990, reaching record levels. Chronicle of

Higher Education, 38 (20), A33, 37.


Hodgkinson, H.L., Outtz, J.H., & Obarakpor, A.M. (1990). The

demographics of American Indians. Washington, DC: Institute for

Educational Leadership. (ED 330 509).


Indian Health Service. (1990). Trends in Indian health, 1990.

Washington, DC: Department of Health and Human Services.


Snipp, C.M. (1989). American Indians: The first of this land. New

York: Russell Sage Foundation.


Thornton, R. (1987). American Indian holocaust and survival: A

population history since 1492. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma



U.S. Census Bureau. (1990). Characteristics of American Indians by

tribe and selected areas. Washington, DC: Census Bureau.


U.S. Census Bureau. (1990). We, the first Americans. Washington,

DC: Census Bureau.


U.S. Department of Education. (1991). Indian Nations At Risk: An

Educational Strategy for Action. Washington, DC: Author. (ED 339



Harold Hodgkinson, noted author and lecturer, directs the Center

for Demographic Policy at the Institute for Educational Leadership,

Inc. in Washington, DC.


This publication was prepared with funding from the U.S. Department

of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, under

contract no. RI88062016. The opinions expressed herein do not

necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the Office of

Educational Research and Improvement or the Department of




G. Cantoni (Ed.) (1996), Stabilizing Indigenous Languages

Flagstaff: Center for Excellence in Education, Northern Arizona University




Policy Documents

Native American Languages Act of 1990


G. Cantoni (Ed.) (1996), Stabilizing Indigenous Languages

Flagstaff: Center for Excellence in Education, Northern Arizona University




PUBLIC LAW 101-477 - October. 30, 1990





SEC. 101. This title may be cited as the "Native American Languages Act".




SEC. 102. The Congress finds that--


(1) the status of the cultures and languages of native Americans is unique

and the United States has the responsibility to act together with Native

Americans to ensure the survival of these unique cultures and languages;


(2) special status is accorded Native Americans in the United States, a

status that recognizes distinct cultural and political rights, including the

right to continue separate identities;


(3) the traditional languages of native Americans are an integral part of

their cultures and identities and form the basic medium for the

transmission, and thus survival, of Native American cultures, literatures,

histories, religions, political institutions, and values;


(4) there is a widespread practice of treating Native Americans languages as

if they were anachronisms;


(5) there is a lack of clear, comprehensive, and consistent Federal policy

on treatment of Native American languages which has often resulted in acts

of suppression and extermination of Native American languages and cultures;


(6) there is convincing evidence that student achievement and performance,

community and school pride, and educational opportunity is clearly and

directly tied to respect for, and support of, the first language of the

child or student;


(7) it is clearly in the interests of the United States, individual States,

and territories to encourage the full academic and human potential

achievements of all students and citizens and to take steps to realize these



(8) acts of suppression and extermination directed against Native American

languages and cultures are in conflict with the United States policy of

self-determination for Native Americans;


(9) languages are the means of communication for the full range of human

experiences and are critical to the survival of cultural and political

integrity of any people; and


(10) language provides a direct and powerful means of promoting

international communication by people who share languages.




SEC. 103. For purposes of this title--


(1) The term "Native American" means an Indian, Native Hawaiian, or Native

American Pacific Islander.


(2) The term "Indian" has the meaning given to such term under section

5351(4) of the Indian Education Act of 1988 (25 U.S.C. 2651(4)).


(3) The term "Native Hawaiian" has the meaning given to such term by section

4009 of Public Law 100-297 (20 U.S.C. 4909).


(4) The term "Native American Pacific Islander" means any descendent of the

aboriginal people of any island in the Pacific Ocean that is a territory or

possession of the United States.


(5) The terms "Indian tribe" and "tribal organization" have the respective

meaning given to each of such terms under section 4 of the Indian

Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (25 U.S.C. 450b).


(6) The term "Native American language" means the historical, traditional

languages spoken by Native Americans.


(7) The term "traditional leaders" includes Native Americans who have

special expertise in Native American culture and Native American languages.


(8) The term "Indian reservation" has the same meaning given to the term

"reservation" under section 3 of the Indian Financing Act of 1974 (25 U.S.C.





SEC. 104. It is the policy of the United States to--


(1) preserve, protect, and promote the rights and freedom of Native

Americans to use, practice, and develop Native American languages;


(2) allow exceptions to teacher certification requirements for Federal

programs, and programs funded in whole or in part by the Federal Government,

for instruction in Native American languages when such teacher certification

requirements hinder the employment of qualified teachers who teach in Native

American languages, and to encourage State and territorial governments to

make similar exceptions;


(3) encourage and support the use of Native American languages as a medium

of instruction in order to encourage and support--


(A) Native American language survival,


(B) educational opportunity,


(C) increased student success and performance,


(D) increased student awareness and knowledge of their culture and history,



(E) increased student and community pride;


(4) encourage State and local education programs to work with Native

American parents, educator, Indian tribes, and other Native American

governing bodies in the implementation of programs to put this policy into



(5) recognize the right of Indian tribes and other Native American governing

bodies to use the Native American languages as a medium of instruction in

all schools funded by the Secretary of the Interior;


(6) fully recognize the inherent right of Indian tribes and other Native

American governing bodies, States, territories, and possessions of the

United States to take action on, and give official status to, their Native

American languages for the purpose of conducting their own business;


(7) support the granting of comparable proficiency achieved through course

work in a Native American language the same academic credit as comparable

proficiency achieved through course work in a foreign language, with

recognition of such Native American language proficiency by institutions of

higher education as fulfilling foreign language entrance or degree

requirements; and


(8) encourage all institutions of elementary, secondary and higher

education, where appropriate, to include Native American languages in the

curriculum in the same manner as foreign languages and to grant proficiency

in Native American languages the same full academic credit as proficiency in

foreign languages.




SEC. 105. The right of Native Americans to express themselves through the

use of Native American languages shall not be restricted in any public

proceeding, including publicly supported education programs.




Sec. 106. (a) The President shall direct the heads of the various Federal

departments, agencies, and instrumentalities to--


(1) Evaluate their policies and procedures in consultation with Indian

tribes and other Native American governing bodies as well as traditional

leaders and educators in order to determine and implement changes needed to

bring the policies and procedures into compliance with the provisions of

this title;


(2) give the greatest effect possible in making such evaluations, absent a

clear specific Federal statutory requirement to the contrary, to the

policies and procedures which will give the broadest effect to the

provisions of this title; and


(3) evaluate the laws which they administer and make recom-mendations to the

President on amendments needed to bring such laws into compliance with the

provisions of this title.


(b) By no later than the date that is 1 year after the date of enactment of

this title, the President shall submit to the Congress a report containing

recommendations for amendments to Federal laws that are needed to bring such

laws into compliance with the provisions of this title.




Sec. 107. Nothing in this title shall be construed as precluding the use of

Federal funds to teach English to Native Americans.


Approved October 30, 1990.




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