Where Did All the American Indians Go?

Sarah Shear, an Associate Professor of Social Studies Education at Pennsylvania State University in Altoona, PA along with other researchers spent two years analyzing US history standards to determine what students are learning about American Indians.

Their research will be published in the upcoming issue of Theory and Research in Social Education.

Shear’s research is important because state academic standards drive the content of text books at the elementary and secondary school level.

Her findings were hard to believe:
• 87% of references about American Indians in all 50 states depict them in the 19th Century.
• All 50 states left out any content regarding current American Indian events and issues despite the fact that American Indians live in all fifty states.
• 25 of the states did not mention one single American Indian tribe despite American Indians residing in every state of the union.
• The only American Indians mentioned were Sacagawea, Squanto, Sequoyah and Sitting Bull.
• 62 American Indian nations were included and the majority of those were mentioned by one state despite the fact there are 566 federally recognized Tribes in the USA.
• The Iroquois Nation was mentioned by six states.
• Only 4 states included any information regarding Indian boarding schools-Arizona, Washington, Oklahoma and Kansas despite evidence that Indian boarding schools existed in 16 additional states.
• New Mexico is the only state to identify a member of the American Indian Movement.
• Washington was the only state to mention the term “genocide” in its 5th Grade History standards.

Where did all the American Indian go? Nowhere. We have been here are along. We just can’t get anybody to notice.

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