The history of Native American education began before contact with European settlers, as tribes had their own traditions of passing knowledge through the elders to the youth. This entry reviews the history of Native American education after contact with Europeans, focusing on schooling through the high school level. Education of Native Americans has included missionary schools, off-reservation boarding schools, reservation day schools, and finally public schools. Throughout this history, the purposes of schools were to Christianize, “civilize,” and assimilate Native American children and their families.

Missionary Schools

The Jesuits began establishing missions within Indian territories in the Northeast and Midwest beginning in 1611. Protestants sent missionaries to Indian territories in the early 1600s. Father Junípero Serra began establishing the twenty-one California missions in 1769. The purposes of ...

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