Date of Award:

1989

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

History

Advisor/Chair:

Clyde A. Milner II

Abstract

This thesis is a historical case study of the Ute Indians of eastern Utah. The purpose of this thesis is to examine how federal Indian education policy is implemented at the local level. Ute children attend school in the Uintah and Duchesne county school districts.

The thesis traces Ute experiences in public schools during crucial transitions in federal policy. From 1900 to 1930, the federal government sought to enroll Indians in public schools in order to teach them white ways. Indian enrollment increased in the 1940s and 1950s when federal funding made the attendance of Ute children lucrative to the school districts. After the reservation boarding school closed in 1952, nearly all of the Ute children attended public schools and faced a school system that was hostile to their culture.

A key transition occurred in the 1970s when federal policy shifted to one of self-determination. The Indian Education Act of 1972 made mandatory the direct participation by Indian parents in the implementation of federally funded programs. Many parents failed to grasp the new opportunity. The Ute Tribal Education Division became heavily involved in running Ute history and language classes in the public schools under Title IV of the Indian Education Act of 1972 and under Title VII of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Despite the existence of a policy that advocated self determination, Utes were not really allowed to determine how federal money was spent. The 1972 Indian Education Act established an advisory role for parents rather than an administrative one. Local school districts still controlled the purse strings. Programs run under this act were not integrated into the core curriculum of local schools.

Federal Indian education policy changed from decade to decade but local attitudes remained essentially the same, blunting each policy's effectiveness. When the federal government desired assimilation, local residents and Indians fought that goal. When the federal government switched to a policy of self-determination, misunderstanding and outright hostility kept it from fulfillment at the local level. In addition to problems associated with local attitudes, federal legislation also proved unworkable because it gave Indians no real power to make the school districts listen to them.

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