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When Tribal Sovereignty Challenges Democracy: American Indian Education and the Democratic Ideal

K. Tsianina Lomawaima and Teresa L. McCarty
American Educational Research Journal
Vol. 39, No. 2, Education and Democracy (Summer, 2002), pp. 279-305
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3202523
Page Count: 27
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When Tribal Sovereignty Challenges Democracy: American Indian Education and the Democratic Ideal
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Abstract

The lessons of American Indian education-a grand experiment in standardization-can lead to a more equitable educational system for all U.S. citizens. While masquerading as a tool for equal opportunity, standardization has marginalized Native peoples. We argue for diversity-not standardization-as a foundational value for a just multicultural democracy, but diversity is feared by some as a threat to the nation's integrity. Critical historical analysis of the apparently contradictory policies and practices within American Indian education reveals a patterned response to cultural and linguistic diversity, as the federal government has attempted to distinguish "safe" from "dangerous" Native practices. Examples of the contest between Indigenous self-determination (rooted in internal sovereignty) and federal control illustrate the profound national ambivalence toward diversity but also the potential to nourish "places of difference" within a healthy democracy.

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