The Navajo treaty 1868 required the government to provide education at the rate of one teacher for every thirty children between the ages of six and sixteen.
The feeling that education is a white man’s invention is completely in error and reflects the “father knows best” approach which characterizes so much of the dealings of the dominant society with the Native Americans.
The Navajos did have a traditional system of education which allowed and provided the means by which Navajo culture could be passed on, changed, and retained.
First, the development and reliance on off-reservation boarding schools was one of the major devices whereby formal Navajo education was effected. The objective was the destruction of Navajo culture by removing the child far from the harmful influence of his home and family.
Carlisle Indian School was founded by a man who had both courage and vision but a man whose vision did not include any future or need for Indian culture and the continuation of separate Indian tribes.
Colonel Pratt, the founder of Carlisle Indian School, was an army officer with experience in fighting Indians on the southern plains and whose dream for the Indian included the destruction of Indian tribal entities and the abolition of Indian culture.
The technique used to accomplish these twin purposes was the establishment of an army-oriented boarding school far removed from the damaging influences of Indian tribes, Indian parents and Indian reservations.
Colonel Pratt started a system of education which is still prevalent and evident today: boarding schools located in off-reservation communities. Many teachers in those and other types of Indian schools even today believe that the future success of Indian students will rest in direct proportion to the degree that they forget their Indian language, culture and history and become “real Americans” who understand and believe only in the primacy and supremacy of the dominant society and its way of life.
Ruth Underhill, Here Comes the Navajo, Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1953,
Richard Henry Pratt, Battlefield and Classroom -Four Decades with the American Indian, 1867-1904, Yale University Press, 1964.