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From the time of European contact with indigenous people in the region of North America that later became the United States of America, the concept of higher education and its attendant institutions underwent constant change. Like many people in North America, many Indians at one time or another fell under the influence of European and/or Euroamerican higher education to varying degrees. Native Americans possessed many kinds of educational traditions, but, after European settlement of North America was underway in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, imported forms of higher education dominated. From the colonial era through the early twentieth century, British North American and United States institutions of higher education recognized the value of higher education as an assimilative force in American Indian societies. Financial support for educational programs and scholarships supporting Indians' higher education came from both public and private sources. Still, it was not until the New Deal and World War Il that the federal government established a commitment to consistently uphold treaty provisions promising to provide education and other social services to tribes in return for land. As a result, the post-World War II era saw enormous growth in Native American student enrollments and educational programs at the postsecondary level, leading to the rise of a campus-based movement that encouraged social and political activism among Indian people and the establishment of new Bureau of Indian Affairs postsecondary institutions and tribally controlled community colleges. Throughout this era of growth, Indian and non-Indian policy makers struggled with ever-changing ideals of self-determination for individuals and Indian tribal members. From 1945 to the present, the federal government shifted its national Indian policy back and forth from terminating its special trust relationship with tribes and Indian-oriented institutions and educational programs to expanding those very relationships with greater services. The role of higher education among Native people underwent transformations that reflected the changes in federal and tribal policies. By the mid-to-late 1990s, Indian higher education had become more responsive to the needs of tribal communities and individual Indian students, yet competing local and national policies often limited the potential for greater success.

Level of Degree


Degree Name


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Margaret Connell Szasz

Second Committee Member

Virginia J. Scharff

Third Committee Member

Ferenc M. Szasz

Fourth Committee Member

Mary J. Belgarde



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