"This document is one of many that represents the status of Alaska Native schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. I think of these as snapshot documents which are important for helping to understand the concerns and directions of policy makers at this crucial juncture in Alaska Native education. The timeline included is one of the better ones in high lighting important events in Alaska Native schooling."

- Paul Ongtooguk





All of the education programs conducted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Alaska are for the purpose of providing enriched opportunities for Native people to achieve academic, vocational, and social skills necessary for equal participation as productive citizens of Alaska. In carrying out the various education programs in 53 villages, two Alaska Boarding schools, and several schools outside of Alaska, the Bureau cooperates closely with the State of Alaska to make sure that prescribed standards of education are met or exceeded. This includes standards of school construction, school plant management, textbooks and teaching aids, curriculum content, teacher qualifications, in-service training, supervision, and other phases of school operation. Representatives of the Bureau of Indian Affairs participate on the Governor's Committee to develop and revise the OVERALL EDUCATION PLAN FOR RURAL ALASKA. The Bureau operates within the framework of this plan.

To give you a brief look at the total scope of the Bureau’s educational program in Alaska, the following summary is provided.

  • The Bureau operates 53 day schools in rural Alaska villages. The population of these villages totals 15,948, and approximately 52.5% of the people are 18 years of age and under. There are 243 qualified teachers, and approved curriculums serve some 4,900 Native and 163 non-Native students. These day schools are located in the following areas:

    Bethel 34 schools
    Fairbanks 6 schools
    Nome 12 schools
    Southeast Alaska 1 school

    All Bureau-operated day schools in the Anchorage area have been transferred to the State of Alaska.

    Thirty-one of the schools are of one and two classrooms located in remote, isolated villages. Forty-eight of these community schools offer a balanced curriculum through the eighth grade.

    The four largest schools are Barrow, Kotzebue, Hooper Bay, and Unalakleet. Barrow, Hooper Bay and Nunapitchuk provide both elementary and junior high school program . Kotzebue Community School is the only day school presently providing elementary, junior high school, and senior high school programs.

    Some 200 children are in kindergarten programs at Barrow, Hooper Bay, Kotzebue, Unalakleet, Emmonak, Chevak and Mountain Village, while an early childhood education demonstration program for 2- and 3-year-olds is being conducted at Akiachak.

    Special education was first introduced at Hooper Bay in 1966. Now there are 48 cluster groups, 7 self-contained classrooms, and 2 resource rooms, serving approximately 45O special education students. Also, programs are assisting 191 partially sighted pupils.

    Some 134 trained teacher aides, all local Native residents, are currently employed. Most of them are in the classrooms; others are in instructional materials centers located at Barrow, Kotzebue, and Bethel, or assisting specialists in the bilingual, special education, and other programs. The teacher aide program has brought out an improved teaching situation through the additional skills and services available to the teacher, and it has afforded employment, training, and motivation for Native people to become teachers and leaders in their communities.

    In Akiachak, Kasigluk, Kipnuk, Napakiak, Nunapitchuk, Quinhagak, and Tuntutuliak, programs of bilingual education have been initiated with instruction at the primary level in the Yuk Eskimo dialect provided by trained teams of local people. There has also been an expansion in the teaching of local culture, language, history, and arts and crafts by Native instructors.

    Through cooperation with university teacher education programs, student teachers placed in Bureau of Indian Affairs classrooms are enriching the educational program and helping to ensure a high quality of future teachers for village schools.


    The Bureau operates two boarding schools in Alaska:

    Here, approximately 600 students are enrolled. Some of them have no opportunity to attend elementary, junior or senior high school in their home communities. Others attend these schools for purely social reasons. Although the schools provide regular academic offerings with state and regionally approved curriculums, the program are enriched to compensate for the experiential, academic, and language differences which often characterize the Native student whose life has been spent in a small, isolated village. Ungraded programs take full advantage of the student's ability to progress at a rapid rate in the Wrangell setting. Practical arts and pre-vocational courses prepare students for post-high school education and training at Mt. Edgecumbe. Individualized programs range from special education and psychiatric services to dental training and developmental reading. In the dormitories, the education program is extended by a comprehensive guidance program offering occupational information counseling, recreation, physical education, intramural games, student councils, personal grooming, personal economics, and other services.

    Through the cooperation of the Bureau and the Alaska Department of Education, boarding school students are enrolled at the William E. Beltz School at Nome, and pupils are able to attend high school in other communities through the boarding home placement program. A dormitory complex similar to that of Beltz has been completed by the Bureau at Kodiak. This, too, is operated by the State of Alaska.

    To accommodate all Alaska Native students who are eligible for admission to boarding school, more space is required than facilities in Alaska can provide. Therefore, Bureau boarding high schools outside of Alaska are available to them. High school students attend Chemawa Indian School, Salem, Oregon; and Chilocco Indian School, Chilocco, Oklahoma. A program similar to that at Mt. Edgecumbe is conducted by these schools. The expansion of opportunities within Alaska is reducing the number of high school students going outside the State by approximately 325 this year. Present planning is toward more village high schools, expansion of the boarding home program, and the use of existing dormitory facilities.

    Following is a six-year enrollment summary for Alaska Native students in the Boarding school/boarding home/dormitory program:

      Mt. Edgecumbe Wrangell Chemawa Chilocco Beltz Kodiak Boarding Home
  • 450 160
  • 160 415 42 172 152
  • 1,200
  • 1970-71
  • 627
  • 181 541 42 170 120
  • 980
  • 1969-70
  • 650
  • 161 643 233 167 113
  • 618
  • 1968-69
  • 622
  • 229 726 371 172  
  • 390
  • 1967-68
  • 673
  • 232 753 266 154  
  • 260
  • 1966-67
  • 632
  • 250 657 167 154  
  • 110
  • *Estimated


    The Bureau operates a nutrition program at all day schools as part of its education program. Cooks are hired and USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) approved class "A" menus are followed because we believe that a well-balanced school lunch for every child each day is one of the basic prerequisites to proper learning. Workshops to upgrade the skills of the cooks are held periodically in cooperation with the State of Alaska.


    During 1971 the Division of Plant Design and Construction (PD&C) completed construction of the kindergarten and quarters at Barrow, Chevak, Emmonak, and Mountain Village schools, and additional school facilities at Kotzebue. Kindergartens are scheduled to be built at Kiana, Kipnuk, Kotlik, Kwethluk, Napakiak, Tununak, and Unalakleet during the 1972 calendar year.

    The dormitory project for the State at Bethel was completed with dormitories at Fairbanks, Sitka, Tok, Fort Yukon, and Dillingham still in the preliminary stages.


    The Bureau of Indian Affairs makes every effort to encourage students to pursue education and training beyond the high school level. Students numbering 598 were granted assistance for the 1970-71 school year, compared with 350 in 1969-70 and only 61 in 1961. This tremendous increase is the result of an awakening of the Native people to the value of education and of the assistance given by the Congress of the United States in the form of scholarship grants. These grants are available on an actual need basis for qualified Native youths who complete high school and desire to pursue a college education.

    The Bureau of Indian Affairs also provides higher education opportunities for qualified Native students from Alaska at Haskell Indian Junior College, Lawrence, Kansas; Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, N. M.; Chilocco Indian School, Chilocco, Oklahoma; and Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, Albuquerque, N.M. Each of these schools has courses of study designed to develop the talents of students who enroll. For information concerning these post-high school education and training programs, write to Division of Education, Anchorage Agency, Bureau of Indian Affairs, P.O. Box 120, Anchorage, Alaska 99501.


    In accordance with the Governor's report entitled An Overall Education Plan for Rural Alaska, issued in 1963 and revised periodically, the Bureau of Indian Affairs operates in partnership with the State of Alaska. It is recognized that the responsibility for the education of Native students rests with the State, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs continues to operate schools and education programs where the State cannot presently assure its full responsibility. The State Plan provides for the orderly transfer of Bureau schools to non-federal operation under the principle of mutual readiness on the part of the community, the State, and the Bureau. To date, the Bureau has transferred its educational responsibility in 81 locations.

    Bureau and State officials have also worked together in the development of an overall plan for the implementation of a system of local, area, and regional high school facilities serving Alaska's rural population. The placement of students in boarding schools and boarding homes is now accomplished through the efforts of a joint Bureau and State Committee, 1689 "C" St., Suite 133, Anchorage, Alaska 99501.

    Funds in the amount of approximately 3 and 1/2 million dollars are being provided under contract to insure that Native pupils in non-Bureau schools receive the benefits of a quality educational program. Approximately 16% of these funds go to State-operated schools; 5% to district schools; 77% to regional high schools and the boarding home program; and 2% to the museum and general administration.

    The Bureau has also contributed approximately $14,500 to the Alaska Satellite Training Program.


    Advisory School Boards have been established in all communities in which the Bureau of Indian Affairs operated schools, with the exception of those communities choosing to work within the framework of existing council organizations. Each board meets monthly, and they have proven their worth in promoting a significant degree of local policy determination, in developing parental and community understanding and pride in the educational program of the school, and in fostering curriculum change in keeping with local interests and needs. There are contracts in several communities for bicultural instruction, local operation of food services, plant maintenance, and rental of facilities. Since their establishment, selected members of the Advisory School Boards have been involved in all of the in-service and pre-service training sessions provided for the Bureau of Indian Affairs teachers in Alaska.

    Periodic meetings are held with representatives of each Advisory School Board in order to develop and improve their effectiveness.

    Many parents of boarding school students have been afforded the opportunity to visit the schools during the year. There, as in the day schools, they not only learn about the educational offerings of the school, but participate as instructors and counselors. Participation of parents in the boarding school program was increased with the establishment of the Mt. Edgecumbe-Wrangell Parent School Board in the fall of 1971.


    In a vigorous effort to obtain teachers who meet both Civil Service and state certification requirements, the Bureau engages in an aggressive nationwide recruitment and interview campaign.

    A continuing and intensive training program is provided to all Education employees. For teachers new to the service, there is training at either the University of Alaska through the Alaska Rural School Project, or the workshops held at Bureau agency offices prior to the opening of school.

    In 1971, education personnel were involved in further education and training activities, at the graduate and undergraduate levels, designed to improve their skills in working with the Native learner. A training and materials development program was continued at the University of Alaska for teachers, instructors, and aides in bilingual instruction. There was a kindergarten training course for program aides, teachers, supervisors, and representative parents from existing and planned units, an early childhood training course for the staff of a pilot community child development program, both sessions at the University of Alaska. At the Oregon College of Education there was leadership training for 28 education administrators and supervisors, and media training for classroom teachers and aides to emphasize development of cultural awareness together with preservation and exhibition techniques and local program materials development.


    1. Open-ended opportunity to go as far in school as ability, interest, and effort, aided by superior educational programs will allow.
    2. At the earliest possible time, parity with non-Indians in educational attainment, both in terms of years and in the quality of their educational experience.
    3. Full involvement of Indian parents and Indian communities in the control of their children's schools.

    Chronological History of Education of the Indians and Eskimos in Alaska:

    1874 The first school in Alaska was established by the Russians at Three Saints Bay—Kodiak Island.
    1843 The first mission school for the Eskimos was established at Nushagak by the Russian-Greek Orthodox Church.
    1860 Second mission school at Kwikpak.

    Mission Era

    The Swedish Evangelical, Moravian, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Congregational, and Roman Catholic Churches established schools throughout Alaska.
    1869 The first appropriation from Congress for education in the Territory. The funds were never put into use as no agency was found to administer the funds.
    1884 Funds for education in Alaska appropriated to be distributed among the existing mission schools with Dr. Sheldon Jackson appointed as general agent for education in Alaska the following year.
    1887 Society of Friends established a school at Kotzebue.
    1888 The Board of Education in Alaska was directed to prescribe a course of study for all government schools.
    1894 Subsidizing of mission schools discontinued. Federal Bureau of Education took over most mission schools.
    1899 Local communities authorized to set up school boards.
    1902 Local school board established at Nome.
    1905 The Nelson Act provided for the establishment of schools for white children outside of the incorporated towns.
    1908 The first teachers' conference was held in Juneau.
    1911 The Alaska School Service developed a tentative course of study for the schools of Alaska.
    1917-19 The first boarding schools established by Catholic, Moravian, and Lutheran Churches. Federal boarding school was established at White Mountain.
    1926 Boarding school at White Mountain renamed "Industrial School." A policy and programming of industrial training for boarding pupils was initiated.
    1926 A more formal and permanent course of study for -the first eight grades in Alaska.
    1930 Federal Bureau of Education field administrative headquarters moved from Seattle, Washington, to Juneau, Alaska.
    1931 Control of education among the Natives of Alaska was transferred to the Office of Indian Affairs. Became known as the Alaska Indian Service.
    1932 Wrangell Institute Boarding School opened — Alaska Indian Service School.
    1945 Alaska Indian Service changed to Alaska Native Service.
    1947 Mt. Edgecumbe Boarding School opened.
    1950 Johnson O’Malley Act provides for the transfer of schools in Alaska to the administrative control of the Territory.
    1953 White Mountain Boarding School closed.
    1955 Education specialists placed in District Offices to improve consultant services to teachers.
    1957 Adult Education Program funded.
    1957 First edition of "We Teach in Alaska" issued to provide a manual for BIA teachers in Alaska's remote schools.
    1958 First area-wide in-service training program for Principal-Teachers emphasizing community relations and development of Native leadership.
    1960 First secondary-level program in a BIA day school established with opening of 9th grade at Unalakleet.
    1962 Supplemental nutrition program changed to provide complete school lunch. Agreement that education is a State and local -responsibility.
    1963 Governor's Committee issues first report entitled "An Overall Education Plan for Rural Alaska" as a basis for cooperative relationship of BIA and State of Alaska.
    1964 Area-wide workshop for primary teachers with emphasis on teaching English to children as a second language.
    1966 William E. Beltz School opens as first State-operated regional boarding high school. Teacher aides provided in BIA day schools. Special education program introduced at Hooper Bay.
    1967 Area-wide workshop for all education personnel emphasizing the linguistic method in teaching English as a Second Language
    1967 Advisory School Boards established.
    1968 Kindergarten program initiated.
    1969 Educational Television available in Barrow Day School. School Boards contract for instruction in cultural and linguistic heritage.
    1970 Bilingual education inaugurated at primary level. Full high school program at Kotzebue Community School.
    1971 Mt. Edgecumbe-Wrangell Parent School Board established. Bureau’s first preschool program for 2- and 3-year-olds. Administration of program funding at Agency level established.

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