RSIC Education Column: ‘Indian Education’ versus Indian Educated |

RSIC Education Column: ‘Indian Education’ versus Indian Educated

Justin Zuniga

Special to First Nation’s Focus

Justin Zuniga

RENO, Nev. — Each month, my friends at First Nation’s Focus give me the free range to write on any topic pertaining to Indian Education.

But I never took the time to ask: What is Indian Education?

The phrase “Indian Education” itself invokes generations of federal legislation aimed to assimilate via education. Modern day, the Title VI Indian Education Program administered by the Bureau of Indian Education provides federal funds to various educational institutions of students enrolled in federally recognized tribes.

The crux of Title VI funds is dependent on parental participation on local Budget Advisory Committees. The Indian Education budget meetings have an open-door policy; hence the respective Native community could actively participate in the budget spending process to ensure that their Indian Education Program adequately reflects the needs of their unique community.

Get involved and attend your next Title VI Advisory Committee meeting! More information about the Washoe County School District’s Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) can be found at

You have to get involved! If you do, then we can commandeer the phrase “Indian Education” with all of its negative connotations and make it our own.

Today, in a very contemporary sense, I believe the term “Indian Education” has become an action verb of practicing one’s own culture. In this interpretation, it has little to do with the Bureau of Indian Education. Rather, “Indian Education” represents the indigenous teachings, and being “Indian Educated” is the individual who actively seeks out that knowledge.

For instance, being Indian Educated is what Bethany Sam of First Nation’s Focus achieved in the July 2019 publication of the story, “Wisdom Whisperers: Elders share stories, advice and knowledge,” wherein she states, “Our Elders are libraries of knowledge, wisdom, understanding, history and tradition.” I would agree with Bethany wholeheartedly and implore that the core identity, the history and the future, of Indian Education lies with our Elders.

Being Indian Educated means accessing a wide range of Native American media outlets. It is important to stay abreast of new Native Media because the general Non-Indian public will not have an accurate portrayal of what it looks like to be Native. There are a many Native-produced media outlets such as documentaries, podcasts and novels, as well that produced by entertainers like comedians. The survival of our cultural relevance depends on the success of new Native media. Check out my favorite podcast, “Coffee With an Indian,” at

Being Indian Educated often means being an Indigenous artist, representing your culture as a singer, a dancer, a poet, etc. We are culturally rich to have many Native artists spreading “Indian Education.” July marks Arttown month in Reno, and many Native American artists are representing their culture. Jack Malotte’s exhibit will continue to be featured at the Nevada Museum of Art through October. Arttown also includes a highly anticipated performance by hoop-dancer Supaman on Wednesday, July 24, at Wingfield Park.

Being Indian Educated means attending community classes and events. If you reside on tribal lands, then there is already a good chance that you receive a community newsletter with all of the upcoming community events and classes offered by your Tribe. If you do not reside on tribal lands, you can find a calendar of community events online at your Tribe’s website and more regional events can be found in First Nation’s Focus. These community programs are vital for the fabric of the community and the survival of the culture for future generations.

If you are already highly active in your Native community, then you will have realized that there are whole calendars of community events that aren’t published anywhere. I’m referring to Ceremony, when the community comes together to heal itself. In fact, there is a real network of healing support throughout reservations spanning the entire United States.

Being Indian Educated is seeking out those who can offer traditional healing and attending ceremonies near you throughout the year.

Whichever source you prefer, whether a Podcast, an Elder, an Artist, or Ceremony with the Great Spirit, seek it out as if you thirst for the lesson that awaits you. When we find our teachings in one another, we find our strength in each other, too. O

Justin Zuniga works as an RSIC Education Advisor at the Hungry Valley Center in Sparks. Email him at with questions.


RSIC Education Column: Educators building bridges

November 25, 2019

I am over the moon with how strong our school-community relationship is, how easy it was to grow, and surprised by the willingness of my community, students and parents alike, to move in this direction too.

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