Part of the US Department of Education, the Office of Indian Education (OIE) is responsible for supporting local educational agencies, Indian tribes and organizations to meet the academic needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives. The agency tries to provide opportunities so that students of these ethnic groups can be on the same academic level with other populations. OIE seeks to meet its goals by distributing millions of dollars in federal grants to local school districts throughout the United States.
The Office of Indian Education (OIE) was created in 1972 following an investigation by Congress into the state of education for Native Americans. In 1969, the Special Senate Subcommittee on Indian Education issued a report called “Indian Education: A National Tragedy” that focused attention on the dire educational situation among these populations. As a result of these findings, the Indian Education Act (PDF) was passed, establishing a comprehensive approach designed to meet the unique cultural needs of American Indian and Alaska Native students.
The Office of Indian Education (OIE), one of five offices in the Office of Secondary and Elementary Education, administers the Indian Education Program of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001. Although NCLB does not change the agency’s original 1972 mandate to facilitate greater educational opportunities for American Indians and Alaska Natives, it attempts to provide greater accountability and flexibility in use of federal funds.
In October 2003, OIE was elevated to report to the Office of the Under Secretary (OUS) rather than to the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), although it continues to operate within the OESE.
In 2008, there were 96 formula grants (PDF) to LEAs worth $1.9 million.
More than 44% of OIE’s grants go to programs in Oklahoma, Arizona and Alaska, despite the fact that only 14% of the Native American population lives in these three states.
OIE Accused of Funding non-Indian Education
Since September 2011, the nation’s lead official on issues of Native American education has been Joyce A. Silverthorne, who succeeded Jenelle Leonard, the acting director since August 2010. Located in the Department of Education, the Office of Indian Education is responsible for supporting local educational agencies, Indian tribes and organizations to meet the academic needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives.
A self-described “air force brat,” Silverthorne was born circa 1947 and grew up at various Air Force bases around the world. Her mother, a full-blood enrolled member of the Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas, and her father, an enrolled member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation, Montana, met in Washington, D.C.
In 1977, Bachelor of Arts degree in business education at the University of Montana and a
masters degree in secondary education administration in 1990, also from the University of Montana. She completed all work except a dissertation for a doctorate in Education at Gonzaga University in 2004.
A certified teacher and administrator, Silverthorne taught at Two River Eagle School and she taught and worked as a manager of the bilingual education personnel training program at Salish Kootenai College.
An enrolled member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Joyce Silverthorne was director of the Tribal Education Department for the Tribes from 1999 to 2007, and served two years as Montana Education Superintendent Denise Juneau’s P-20 Education (i.e., preschool to college) policy advisor starting in December 2008. She also served as a gubernatorial appointee to the Montana Board of Public Education for 10 years.
Silverthorne is a mother of four children and a grandmother.
Language Preservation and Human Resources Development (by Joyce A. Silverthorne)
Joyce Silverthorne: Prejudice is an Equal Opportunity Problem (by Israel Tockman and Alice Tejkalová, Common Ground)
The Acting Director of the Office of Indian Education since August 2010, Jenelle Leonard has more than 30 years of experience as an educator, including work as a public school teacher and administrator, a technology implementation and training consultant, a college professor, and a regional and state education department administrator. Her specialty has been bringing technology programs to schools.