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Brian Klopotek

Brian Klopotek’s new book, which he co-edited with Brenda Child of the University of Minnesota, was released in May 2014. Titled Indian Subjects: Hemispheric Perspectives on the History of Indigenous Education, the book includes contributions from scholars from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds to remap the history of indigenous education through different regions and eras.


Alumni who took Klopotek’s History of Native American Education class will be familiar with the devastating history of federal boarding schools for Native peoples.  The lessons learned from these histories demonstrate the enormous impact of Anglo settler colonialism and assimilationism on Native people, just as they document multiple Native responses. But even at its peak in the first half of the 20th century, the federal boarding school system accounted for only half of the Indian students in the United States. Klopotek and Child began talking ten years ago about what other kinds of information were missing from the literature on indigenous education, and what kinds of essays they would like to have available for classes on the history of Native American education.

While there is ample material available on boarding schools in the United States and Canada between 1875 and World War II, it is much harder to find material on education outside the boarding school walls, outside the area between Arizona and the Upper Midwest, outside the classic boarding school era, and outside of the English settler states.  They had never found any material comparing indigenous educational histories in Latin American and Anglo North American nations.  And while there had been significant analysis of gender in indigenous education, issues of sexual identity and issues of race outside of the Indian-white dyad were virtually absent, as well.  They set out in search of scholars doing pathbreaking work that would begin to fill in some of these gaps and point to exciting new directions for future research.  Some they found already doing this work, and others they cajoled into doing it.

The essays in Indian Subjects push beyond the boarding schools, into an expansive range of indigenous communities, indigenous intellectual circles, and indigenous homes, to make a critical intervention into how we think about indigenous educational histories.  Changing the historical narrative of indigenous education to be multisited and multiscaled—even just shifting the terms from Indian to indigenous and back again—reshapes the parameters of the discussion.  When we envision this field more broadly to include Indian education in the southern United States under Jim Crow, indigenous education in Alaska, in California, in Hawai’i and other Pacific Islands, and in Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, and elsewhere in Latin America, new information and new patterns come to light.  Some of the essays in Indian Subjects are about boarding and residential school history, but the book is designed to open new doors for conversations about less familiar subjects.  The volume pushes toward more hemispheric and global conversations, fostering a critically neglected scholarly dialogue that has too often been limited by regional and national boundaries.

The book is available for purchase from SAR Press and from Amazon and other major retailers.  A public discussion of the book is being planned for later this year at the University of Oregon.  Details will be posted on the Ethnic Studies Facebook page as they become available.

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