The Center for Indian Education at Arizona State University, originally known as the Indian Education Center (IEC), emerged within a milieu of federal sentiment for termination, increased urbanization, and a heightened need for improvements in Indian education. The state and local context of Arizona Indian affairs also played a crucial role in the Center’s origins. Nearly a quarter of the land in Arizona is tribally controlled and the state has one of the country’s largest Native populations. Additionally, during the 1950s a significant number of Native people had moved to the Phoenix area in search of employment. These demographic realities alone demanded that policy makers address the needs of Native students in public schools. Though Congress had passed the Johnson O’Malley Act in 1934, authorizing funds for public school education for Native American students, universities had by and large failed to initiate systematic research on Indian education in public schools. A handful of professional educators recognized this weakness, and they believed that a center located in a major university near Indian communities could address these issues. Arizona State University (ASU) itself played perhaps the most significant role in creating the Center. Established as a normal school to prepare teachers, ASU possessed the resources and administrative programs to conduct studies on educational policy and community outreach.
In 1957 and 1958, Irving W. Stout, Dean of the Graduate College, and G.D. McGrath, Dean of the College of Education, argued that ASU was a perfect place to establish an Indian Education center. McGrath and Stout also believed that ASU could contribute a valuable scholarly perspective to Indian affairs. By combining research with community outreach, the Center could establish partnerships between the University and Indian communities in the state. Such relationships would serve as a prototype for centers and communities across the country. Additionally, the academic thrust might improve statewide public policy and curriculum development. Stout and McGrath also believed the Center could train Native and non-Native students in Indian education with a series of classes, programs, and practical teaching experiences. Finally, they wanted the Center to reach out to Indian communities in the Southwest and assist with education efforts, economic development, health care, and leadership. These goals promised to make the Center unique in the field of Indian affairs and American higher education. Indeed, when the University finally approved the Center in 1959, it was the only one of its kind.
In addition to the efforts of Drs. Stout and McGrath, three other individuals made lasting contributions to the Center: Dr. Bruce Meador, a member of the faculty, Robert A. Roessel Jr., a doctoral student and soon-to-be professor of education, and George A. Gill (Omaha) a graduate student who later became the Center director. Together, they outlined the essential philosophy and mission that exists today, in slightly altered form. The founders of the IEC proposed several overarching goals: research, teacher training, community outreach, policy advisement, leadership development, counseling, and student recruitment.
Once established, the Center began research on Indian student experiences in urban public schools and on reservations. The first funded research was conducted in 1960 when Robert Roessel and his colleagues directed a two-year research project entitled “Higher Education of Southwestern Indians with Reference to Success and Failure” (USOE Project 938).
Also in 1960, the first annual Indian Education Conference was held, providing a forum for tribal leaders and educators to discuss Indian education concerns. And the center was engaged with students on campus: Drs. Stout and Roessel mentored ASU's Indian student organization Dawa Chindi ("Dawa," a Hopi word for "sun," and "Chindi," a Navajo word for "devil"). Established in 1957 to promote mutual respect and understanding, by 1960 it was the largest college Indian club in the United States (known today as ASU's Native American Student Association).
In 1961, the Center published the first issue of the Journal of American Indian Education (JAIE), and in the same year, the Center was placed in the Special Education Department when the degree of master of arts in education was established.
In 1966, at the request of the Navajo Nation, CIE assisted in establishing Rough Rock Demonstration School on the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona. From 1967 to 1971, CIE sponsored an All-Indian Upward Bound Project. Also in 1967, a program of advisement, tutoring, and counseling was originated for Indian students attending ASU. This program was moved to the Office of Student Affairs in 1972.
During the 1970s, CIE was involved in numerous Indian education projects, including special instructional programs, research workshops, education institutes, demonstration schools, orientation programs, preparing and developing training manuals for schools, and conducting tours of nearby urban and reservation schools. From 1977 to 1980, the Native American Leadership Program sponsored by CIE supported 60 American Indian graduate students pursuing advanced education professional degrees.
In 1979, CIE was awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs (OBEMLA), to operate a Bilingual Education Service Center (BESC). This center provided technical assistance, resource services and training in bilingual/multicultural education to local school districts, colleges and universities, state departments of education, and Indian tribes throughout Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and southern California. Specific services included programmatic development and technical assistance, instructional media materials development, parent involvement training, curriculum development training, and online searches in bilingual education. In 1982, OBEMLA awarded CIE a contract for the National Indian Bilingual Center (NIBC), to provide services to all Indian educational organizations throughout the nation. When OBEMLA reorganized its national service delivery program, NIBC was replaced by the Mountain States Multifunctional Resource Center (MSMRC), with the directors of the Center for Indian Education and the Bilingual/Bicultural Education Center serving as co-principal investigators. The three-year contract with OBEMLA to operate the regional center was awarded in 1986, 1989, and 1992, before MSMRC finally closed in 1995.
In 1980, the Indian education courses coordinated by CIE were moved from the Special Education Department to the Elementary Education Department, although the research and service functions continued to report directly to the Dean of the College of Education. The academic program in Indian education included 12 courses. In 1984, the College of Education established a multicultural program area and the courses previously coordinated by the CIE were consolidated in the multicultural program along with courses in bilingual education, English as a second language, and multicultural education.
Originally begun as a College of Education center with its operational budget and reporting lines within that college, CIE received interdisciplinary University Center designation from ABOR in June 1987.
On August 6, 1998, President Clinton signed the Executive Order on American Indian and Alaska Native Education (EO 13096), affirming the federal government's special and historic responsibility for the education of American Indian and Alaska Native students and requiring federal agencies to focus attention on six goals. The executive order was subsequently reaffirmed under the Bush administration with a call for a multi-year study of American Indian/Alaska Native education to include:
- comprehensive data on the academic achievement of American Indian/Alaska Native students;
- identification and dissemination of research-based practices and methods in raising achievement, in particular reading achievement;
- assessment of the role and impact of Native languages and cultures in the education of Native American students;
- development of methods to strengthen early childhood education for American Indian/Alaska Native students; and
- development of methods to increase the high school graduation rate and create pathways to college and the workplace for American Indian/Alaska Native students.
The CIE and its personnel have been closely involved in implementing both executive orders, with several grants and contracts funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Indian Education and Institute for Education Sciences for research on Native teacher professional development and promising practices in Indian education, and for Native teacher preparation at the early childhood and K-12 levels.
In 2009, the Center celebrated its 50th year. With the retirement of CIE director David Beaulieu (pictured above) that same year, Drs. Bryan Brayboy and Teresa McCarty were appointed co-directors of the Center for Indian Education. It remains one of the world’s premier organizations for service to Indigenous communities and contributions to research and practice in American Indian/Alaska Native education. The Center continues to publish the Journal of American Indian Education, the only scholarly journal specifically devoted to American Indian/Alaska Native education issues. CIE focuses upon and promotes interdisciplinary studies in American Indian/Alaska Native policy analysis, administration, education, health and welfare, justice studies, program development, and tribal capacity building. It sponsors workshops, colloquia, and seminars on a wide range of education topics, thereby forming a nexus for contact between ASU and tribes, governmental agencies, and other institutions of higher education, as well as scholars and tribal community leaders.
In fall 2009, the CIE received a $1.2 million USDE grant to prepare Indigenous early childhood educators. In fall 2010, the Center was awarded a $1.3 million grant to prepare Navajo elementary teachers. The latter project is a direct outgrowth of the Intergovernmental Agreement between ASU and the Navajo Nation.
In 2009, the Center was part of the reorganization of the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education, which was renamed and reoriented for graduate study as the Fulton Institute and Graduate School of Education (FIGSE). In 2010, when FIGSE was disestablished in response to cuts in the university budget, the Center and its current co-directors relocated to the School of Social Transformation in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (the college also houses ASU's American Indian Studies Program), and moved its physical location from the Farmer Education Building to the Payne Education Building. While enjoying a transdisciplinary environment in which faculty are committed to the goals of equity, justice, and social change, the Center retains its ABOR-approved mission as a University-wide entity, serving units across all four ASU campuses and the Native American community as a whole.
In August 2010, Dr. Larisa Warhol joined the CIE faculty as associate research professor of Indigenous education, filling a position vacated by Dr. Denis Viri upon his retirement in January 2010. The Center continues to build its professional and scholarly expertise, with the hire of an assistant professor in indigenous education to begin in fall 2011.
In May 2011, the center held a rededication event and blessing ceremony as it celebrated its 52-year history and committed to a renewed vision for the future.