Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

A Critical Case Study of Selected U.S. History Textbooks from a Tribal Critical Race Theory Perspective

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

A Critical Case Study of Selected U.S. History Textbooks from a Tribal Critical Race Theory Perspective

Article excerpt

Introduction and Rationale

It is difficult to determine a date for the first known biases towards American Indians. It could be right after 1492 when Europeans heard about the people Christopher Columbus had encountered. Of course, anyone from an American Indian community or who has spent significant time around one can confirm that some tribal stereotypes were developed long before Europeans began their Age of Exploration. Regardless of whether the stereotypes are intertribal or interracial, they are persistent and damaging.

From a modern perspective, scholars are able to look back at over 500 years of documents regarding people now known as American Indians. These documents reveal hundreds of nations covering North America speaking hundreds of languages, practicing their own religions, and governing themselves in a way that worked for their time and place. The information gathered from these documents has been simplified for educational purposes and to support the United States' national myth. Textbooks are an important source of information to watch the national myth develop. For scholars studying education, textbooks provide an insight into what a nation believes is important for its youth to learn about history and to become productive citizens. In the United States, textbooks have varied over how, and if, they cover American Indians and their role in the founding and developing of this new nation.

The United States' Constitution states that all powers not expressly given to the federal government are held in reserve by the individual states. Education is an example of this power, and each state develops its own curriculums and standards regarding what is taught in the classrooms. Textbooks are published by private companies, but they cater to the curricular needs of the states. This means that the information textbooks present, if any, regarding American Indians varies from state to state and textbook to textbook. Without a clear national standard, it is difficult for educational researchers to track the national myth or for American Indian communities to develop a strategy to combat negative stereotypes. However, this does not mean that nothing is, or can, be done.

In 1939, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) published Anti-Negro Propaganda in School Textbooks. This pamphlet is one of the earliest published concerns regarding textbook bias. Other reports followed in the 1940s and 1950s, but it was not until the civil rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s that textbook bias began to be seriously researched. After the 1970s, research regarding textbook bias becomes less common. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights publishes Characters in Textbooks: A Review of the Literature in May of 1980, and then the research disappears as the 1990s progress. In the 2000s textbook bias is mentioned in articles and books, but most texts reference research from the 1960s and 1970s rather than presenting original research on the matter.

As the 2010s begin, there is a lack of current research examining textbook bias, and there is even less research regarding textbook bias towards American Indians. In Hillsborough County Florida, 2011 begins the textbook adoption cycle for the American History classes. The textbooks chosen for this study will be used in high school United States history classes throughout the county for an undetermined amount of years. This study examined American Indian bias in five United States history textbooks that are under consideration for this adoption cycle in Hillsborough County.

Theoretical Framework: Tribal Critical Race Theory

The main theoretical framework for this study is Tribal Critical Race Theory. Tribal Critical Race Theory evolved from Critical Race Theory, and shares its views on race and racism. However, Critical Race Theory was developed to address the needs of the civil rights movement (Brayboy, 2005) and focuses on the White-Black relationship. …

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