Survival Schools: The American Indian Movement and Community Education in the Twin Cities

Survival Schools: The American Indian Movement and Community Education in the Twin Cities

by Julie L. Davis
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

In the late 1960s, Indian families in Minneapolis and St. Paul were under siege. Clyde Bellecourt remembers, “We were losing our children during this time; juvenile courts were sweeping our children up, and they were fostering them out, and sometimes whole families were being broken up.” In 1972, motivated by prejudice in the child welfare system and

Overview

In the late 1960s, Indian families in Minneapolis and St. Paul were under siege. Clyde Bellecourt remembers, “We were losing our children during this time; juvenile courts were sweeping our children up, and they were fostering them out, and sometimes whole families were being broken up.” In 1972, motivated by prejudice in the child welfare system and hostility in the public schools, American Indian Movement (AIM) organizers and local Native parents came together to start their own community school. For Pat Bellanger, it was about cultural survival. Though established in a moment of crisis, the school fulfilled a goal that she had worked toward for years: to create an educational system that would enable Native children “never to forget who they were.”

While AIM is best known for its national protests and political demands, the survival schools foreground the movement’s local and regional engagement with issues of language, culture, spirituality, and identity. In telling of the evolution and impact of the Heart of the Earth school in Minneapolis and the Red School House in St. Paul, Julie L. Davis explains how the survival schools emerged out of AIM’s local activism in education, child welfare, and juvenile justice and its efforts to achieve self-determination over urban Indian institutions. The schools provided informal, supportive, culturally relevant learning environments for students who had struggled in the public schools. Survival school classes, for example, were often conducted with students and instructors seated together in a circle, which signified the concept of mutual human respect. Davis reveals how the survival schools contributed to the global movement for Indigenous decolonization as they helped Indian youth and their families to reclaim their cultural identities and build a distinctive Native community.

The story of these schools, unfolding here through the voices of activists, teachers, parents, and students, is also an in-depth history of AIM’s founding and early community organizing in the Twin Cities—and evidence of its long-term effect on Indian people’s lives.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
An outgrowth of the American Indian Movement (AIM), "survival schools" were seen in the 1970s as a viable alternative to public schools for Native American children. The need for alternatives was clear, recognized even by U.S. senators, who in 1969 described the state of Indian education as a "national tragedy." Davis (history, Coll. of St. Benedict & St. John's Univ.) draws on oral history interviews with parents, AIM activists, and former students to trace the tangled legacy of two survival schools that operated for several decades in the Twin Cities. While the Indian youth attending these schools benefited from the instruction in traditional folkways and indigenous languages, they often failed to show improvement as measured by standardized tests. The schools were also plagued by funding shortfalls and political infighting, and by 2007 both of the schools Davis profiles had closed. In her concluding chapter, Davis connects AIM survival schools to the myriad "transnational decolonization and cultural revitalization movements," and thus her book could be fruitfully read alongside Raúl Zibechi's new collection of essays, Territories in Resistance: A Cartography of Latin American Social Movements. VERDICT Evenhanded and engaging in its treatment of a politically charged topic, Davis's book is highly recommended for academic libraries.—Seth Kershner, Northwestern Connecticut Community Coll. Lib., Winsted
From the Publisher

"For the first time, Julie L. Davis gives us an essential view of one of the American Indian Movement’s most audacious and long-lasting achievements: the creation of schools for the lost Native kids of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Sympathetic but never sentimental, she captures the righteous anger, new-found hope, and rugged determination that turned dreams into reality." —Paul Chaat Smith, author of Everything You Know about Indians Is Wrong

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780816674299
Publisher:
University of Minnesota Press
Publication date:
06/30/2013
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
917,814
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Julie L. Davis is associate professor of history at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in central Minnesota.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >