On Our Own Terms


On Our Own Terms

Indigenous Histories of School Funding and Policy

Meredith L. McCoy

Indigenous Education Series

250 pages
4 photographs, 1 illustration, 4 appendixes, index


June 2024


$60.00 Pre-order

About the Book

On Our Own Terms contextualizes recent federal education legislation against the backdrop of two hundred years of education funding and policy to explore two critical themes: the racial and settler colonial dynamics that have shaped Indian education and an equally long and persistent tradition of Indigenous peoples engaging schools, funding, and policy on their own terms. Focusing primarily on the years 1819 to 2018, Meredith L. McCoy provides an interdisciplinary, methodologically expansive look into the ways federal Indian education policy has all too often been a tool for structural violence against Native peoples. Of particular note is a historical budget analysis that lays bare inconsistencies in federal support for Indian education and the ways funds become a tool for redefining educational priorities.

McCoy shows some of the diverse strategies families, educators, and other community members have used to creatively navigate schooling on their own terms. These stories of strategic engagement with schools, funding, and policy embody what Gerald Vizenor has termed survivance, an insistence of Indigenous presence, trickster humor, and ironic engagement with settler structures. By gathering these stories together into an archive of survivance stories in education, McCoy invites readers to consider ongoing patterns of Indigenous resistance and the possibilities for bending federal systems toward community well-being.

Author Bio

Meredith L. McCoy (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe descent) is an assistant professor of American studies and history at Carleton College.


“McCoy addresses schools as tools of colonial theft and oppression with masterful Indigenous creative strategies to subvert, repurpose, and create healthy, sustaining, future-building education for Native children. McCoy’s critical interventions include a history of Native children in public schools; fine-grained financial analyses of federal grants and appropriations; unpacking of key education legislation; and stories of the giants on whose foundations we build—Forrest Gerard, Helen Maynor Schierbeck, William Demmert, David Beaulieu, and many more.”—K. Tsianina Lomawaima (Mvskoke/Creek Nation descent), coauthor of “To Remain an Indian”: Lessons for Democracy from a Century of Native American Education

“For those who teach, research, run programs, and work with policymakers at local and state levels, this book is a treasure trove of cross-references useful for taking lawmakers to task on tribal self-determination and the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act.”—Vanessa Anthony-Stevens, associate professor of social and cultural studies at the University of Idaho

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Witnessing Indigenous Future-Building in Archives of Survivance
1. Toward Indigenous Futures in Mission and Boarding Schools
2. Settler Policy and Indigenous Resistance in Public Schools
3. Behind the Funding Promise of Self-Determination
4. Consultation, Classroom Content, and Government Relations under ESSA
Conclusion: Building Indigenous Futures
Appendix 1: Anticipated Federal Appropriations and Outlays Based on Inflation
Appendix 2: Data Sources for Discourse Tracing
Appendix 3: Structured Questions for Discourse Tracing
Appendix 4: Indian Education Funds over Time

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