Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Literature relating to American Indian formal education reveals that throughout much of history, the majority culture has stressed assimilation in the educational process. Indian students have been encouraged to give up their values and embrace the values of majority culture members. However, for the majority of Indian people, the goals of assimilation have not been realized. Indians have retained unique cultural values.

This study was designed to systematically investigate the role of differential values in the educational process of rural North Dakota Indian high school students. High school students and their teachers from seven schools were surveyed in group testing sessions. All subjects completed questionnaires eliciting personal information, character trait preferences, and perceptions of themselves, ideal self, and others. Students completed two additional self-esteem measures. Relevant information from school records was also utilized.

The results of the study support notions of Indian educational underachievement. Findings further indicate that the values of Indian students, as a group, were quantifiably and qualitatively different from those of their teachers. Self-esteem measurement results suggested that self-identity was different for Indian and non-Indian students.

Comparisons between high and low achieving Indians were made. It was discovered that character trait preferences of high achieving Indians were more closely aligned with those of their teachers than were character trait preferences of low achieving Indians. High achieving Indians valued the educational process to a greater degree than low achievers, and ranked school-related character traits more favorably. They expressed more positive attitudes towards their teachers, and were less critical of non-Indians. Their responses appeared to indicate that they were less alienated from the non-Indian world. However, high achievers did not appear to be rejecting the "Indianness." Neither high nor low achievers were more likely to participate in traditional Indian activities.

It was concluded that the findings support the benefits of acculturation as opposed to assimilation in the educational process. Through acculturation, individuals uniquely combine their heritage with new ideas and methods from an outside culture. A separate chapter presents innovative ideas from the literature, regarding how schools for Indian students might achieve the goals of acculturation.