Letter of Transmittal

Montana Advisory Committee to
the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

Members of the Commission
Mary Frances Berry, Chairperson
Cruz Reynoso, Vice Chairperson
Christopher Edley, Jr.
Yvonne Y. Lee
Elsie M. Meeks
Russell G. Redenbaugh
Abigail Thernstrom
Victoria Wilson

Les Jin, Staff Director

As part of its responsibility to assist the Commission in its fact-finding function, the Montana Advisory Committee submits this report of its study of equal educational opportunities for Native American students in Montana public schools. Members of the Advisory Committee who participated on the project approved the report by a vote of 9 to 0. The study is based on public fact-finding meetings conducted in Billings and Missoula on December 10, 1996, and April 24, 1997, respectively, background research and interviews by Committee members and staff, and follow-up data collection and additional interviews conducted after the fact-finding meetings. Persons who provided information were given an opportunity to review relevant sections of the report and, where appropriate, their comments and corrections were incorporated.

The Advisory Committee has a longstanding interest in state civil rights enforcement. The issue of equal education for Native American children in Montana had been discussed on several occasions. In December 1992, the Advisory Committee heard from Indian educators who discussed how racism and negative stereotyping hinder the future progress and success of Native American children in the state. The Great Falls Indian education coordinator specifically addressed the need for suitable curriculum; the proper selection of appropriate materials as teaching tools; and for administrators, counselors, and teachers to be sensitized to Indian issues and culture. Civil rights in education was deemed a critical issue by many people across the state. At its February 1993 meeting, the Montana Advisory Committee reviewed a number of civil rights issues, including inappropriate curricula within school systems in Montana that adversely affect minority students.

The Advisory Committee selected employment and education affecting Native Americans in Montana as a broad project. Based on the numerous concerns surrounding the education of Indian children between kindergarten and 12th grade, it was determined that the study would focus on the extent to which Native American children in Montana public schools are receiving equal educational opportunity, and the quality of education they receive.

This report offers possible solutions to correct inequality for Native American children in public schools in the state. It addresses the serious dropout rate among Indian children and the lack of Native Americans as teachers, administrators, and role models in the public school system.

Among its study findings, the Montana Advisory Committee notes that the state desperately needs a mechanism to carry out the provisions of the Montana Constitution, which ensures educational opportunity for each person in the state.

The Advisory Committee urges the Commission to accept this report.


Phillip Caldwell, Chairperson
Montana Advisory Committee