The American College Testing (ACT) recently came out with its first-ever report on the academic preparation of Indian students for college study. It is called “The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2013: American Indian Students.”

Disappointing ACT Scores: The Need for More Indian Professionals

Dr. Dean Chavers

Any other ethnic group would be picketing, disrupting board meetings, making demands on school principals, and giving counselors a piece of their minds. But as my friend Ernie says, Indians are too nice. We don’t want to make a fuss. We don’t want to cause trouble. So we let another generation of our kids fall through the cracks.

Instead of taking Geometry and Trig, our kids are taking welding, driver’s education, general math, and bonehead English. The counselors need to do their job. We need to get our kids ready for college. Vocational stuff is old and outdated.

Seventy-eight of us took over Alcatraz Island in 1969 because of this problem. To my frustration, we are still stuck about where we were then. Not a whole lot has gotten better. Our numbers have gone up. In 1969 there were only about 2,000 Indian students in college in the whole United States. Today, that number is about 70,000. But their success rate is still very low. We need more Indian doctors, nurses, teachers, biologists, engineers, lawyers, and business people in a bad way.

Every time I hear about an Indian elder having to wait one or two days to see a doctor, it breaks my heart. And when they die from lack of medical treatment, I get mad. The non-Indians who come to Indian Country only stay one or two years. Then they run back to the city.

We need to be more pushy, people. We’ve been nice long enough. It’s time we stood up and insisted that the schools get our kids ready for life. Our people need it.

Dr. Dean Chavers is director of Catching the Dream, a scholarship program in Albuquerque. CTD also makes grants to Indian schools to help them improve. Contact him at He was the first mainland coordinator for the Indian occupation of Alcatraz in 1969.


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