Since the establishment of the first reservation schools in the 1880's, the formal education of the Navajo has consisted of little more than a long series of experiments which have all ended in failure. The deplorable condition of Navajo education was well documented in the 1969 U.S. Senate report Indian Education: A National Tragedy - A National Challenge.
In 1970, Peter McDonald defeated the incumbent Raymond Nakai to become tribal chairman, a position he would hold for twelve years, longer than any other chairman in tribal history. The McDonald administrations coincided with a new national movement to reform Indian education. The hallmark of this movement was Indian control. As the largest tribe in the United States, the Navajos assumed a natural leadership role.
This paper is an attempt to provide an analytical account of the issues and developments in Navajo education during the mcDonald years. Five general topic areas are covered: Rough Rock and the other "demonstration" schools, Bureau of Indian Affairs Schools, Public Schools, Navajo Community College, and the tribal role. It is hoped that this paper will provide those involved in Navajo education with an insight and understanding of this important time period.