Carceral Colonialisms: Schools, Prisons, and Indigenous Youth in the United States

  • Jeremiah Chin
  • Bryan McKinley Jones BrayboyEmail author
  • Nicholas Bustamante
Living reference work entry


In this chapter, we attempt to open conversations on the school-prison nexus and indigenous youth by tracing the history of colonization from boarding schools to the modern school to prison pipeline, focusing on a statistical analysis of school discipline in Arizona schools. The attempted assimilation and colonization of Indigenous youth in the United States has moved from boarding school policy to the modern network of zero tolerance and school discipline policies that form the “school to prison pipeline” as students are pushed out of classrooms and in to mass incarceration. Although the school to prison pipeline has been documented and analyzed in many communities of color, the extent and effect of the school-prison nexus for Indigenous youth in the United States has been under-explored. We found that schools with a predominantly non-white student population, particularly predominantly American Indian and Alaska Native schools, reported higher rates of school discipline. Furthermore, reports of Indigenous students being disciplined for purported dress code violations when wearing traditional Indigenous hair styles signifies the ways in which colonization permeates the educational system in the United States. These destructive, disruptive, and colonial educational practices must be stopped.


School to Prison Pipeline School-prison nexus Mass Incarceration Indigenous Youth American Indian/Alaska Native schooling 


  1. Adams D (1995) Education for extinction: American Indians and the boarding school experience. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, pp 1875–1928Google Scholar
  2. Anzaldúa G (1999) La Frontera/Borderlands: The New Mestiza (2nd Ed.). Aunt Lute Books, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  3. Belgarde MJ, Mitchell R, Arquero A (2003) “What do we have to do to create culturally-responsive programs?: the challenge of transforming American Indian teacher education,” indigenous perspectives of teacher education: beyond perceived border. Action Teach Educ XXIV(2):42–54Google Scholar
  4. Bever L (2015) Native American boy pulled from class over Mohawk haircut. The Washington Post. Retrieved From:
  5. Brayboy BMcKJ (2005) Towards a tribal critical race theory in education. Urban Review, 37(5), 425–446CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brayboy BMcKJ, Castagno AE (2009) Self-determination through self-education: Culturally responsive schooling for Indigenous students in the USA. Teaching Education, 20(1), 31–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brayboy BMcKJ, Maaka MJ (2015) K–12 achievement for indigenous students. J American Indian Education, 54(1), 63–98Google Scholar
  8. Brayboy BMJ, Gough HR, Leonard R, Roehl RF, Solyom JA (2012) Reclaiming scholarship: critical indigenous research methodologies. In: Handbook of qualitative research. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA, pp 423–450Google Scholar
  9. Castagno AE (2012) “They prepared me to be a teacher, but not a culturally responsive navajo teacher for navajo kids”: A Tribal Critical Race Theory Analysis of an Indigenous Teacher Preparation Program. J American Indian Education, 51(1), 3–21Google Scholar
  10. Castagno AE, Brayboy BMcKJ (2008) Culturally responsive schooling for Indigenous youth: A review of the literature. Review of Educational Research, 78(4), 941–993CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Christle CA, Jolivette K, Nelson CM (2005) Breaking the school to prison pipeline: Identifying school risk and protective factors for youth delinquency. Exceptionality, 13(2), 69–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Christle CA, Jolivette K, Nelson CM (2007) School characteristics related to high school dropout rates. Remedial and Special education, 28(6), 325–339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Darling-Hammond L (2015) The flat world and education: How America’s commitment to equity will determine our future. Teachers College Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. DeMille D (2015) Native American child sent home over traditional Mohawk. USA Today/St. George Spectrum. Retrieved from
  15. Ellis C (1996) To change them forever: Indian education at the Rainy Mountain Boarding School, 1893–1920. University of Oklahoma Press, NormanGoogle Scholar
  16. Fonrouge G (2017) American-Indian boy banned from school for having long hair. New York Post. Retrieved from
  17. Gilmore RW (2007) Golden gulag: prisons, surplus, crisis, and opposition in globalizing California. Univ of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  18. Hawley WD (2012) An empirical analysis of the effects of Mexican American studies participation on student achievement within Tucson Unified School District. Doctoral dissertation, The University of ArizonaGoogle Scholar
  19. Healey MA (2013) The school-to-prison pipeline tragedy on Montana’s American Indian reservations. N Y Univ Rev Law Soc Change 37:670–726Google Scholar
  20. Heitzeg NA (2009) Education or incarceration: zero tolerance policies and the school to prison pipeline (Forum on Public Policy Online). Retrieved from
  21. Jung MK, Vargas JC, Bonilla-Silva E (2011) State of white supremacy: racism, governance, and the United States. Stanford University Press, Palo AltoGoogle Scholar
  22. Kim CY (2009/2010) Procedures for public law remediation in school-to-prison pipeline litigation: lessons learned from Antoine v. Winner School District. N Y Law School Law Rev 54:956–974Google Scholar
  23. Ladson-Billings G (1998) Just what is critical race theory and what's it doing in a nice field like education? International journal of qualitative studies in education, 11(1), 7–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Laura CT (2014) Being bad: My baby brother and the school-to-prison pipeline. New York, NY: Teachers College PressGoogle Scholar
  25. Lomawaima KT (2000) Tribal sovereigns: Reframing research in American Indian education. Harvard Educational Review, 70(1), 1–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lomawaima KT, McCarty TL (2006) “To remain an Indian”: lessons in democracy from a century of native American education. Teachers College Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  27. Longest KC (2012) Using Stata for quantitative analysis. SAGE Publications, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  28. Losen D (2011) Discipline policies, successful schools, and racial justice. The civil rights project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles. Available at
  29. McCarty T, Lee T (2014) Critical culturally sustaining/revitalizing pedagogy and Indigenous education sovereignty. Harvard Educational Review, 84(1), 101–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Morris MW (2016) Pushout: the criminalization of black girls in schools. The New Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  31. Morton v. Mancari (1974) 417 U.S. 535Google Scholar
  32. Moya-Smith S (2014) Navajo kindergartner sent home from school, Ordered to Cut His Hair. Indian Country Today. Retrieved From:
  33. Nance JP (2014) Students, police, and the school-to-prison pipeline. Wash Univ Law Rev 93(4):919–987Google Scholar
  34. Nance JP (2015) Students, police, and the school-to-prison pipeline. Wash Univ Law Rev 93, 919–987Google Scholar
  35. National Congress of the American Indian (NCAI) (2015) Are native youth being pushed into prison? Retrieved from
  36. Noguera PA (2003) Schools, prisons, and social implications of punishment: rethinking disciplinary practices. Theory Pract 42(4):341–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Norris T, Vines PL, Hoeffel EM (2012) The American Indian and Alaska native population: 2010 census briefs. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved from:
  38. Orfield G, Schley S, Glass D, Reardon S (1994) The growth of segregation in American schools: Changing patterns of separation and poverty since 1968. Equity & Excellence in Education, 27(1), 5–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Quijano A (2000) Coloniality of power, Eurocentrism and Latin America. Nepantla: Views from South 1(3):533–580Google Scholar
  40. Redfield SE, Nance JP (2016) School-to-prison pipeline: preliminary report. American Bar Association, School to prison pipeline task force. Available at
  41. Smith LT (2012) Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. Zed Books Ltd., New YorkGoogle Scholar
  42. Shotton HJ, Lowe SC, Waterman SJ (eds) (2013) Beyond the asterisk: understanding native students in higher education. Stylus Publishing, LLC, SterlingGoogle Scholar
  43. Tuzzolo E, Hewitt DT (2006) Rebuilding inequity: the re-emergence of the school-to-prison pipeline in New Orleans. High Sch J 90:59–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. United States Department of Education (2014) Data snapshot:school discipline. Issue brief no.1 Office for Civil Rights. Accessed online at
  45. US Census Bureau (2016) Table B02001 race, American community survey. Retrieved from
  46. Vaught SE (2011) Racism, public schooling, and the entrenchment of white supremacy: a critical race ethnography. State University of New York Press, AlbanyGoogle Scholar
  47. Vaught SE (2017) Compulsory: Education and the dispossession of youth in a prison school. University of Minnesota Press, MinneapolisGoogle Scholar
  48. Villanueva S (2013) Teaching as a healing craft: decolonizing the classroom and creating spaces of hopeful resistance through Chicano-indigenous pedagogical praxis. Urban Rev 45:23–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wallace Jr JM, Goodkind S, Wallace CM, Bachman JG (2008) Racial, ethnic, and gender differences in school discipline among US high school students: 1991–2005. The Negro educational review 59(1–2), 47–62Google Scholar
  50. Winn MT, Behizadeh N (2011) The right to be literate: literacy, education, and the school-to-prison pipeline. Rev Res Educ 35:147–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wood B (2015) American Indian student at Utah’s arrowhead elementary told to cut his Mohawk or leave. Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved from

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeremiah Chin
    • 1
  • Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nicholas Bustamante
    • 1
  1. 1.Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy
    • 1
  • Megan Bang
    • 2
  1. 1.Arizona State UniversityArizonaUSA
  2. 2.College of EducationUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

Personalised recommendations