John Eggers releases new book, ‘Creating Schools for Native American Students’ – Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – Longtime educator John Eggers is committed to a 100% graduation rate for high school students, and his most recent book is one more step in that direction.

In his book, “Creating Schools for Native American Students,” Eggers aims to help educators realize different ways to help Native American students succeed in school, and by extension, graduate.

“The current dilemma that we find in schools today is that Native American students are not doing well, so that behooves us to do something else,” Eggers said. “My hope is that people, especially educators with high populations of Native American students, will read the book and do something different.”

Sparkling from conversations with area tribal members and educators, Eggers’ book describes several methods for rethinking how education is offered and emphasizes the need to create different types of schools, or “month schools.”

Eggers defines lunar schools as “schools that challenge our creativity and are based less on the past and more on the future.”

“This book is long overdue because I don’t know of any other book that really describes in specific detail what schools can do to help more students graduate,” he said. “It certainly doesn’t have all the answers, but I hope that every teacher of Indian students will read the book and come to a conclusion.”

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With more than 50 years in education, Eggers was principal of Red Lake High School from 1985 to 1992 and also served as the first principal of the Naytahwaush Community Charter School on White Earth Nation.

Along with other experiences, Eggers found it important to work with surrounding tribes to inform theses in the book.

“When you​​​​are​​working​​with​​another​​culture,​​the​​best​​skill​​is​​to​​just​​listen​​to​​the​​people​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ “I have one chapter in the book about me as a white person, my cultural education and what it meant to me, so I hope to build trust between myself and Native American leaders … to take what I have to say as it comes from the heart.”

Eggers reserved one chapter to discuss the Four Winds Alternative School, an option for Red Lake students that graduated nearly 100% of its students during Eggers’ tenure at Red Lake.

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He spoke with Four Winds’ Co-director Leo Soukop, who detailed 10 “ingredients” of a school designed for Native American students. Eggers had similar conversations with Charles Grolla, a teacher of culture and language at Leech Lake Nation, along with Red Lake Nation member Susan Ninham, an educator and health care administrator.

Some takeaways from these talks included:

  • Journal writing, including interviews with elders and personal stories.
  • Celebrating traditional Indian holidays.
  • Incorporate Seven Grandfather Teachings into the local language, culture and history curriculum, which must be practical.
  • Create and involve community members in school activities and classes.
  • Students must experience job shadowing in the community.
  • Class sizes should be manageable and safe.
  • Flexible class schedule, including possible evening classes.
  • A credit recovery program.
  • Hiring Indigenous support staff, leadership and teachers who are a mix of personalities, can incorporate a variety of teaching approaches and be willing to try new things.
  • Provide non-Native staff with training and knowledge of the community they serve.

Eggers detailed a 55% graduation rate of Native American students in Minnesota schools. In comparison, approximately 69% of African American students graduate along with 83% of Caucasian students.
Keeping these statistics in mind, he emphasized the need for moon schools that look nothing like they do now. These may include schools that do not use the current K-12 grading system or letter grades.

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He added that virtual learning options boosted by the pandemic have already started a shift in education for all students.

“In fifteen years we will no longer recognize the schools as they are now,” Eggers continued. “We have to think about the future and the schools of today are really not the answer. Schools are trying to make a difference, but they are doing things that have already been done and have not been shown to work. Maybe this book will stimulate some creative thinking that will get the ball rolling.

Eggers’ book is available on his website,, where information about upcoming book signings can be found. Copies are also available at Bemidji Woolen Mills.


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