16-3 “Indigenizing Education” Resource Guide

Feb 15th, 2005 | By | Category: 16-3: Indigenizing Education, Resource Guides
By Mary Hermes, Ph.D. Internet section by Gary Babiuk

Tribally-controlled community colleges all over Turtle Island are revitalizing culture, surrounding academics with Native thought, and beginning to re-define what academics are according to Native epistemologies.  Our tribal schools have been doing this for more than 30 years.  We have taken schools that were the epitome of assimilation and internment and are turning them around, 180 degrees. Turning around something this big, this far is a process.

My colleague and I have compiled resources that may help you on this journey. We write this for non-Native teachers at tribal colleges, for Native American instructors who were likely schooled in Western-oriented universities, and for veterans who have taught since the college started but who still ask, “How DO we teach math in an indigenous way? Or a Navajo way? How do we teach basic writing skills in an Ojibwe way?”

The answers are beyond me. My recent work in an indigenous language immersion school has made me think that it is not so much the content but more the world view framing what we teach.  Think of it as two steps: 1) teaching through an indigenous lens and 2) finding appropriate content for this specific nation. While language learning and in-depth curriculum research are long-term goals, there are short cuts or at least steps in the right direction. Use these resources for those steps.

We thought of creating this guide by discipline, but higher education is too specialized and fragmented. We have grown beyond superficial or pan-Native resources, but tribal colleges and universities serve over 27 different tribal nations. Thus, providing tribal-specific resources also was too overwhelming. Instead, we provided some of our favorite resources, some for specific subjects and some about teaching Native students.

A wonderful resource guide like the one envisioned above could be created only by drawing on our collective knowledge. We invite teachers to submit your own favorite resources or your comments on these resources to the Tribal College Journal website, www.tribalcollegejournal.org.


For Indigenous Language Courses or Language-Teaching Methodologies:

Hinton, L., & Hale, K. (2001).  The green book of language revitalization in practice.  New York: Academic Press.

This book is a must for those involved in language revitalization.  It is a hands-on, how-to oriented collection of papers from all around the world (including Hawaii, Maori, Blackfeet, Karuk, Navajo, and others).  It demonstrates the impact that a few individuals can have on an entire community.  Chapter topics include: overview of revitalization, language policy, language planning, maintenance and revitalization, immersion, literacy, media and technology and training, and sleeping languages.

Hinton, L. with Vera, M. & Steele, N. (2002). How to keep your language alive: A commonsense approach to one-on-one language learning.  Berkeley:  Heyday Press.

This short guide was originally the master-apprentice training manual.  Complete with comics and other illustrations, this book is written for the non-linguist to get started learning an endangered language.  The lessons are clearly written and applicable to a variety of language-learning settings.  A book like this is a gem because many language methods books assume that written materials or a community of speakers exist.  This book assumes neither.

Baker, C. (2001) Foundations of bilingual education handbook.  Toronto:  Multilingual Matters.

A bit more technical than the above citation, this is an excellent textbook for education or language methods courses.  It provides a broad overview of the philosophy, politics, and approaches to bilingual education. Immersion is one of these. The book provides insight into why bilingual education is important for everyone; what the research on language learning and cognition really says; how students acquire a second language, and how bilingualism is very much a part of multicultural education. I personally considered this extremely interesting and seminal reading.

For GED, English, Writing, or Literature Courses:

These three are all easy-reading fiction or narrative books.  They could be used as content for a GED course, a first-level literature course, or as models in a writing course. Because all are based on Native American stories, they should create some common ground for tribal college students. Two of them are written by or about Native women.

Penman, S. (2000). Honor the grandmothers: Dakota and Lakota women tell their stories.  Minneapolis:  Minnesota Historical Society.

This beautiful collection of narrative and photos (contemporary and historical) gives the reader personal insight into some well-known historical events.  In the style of oral traditions, humor, Native voice, and spirit and persistence shine through in these life histories. Provides a good model for students doing oral histories.

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