9-2 Fall 1997 “Re-envisioning Indian Education” Resource Guide

Aug 15th, 1997 | By | Category: 9-2: Re-envisioning Indian Education, Resource Guides
By Dr. Mary Hermes

Located within the recent scholarship in Indian Education, this brief annotated bibliography concentrates on the subject broadly referred to as “culture and curriculum.” If culture is understood as the collective values, practices, and will of a people, then cultural practices in Indian education can only be understood as acts of self-determination. For this reason, I have not considered pieces that use culture as a means to an end, but rather I have actively sought out work in which culture provides the foundations for educational practices.

Eight categories guided my search: 1) discussion/ theory/ best practices, 2) socio-linguistic approaches, 3) philosophy/ world view, 4) rationale for, 5) oral history, 6) higher education, 7) math and science, and 8) language revitalization. Due to space limitations, only three categories were included in this article. The rest may be accessed through the Tribal College Journal internet site www.fdl.cc.mn.us/tcj

Although by no means comprehensive, this research represents some of the cutting edge discussions around the topic of Native culture and education. Abstracts were located mostly by using computerized database subject area searches of ERIC (Educational Resources and Information Center.)


Henze, R. and L. Vanett (1993). To walk in two worlds– or more? Challenging a common metaphor of Native education. Anthropology and Education Quarterly 24(2), 116-134.

This article critically examines the metaphor “walking in two worlds” and the influence it has had in culture and education. Through analysis of five assumptions, Henze and Vanett argue that not only is the metaphor overly simplistic, it often limits our collective imagination, creating a dualistic and fatalistic choice for Native American students.

Hermes, M. (1995). Making culture, making curriculum: Teaching through meanings and identities at an American Indian tribal school. Unpublished dissertation. University of Wisconsin, Madison. Available from the University of Ann Arbor, microfiche collection.

Research at a tribal school (Ojibwe, Great Lakes area) that generates theory from practices at school. Also critically considers the role of community, especially elders, in light of the context of colonization. Uses research project as a vehicle for community building at the site of the school.

Lipka, J. (1989). A cautionary tale for curriculum development in Yup’ik Eskimo communities. Anthropology and Education Quarterly 20(3), 216-231.

The school should follow the communities’ lead in developing culture-based curriculum. In this article Lipka describes a project based at the University of Alaska that attempted to follow the direction set by community members. Theorizing positions of power, he describes this approach as “action-research,” rooted in principles of self-determination. Article also touches on the question of “outsiders” in teaching and/or facilitating culture-based curriculum.

Lipka, J and E. Ilustsik (1995). Negotiated change: Yup’ik perspectives on indigenous schooling. The Bilingual Research Journal 19(1), 195-207.

Discusses five geographical diverse Native American schooling sites and their particular attempts to make schools hubs of language and culture revitalization. Argues that changing the relationships of power and domination is an integral part of, and a logical direction for, culture-based curriculum. Vivid description of a Yup’ik literacy program that was inspired by “suguaq” or playing dolls.

McCaskill, D. (1987). Revitalization of Indian culture: Indian cultural survival schools. In Indian Education in Canada. Vol. 2, The Challenge, 153-179. Edited by J. Barman, Y. Herber, and D. McCaskill. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Indian control over education has been a part of the dialogue for over 15 years, yet it is still an urgent task for our survival as distinct people. One vision for education requires a fundamental change in definition and philosophy, one which is based on a traditional idea of nurturing the mind, body, and spirit of a person. The issues of self-determined education are discussed as a part of the “revitalization” of Native culture. Understanding how to implement Native culture into education necessitates an understanding of what “Native culture” is–especially in light of narrow definitions and stereotypes that abound.

Urion, C. (1991). Changing academic discourse about Native education: using two pairs of eyes. Canadian Journal of Native Education 18(1), 1-9.

In this editorial, Urion presents a sweeping critique of current academic discourse around Indian education. He points out that a persistent underlying assumption in the field has been acculturation. Much past work on Native culture and education has essentialized culture and only acts to reaffirm the impression of stereotypes. In contrast, he believes that a traditional discourse of learning was based on constantly changing relationships that create and recreate the discourse anew in every relationship and encounter. Excellent critique of cultural determinism.


Archibald J. (1990). Coyote’s story about orality and literacy. Canadian Journal of Indian Education 17(2), 66-81.

Discusses the origins of the Western literary tradition (Plato) and the accompanying purge of emotions. First Nations oral traditions encompass certain forms of thinking and creativity that are limited or non-existent in literary traditions. Considers ways indigenous peoples can “bridge the dichotomy” and value both literate and oral traditions through educational practices.

Sheridan, J. (1991). The silence before drowning in alphabet soup. Canadian Journal of Indian Education 18(1), 23-31.

Without reducing Western cultures to literate and Native cultures to oral, Sheridan is able to discuss and compare “oral” and “literate” cultures as these distinctions relate to history and legitimacy. He argues that literacy is prioritized in schooling in ways that compete against, dominate, dis-place and de-legitimize oral traditions and life experience. As the mediated world (literate) is mistaken for the real world, respect for traditions is easily overlooked.

Ambler, M. (1995). History in the first person. Tribal College Journal 6(4), 9-14.

Documents some of the ways in which oral traditions have been used by scholars since the 1960s and are currently gaining legitimacy in academia. Discusses how oral histories are breathing life into museum projects and creating another form of representation for the Native perspective. Different standards and values emerge from the oral histories approach, for example, relationship and spirituality as opposed to objectivity and accuracy.

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