Beyond "Business as Usual": Using Counterstorytelling to Engage the Complexity of Urban Indigenous Education
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This dissertation examines the discursive and material terrain of urban Indigenous education in a public school district and Title VII/Indian Education program. Based in tenets of Tribal Critical Race Theory and utilizing counterstorytelling techniques from Critical Race Theory informed by contemporary Indigenous philosophy and methodological theory, this research takes as its focus the often-unacknowledged ways settler colonial discourses continue to operate in public schools. Drawing on two years of fieldwork in a public school district, this dissertation documents and makes explicit racial and colonial dynamics that manifest in educational policy and practice through a series of counterstories. The counterstories survey a range of educational issues, including the implementation of Native-themed curriculum, teachers’ attempts to support Native students in their classrooms, challenges to an administrator’s “no adornment” policies for graduation, Native families’ negotiations of erasures embedded in practice and policy, and a Title VII program’s efforts to claim physical and cultural space in the district, among other issues. As a collective, these stories highlight the ways that colonization and settler society discourses continue to shape Native students’ experiences in schools. Further, by documenting the nuanced intelligence, courage, artfulness, and what Gerald Vizenor has termed the “survivance” of Native students, families, and educators as they attempt to access education, the research provides a corrective to deficit framings of Indigenous students. Beyond building empathy and compassion for Native students and communities, the purpose is to identify both the content and nature of the competencies teachers, administrators, and policy makers might need in order to provide educational services that promote Indigenous students’ success and well-being in school and foster educational self-determination. This research challenges educators to critically interrogate taken-for-granted assumptions about Native identity, culture, and education and invites educators to examine their own contexts for knowledge, insights, and resources to better support Native students in urban public schools and intervene into discourses that constrain their educational experiences.