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Carrying the torch forward: Indigenous academics building capacity through an international collaborative model

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This article describes an on-going international collaboration on Indigenous language and culture education that engages post-secondary institutions in Hawaiʻi, Arizona, Alaska, New Zealand and Canada. Formed in 2005 under the leadership of the late William Demmert, Jr., this community presently brings a critical mass of prominent Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars together with emerging Indigenous faculty and students using hybrid delivery—virtual and face-to-face interaction—through internationally conducted coursework. Topics on Indigenous epistemology, language, culture, knowledge, traditions, and identity are the focus of two rotating Indigenous education course themes: Indigenous culture-based education and Indigenous well-being through education. Through networking and collaboration, the seminar has created, “free spaces for authentic voices” (Gilmore, 2010) and mentorship of emerging Indigenous faculty and scholars to step into the role of leadership in academic arenas, a process we refer to as “carrying the torch forward”. Through a reflective review with input from site instructors including student voices, the co-authors who are Indigenous faculty, scholars as well as former students discuss the impacts of engaging the academy with Indigenous knowledges, peoples, and communities in meaningful ways. In this paper, we reflect on and highlight the potential such collaborations provide in accessing academic power while supporting the responsibility Indigenous students assume in navigating the pathway of higher education toward Indigenous self-determination broadly. More importantly, the international seminar space allows for advancing this endeavor grounded in the Indigenous values of responsibility, respect, relevance, reciprocity, relationships, and resiliency.
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Carrying the Torch Forward:
Indigenous Academics Building Capacity Through an International Collaborative Model
Candace Kaleimamoowahinekapu Galla, University of British Columbia
Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa, University of Hawaiʻi Hilo
Sheilah E. Nicholas, University of Arizona
Abstract
This article describes an on-going international collaboration on Indigenous language and
culture education that engages post-secondary institutions in Hawaiʻi, Arizona, Alaska, New
Zealand and Canada. Formed in 2005 under the leadership of the late William Demmert, Jr., this
community presently brings a critical mass of prominent Indigenous and non-Indigenous
scholars together with emerging Indigenous faculty and students using hybrid delivery—virtual
and face-to-face interaction—through internationally conducted coursework. Topics on
Indigenous epistemology, language, culture, knowledge, traditions, and identity are the focus of
two rotating Indigenous education course themes: Indigenous culture-based education and
Indigenous well-being through education. Through networking and collaboration, the seminar
has created, “free spaces for authentic voices” (Gilmore, 2010) and mentorship of emerging
Indigenous faculty and scholars to step into the role of leadership in academic arenas, a process
we refer to as “carrying the torch forward”. Through a reflective review with input from site
instructors including student voices, the co-authors who are Indigenous faculty, scholars as well
as former students discuss the impacts of engaging the academy with Indigenous knowledges,
peoples, and communities in meaningful ways. In this paper, we reflect on and highlight the
potential such collaborations provide in accessing academic power while supporting the
responsibility Indigenous students assume in navigating the pathway of higher education toward
Indigenous self-determination broadly. More importantly, the international seminar space allows
for advancing this endeavor grounded in the Indigenous values of responsibility, respect,
relevance, reciprocity, relationships, and resiliency.
Introduction
We found Indigenous scholars with similar experiences, criticisms, and agendas
that allowed us to move beyond our sense of isolation and marginalization while
connecting to a broader, growing, Indigenous intellectual movement…We believe
the ideas expressed here will resonate with others with like minds and agendas,
and eventually this will coalesce into a critical mass of Indigenous intellectuals
and non-Indigenous allies. (Mihesuah & Wilson, 2004, pg. 2)
Over the past twenty years, free spaces in higher education institutions have been created
for the advancement of Indigenous education, toward the purpose of improving the quality of life
for Indigenous people and communities. At the heart of this Indigenous intellectual movement is
a (re)focus on traditional knowledge systems—as providing a critical foundation for
This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published in:
Galla, C.K., Kawaiaea, K., & Nicholas, S.E. (2014). Carrying the torch forward: Indigenous academics building capacity through an international collaborative model. Canadian
Journal of Native Education, 37 (1), 193-217.
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contemporary application of Indigenous approaches to self-determination through a culturally
appropriate education for Indigenous peoples. The envisioning process called for an Indigenous
approach to conceptualize and develop an “ideological and implementational” space (Hornberger
& Johnson, 2007). This article highlights an international space for Indigenous collaboration
comprised of post-secondary institutions in Hawaiʻi, Arizona, Alaska, New Zealand and Canada
(Figure 1). Critical players in this envisioning include: Professors William “Pila” Wilson
(University of Hawaiʻi, Hilo (UHH)), William “Bill” Demmert, Jr. Oglala Sioux/Tlingit
(Western Washington University (WWU)), Oscar Kawagley, Yupiaq (University of Alaska
Fairbanks (UAF)), Ray Barnhardt (UAF), Gerry Mohatt (UAF), Perry Gilmore (University of
Arizona (UA)), and Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa, Native Hawaiian (UHH), then Director of the
Kahuawaiola Indigenous Teacher Education Program (KITEP).
Figure 1: Invitational timeline of post-secondary institutions
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As co-authors, Indigenous faculty and site instructors at our respective institutions, we
have each been mentored toward assuming the responsibility of our current roles by one or more
of the senior professors of the seminar directly and/or influenced through their work. Keiki
Kawaiʻaeʻa assisted in the envisioning and development process of the international seminar
while a doctoral student at Union Institute and University. She is the current Director of Ka Haka
ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language (KHʻUOK) at the UHH. Candace K. Galla,
Native Hawaiian, started as a seminar student and technology aide in fall 2006 at the UA which
led to her instructor status in 2012 at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Sheilah
Nicholas, a member of the Hopi Tribe and faculty at the UA, was mentored toward this role
while a graduate student, and subsequently, as a new faculty hire in 2008. The critical mass of
Indigenous scholar-educators continues to increase in this seminar space (Figure 2). We
undertake a reflective look at the evolution of the seminar from our experiences and perspectives
as three scholar-educators to whom the “torch”—the legacy and vision—has been passed. Thus,
we contribute to this article “from places rooted in our own positionality as Indigenous peoples
and as academics working with Indigenous communities and peoples” (Brayboy, Lomawaima, &
Villegas, 2007, p. 231). Our purpose is threefold: (1) to pay tribute to the senior scholars who
created this ideological and implementational space as “something significant” (Nicholas, 2008,
p. 185); (2) to continue to align our work with the guiding principles of the “six” Rs—
relationality (Carjuzza & Fenimore-Smith, 2010), respect, responsibility, relevance, reciprocity,
(Kirkness & Barnhardt, 2001), and to which we add the principle of resiliency, and (3) to ensure
that we extend the legacy and vision of these individuals to new areas of research and praxis.
Using a historical narrative of the evolving development of the seminar, we draw on
existing documents as well as site instructor and student reflections to set the context. We next
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Figure 2: Cross-institutional site instructors and invited presenters
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discuss our conceptual framework of the six Rs, which informs our practice, teaching, research,
and interpretation of the seminar experiences across institutions. These “Rs” complement and
provide the tenets for implementing the course “strategies” of counterstories and scholarly
community identity critical to advancing the research agenda by and for Indigenous peoples and
communities (Gilmore, 2010). Our personal trajectories in carrying out this responsibility to
whom the “torch” —the legacy and vision—has been passed are shared next. Central to the paper
is the discussion of the critical impacts of the seminar across institutions. We conclude by
recognizing continuing challenges as revealing the implications for further pursuing
sustainability and capacity building in these institutional spaces.
Historical Context of the Indigenous International Collaboration
Figure 1 provides a visual image of the post-secondary institutions brought into the fold
of this international community from 2005 through 2012. The timeline begins by noting that in
spring 2004, Demmert formally convened a small group of noted scholars in the fields of
Indigenous education and language revitalization to conceptualize the development of a cross-
institution seminar. The impetus was to develop Indigenous-based graduate courses for a new
degree within the teacher education pathway at the UHH, and particularly, to “expand the
experiences of post graduate candidates who had completed more culturally insular and locally
based Hawaiian degree programs” (Gilmore, 2010, p. 3). The need centered on a broader
exposure to the work and scholarship of other Indigenous scholars. It is important to note that
informal discussions were on-going among these scholars leading to a significant commonality
that “we were all isolated in each of our uniquely challenging academic settings,” (p. 4); cross-
institutional interactions would be enriching and beneficial for each institution. The first of the
two seminar courses was piloted in fall 2005 for the university sites in Hawaiʻi, Arizona, Alaska,
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and Washington (Demmert, 2006a).
Presently, this community brings together a growing group of prominent scholars in the
field of Indigenous language and culture education with emerging Indigenous faculty and
students during the fall/winter academic semester. In Figure 2, we provide a visual representation
of the university sites, professors, and seminar instructors who have been involved with the
international collaboration (2005-2013). The overall organizational approach is that each site
establishes the course at their respective institutions and provides the instructor. The seminar is
offered as two rotating and separate courses under the themes: Indigenous culture-based
education and Indigenous well-being through education. In addition to maintaining and
monitoring student enrollment and progress, all instructors contribute to the lectures and online
resources, facilitate discussions, develop guidelines for student projects and papers, and
collaboratively maintain oversight of coordination. Technology is the primary mechanism for
cross-institutional delivery of the seminar. Currently utilized are Polycom, a video conferencing
platform, Moodle, a learning management system, VoiceThread (VT), a cloud application that
allows users to create, share and comment on presentations, and Google Hangouts (GH), which
provides virtual video connections. Site-level pre- or post-Polycom discussions allow for
introduction, expansion, and follow-up among instructors and students.
Conceptual Framework: Six Rs of Indigenous Ways of Knowing, Being, and Doing
Scholars in the field of Indigenous education continue to pursue spaces within academic
institutions to realize “successful and creative ways to use programmatic and academic
strategies” (Gilmore, 2010, p. 2) that advance the goals of Indigenous well-being, continuance
and self-determination. To further expand on and forward this movement, we draw on the
principles and the Indigenous conceptual ideas put forth by Kirkness and Barnhardt (2001) as the
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Four Rs—respect, responsibility, relevance, reciprocity – and Carjuzza and Fenimore-Smith
(2010) who add relationality. In this paper, we include resiliency as an additional core principle
of collaboration for the reasons we explain below.
Relationality
Indigenous cultural protocols of introduction and connection are embraced within the
seminar spaces as the mentoring strategy, scholarly community identity (Gilmore, 2010), defined
as “seeing oneself as a legitimate and fully participating member of a scholarly community” (p.
3). Such connections and relationships among Indigenous and non-Indigenous academics across
institutions have brought together those involved with and who share a commitment to
Indigenous language and culture. Critical to fostering such connections and relationships is to
create opportunities for recurrent social as well as oral and written dialogic interaction around
issues of concern to Indigenous peoples and communities. These cross-institutional relationships
come in various forms (i.e. mentor-mentee, peer-peer, teacher-student, supervisor-supervisee,
etc.) and are representative of intergenerational learning. This process entrusts members of our
network with the responsibility of carrying the torch forward to continue the vision of our
predecessors.
Respect
Historically, higher education institutions have engaged in superficial relationships with
Indigenous peoples that constitute “-isms” of oppression in language and culture education
denoting a lack of respect. This lack of respect permeates the academy creating hostile
environments that are detrimental to the cultural integrity of students, and Indigenous peoples
and communities overall. The seminar exemplifies a shift in ideologies and practices that
counters this oppressive legacy and instead seeks to integrate Indigenous perspectives that
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represent a diversity of alternative worldviews and understandings. Deyhle and McCarty (2007)
describe this as a “place of philosophical difference” where “coherence, reliability, beauty,
validity, accuracy, wisdom, and power” (p. 237) embedded in Indigenous epistemologies,
philosophies, and cosmologies are illuminated. Examples of this shifting include Indigenous
paradigms in research design and methodology, course and programmatic expansion, and higher
education certification and degree programs. Creating Indigenous spaces that are integrated
within academia, rather than as separate spaces, Kirkness (2013) asserts, establishes respectful
and hospitable conditions. These conditions provide opportunities for students to engage with the
concepts of the six Rs, through Indigenous lenses, in addressing issues of importance to them on
behalf of Indigenous peoples and communities.
Responsibility
Carrying as well as passing on the torch of responsibility on behalf of Indigenous
communities and people requires a belief, focus and commitment to reaffirming Indigenous ways
of knowing, being, and doing as providing the models for empowerment, well-being,
continuance and self-determination. Our actions not only impact us personally, but have overall
impacts at a local and global scale. Kirkness and Barnhardt’s (2001) notion of “responsibility
through participation” as one of “exercising responsibility” (p. 15) describes the process that has
been modeled for us by our mentor-scholars, and with whom we have been engaged in the
process itself.
Relevance
Students seeking an education on behalf of Indigenous communities and people have not
always been provided a relevant education toward achieving their personal and academic goals; a
reflection of the cultural hegemony in the academy (Delpit, 1988) and a “perennial issue” (p. 2)
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in higher education for Indigenous students (Kirkness & Barnhardt, 2001). Specifically, Kirkness
and Barnhardt refer to the diverging perspectives of Indigenous students seeking higher
education as coming—the institution’s perspective, versus going—the student’s perspective, to
college. For Indigenous scholar-researchers, a similar barrier to accessing academic power
toward Indigenous self-determination is a continuing restriction of the “panoply of voices”
(Carjuzza & Fenimore-Smith, 2010, n.p.) or denial of Indigenous identities and knowledges in
academia. The Indigenous spaces that have been established at each seminar institution site can
be viewed metaphorically as places of emerging Indigenous discourse (Warrior, 1995) where the
dynamic nature of knowledge and culture are presented as “living” models, and new choices of
intellectual influence (Brayboy et al., 2007). Indigenous self-education is rooted in issues that
maintain cohesiveness and unity, a moral existence, and spiritual fulfillment (Nicholas, 2008).
Reciprocity
In Western educational practice, students are passive recipients, perceived as “coming” to
the institution “to partake of what it has to offer” (Kirkness & Barnhardt, 2001, p. 2). This,
however, is not characteristic of Indigenous education. Teaching and learning is a reciprocal
experience that is shared between student and instructor, mentor and mentee. We use the
Hawaiian word, aʻo, an exchange of expertise and wisdom as a shared cyclical experience to
illustrate the principle of reciprocity or teaching and learning as an exchange between the kumu,
teacher and haumāna, student. Through this shared responsibility of educating with lessons from
past journeys (ancestral histories), this accumulation of learned experiences are applied to
roadblocks (life experience/struggles), and once overcome, are recognized as milestones of
success (adaption to new circumstances). Continuance and survival of Indigenous people and
communities are at the core of this “human educational system...” consciously and deliberately
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designed “to perpetuate peoplehood” (Brayboy et al., 2007, p. 233).
Resiliency
Indigenous peoples by their very existence and presence today demonstrate Indigenous
resiliency and persistence. A critical understanding of the source(s) of this resiliency—
Indigenous epistemologies—are essential to the ideological commitment we, as Indigenous
scholar-educators, researchers and mentors must assert in restoring and maintaining these
cultural resources. Engaging in the process of collaborative analysis (privileging Indigenous
epistemology) and inquiry (research to improve the quality of life for Indigenous peoples and
communities) through appropriate and deliberately designed strategies (Indigenous
stories/storytelling, scholarly communities of practice) within Indigenous spaces (re)grounds the
pedagogy and research in Indigenous ideological ways of knowing, being and doing, thus,
strengthens resiliency.
Telling Our Stories: Building Capacity and Ensuring Sustainability in Higher Education
Asserting Indigenous thought, presence and visibility into the academy has come to
fruition through the evolution of these courses that has created the pathway for new faculty to
carry the torch forward as site instructors. In assuming our role, we, the co-authors, recognize
that our entrance into this international community followed differing trajectories. The following
sections feature our personal narratives, highlighting our individual experiences as we carry out
the vision and responsibility bestowed unto us.
From Vision to Fruition: Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa
The light of a torch begins with a flicker of a flame—an idea or a concept—the beginning
of a vision that when ignited with the right conditions, provides enough brilliance to guide the
way forward and becomes the light of inspiration. It has been a privilege and an honor to be part
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of the development of these two courses from its conception to fruition. It began with an idea to
create an Indigenous teacher education pathway from a certificate to a graduate degree. The
motive was to prepare students to teach in a Hawaiian medium setting with a foundation in
Hawaiian epistemologies and pedagogy specifically, and that moved toward a comprehensive P-
20 Indigenous framework of education. It was at this juncture where the inspiration for the
development of the courses began.
At the time, William “Bill” Demmert, Jr. (WWU), of Oglala Sioux and Tlingit heritage
from Southwest Alaska, was already widely recognized for his “pioneering leadership,
scholarship, vision and activism in Native Education” (Gilmore, 2013, p. 3), and I was Director
of the KITEP and the Hale Kuamoʻo Hawaiian Language Center. I came to know Demmert over
the course of several years through his involvement with the development of our Hawaiian
immersion and Hawaiian medium schools; he went on to play a pivotal role in the development
of the two rotating seminar courses. Demmert’s experience with cross-university collaborative
course offerings for teacher education, professional faculty development, and Indigenous
educational research, was not only invaluable but also highly appropriate to advancing “our idea”
of privileging and creating access to Indigenous knowledge systems via an international seminar.
In 2002, Kahuawaiola received a national professional development grant under the
Office of English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement
for Limited English Proficient Students (OELA). The grant provided the seed money to develop
a new Master’s degree in Indigenous Language and Culture Education (MA ILCE). It was the
missing piece in the teacher education pathway between a graduate teaching certificate and the
doctoral degree (PhD) in Hawaiian and Indigenous Language and Culture Revitalization
(HILCR) already in place.
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The MA ILCE program is twofold. First it engages students, who are mostly classroom
teachers, in a broader Indigenous scope of education from which action research projects
particular to critical issues affecting students, schools, families and community in these Hawaiian
educational settings are addressed; and secondly, this trajectory raises the bar of expectation and
excellence for its teachers in assuming the role of Indigenous educators as teachers and
researchers.
Countless hours were spent in discussion on the broader educational issues and solutions
on the culture-based education that would be integrated into the coursework content and learning
outcomes. Integral and underlying ideas included: the six Rs throughout the course development;
broader exposure to Indigenous scholarship and community work; and greater access to
Indigenous education issues in other higher education programs whose faculty were actively
engaging with local and global Indigenous educational social justice concerns. The process
involved identifying and inviting participation of particular higher education programs.
In December of 2004, a five-year University Collaboration Agreement through a
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the UHH, WWU, UA, and the UAF was
established. Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi (TWWOA) was added in 2009 under an
International Indigenous Graduate Education Alliance MOU where the World Indigenous
Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC) played a critical role in encouraging cross-
university partnerships (Figure 1). These MOUs provided the venue for codifying the core
principles that served as the foundation underlying these collaborations.
I liken the innumerable hours I spent in the conversations with great leaders such as Bill
Demmert, Pila Wilson (UHH) and Ray Barnhart (UAF), listening, learning and pondering new
ideas during the early development of the courses to a think tank experience in action. In
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reflection, it was a place where I was surrounded by the bright light of innovation and “out of the
box” thinking that was grounded in Indigenous ways of knowing and practice reflected in the 6
Rs. It came at a critical time, when I was midstream through my PhD, which led me to my final
dissertation topic on Hawaiian learning environments.
This process has been a personally enlightening experience as I too have been mentored
along the way, broadening my own knowledge about Indigenous issues that are commonly
experienced, and more importantly, the collaboratively innovative ways we move to solve them.
I continue to work towards sustaining and promoting the seminar. For example in 2010, along
with Ray Barnhardt, Perry Gilmore (UA), and Graham Smith (TWWOA), we publicly
introduced the creation of the cross-institutional collaboration in Denver, Colorado at an AERA
session titled “Cross-institutional collaborations in Indigenous Education.” In addition to my role
as a presenter, I also had the honor of reading the dedication to Demmert who was set to present
with the group but passed away before the event. It was at this point that I recognized the torch
had been passed on to me by one of my dearest mentors, Bill Demmert. These two seminar
courses began with a flicker of an idea; a hope that was realized—vision to fruition.
Transitioning from Student to Instructor: Candace Galla
In fall 2006, I began my second year as a doctoral student in the department of Language,
Reading and Culture (LRC) at the UA. That semester, I had the opportunity to enroll in the
international seminar facilitated by Leisy Wyman (UA), William “Bill” Demmert (WWU),
William “Pila” Wilson (UHH) and Ray Barnhardt (UAF). As each institution “connected” for the
first session, we, at the UA site could hear chatter in English from the other participants at UAF
and WWU. However, Hawaiian was the medium of communication, conversation, and
expression for instructors and students alike at UHH. Despite my infrequent use of the language,
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I was compelled to introduce myself in the Hawaiian language with a basic greeting over the
“waves”: Aloha mai kākou. ʻO Candace Kaleimamoowahinekapu Galla koʻu inoa. No Pāhala,
Kaʻū mai au. I felt an immediate sense of comfort, excitement, and a bit of anxiety knowing that
I was interacting with people from back “home”. This was a critical moment for me, in that I had
finally entered a place where my trajectory expressed in the motto, “Indigenous thinkers to
Indigenous scholars” (a student organization at UA) would be supported and nurtured in two
significant ways.
First, there was direct access to Indigenous scholars who are at the forefront of American
Indian, Native Alaskan and Native Hawaiian education locally, nationally and internationally.
The possibility, as an Indigenous student and emerging scholar, to engage with this international
network and to be exposed to Indigenous frameworks and perspectives “became a reality.” The
work I chose to undertake is expressed by Wilson (2004) who states, We can best be of service
to our nations by recovering the traditions that have been assaulted to near-extinction…restoring
health and dignity to our future generations” (p. 69) by specializing in Indigenous language
revitalization.
Secondly, our UA site was comprised of students from communities across the United
States, unlike our sister-sites that represented peoples from specifically local geographic regions.
The “diversity” of languages, knowledge, and cultural practices were brought into a safe space
allowing us to discuss critical, difficult, and unique aspects of Indigenous education, identity,
and well-being. A deep appreciation and respect developed within this cohort for our
heterogeneity that was firmly rooted in our heritage, language and culture. Hearing my heritage
language and discussing Hawaiian medium education on a weekly basis contributed to this
hospitality and also acknowledged my “funds of knowledge” (Moll, Amanti, Neff, & Gonzalez,
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1992) as valid and relevant pedagogy and scholarship.
These experiences prepared me to “give back” to my community when I took my
experience “home” in 2011 and joined the faculty in KHʻUOK at the UHH under the guidance of
Pila Wilson, previous UHH site instructor. I worked alongside him, and former classmates—
Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa, Larry Kimura, Hiapo Perreira, and Iota Cabral—from 2006, who were also
doctoral students at varying stages toward degree completion. My entry into UHH was one of
immersion in Hawaiian culture and language, where the majority of my academic responsibilities
was conducted through the Hawaiian language. This supportive cultural environment established
by KHʻUOK faculty, staff and students made the transition of speaking Hawaiian as the lingua
franca less challenging, although there were times when I would hide in my office—shared with
Pila Wilson—because my oral language skills were not up to par with my comprehension. I
overcame this trepidation, challenged myself to stay in the language as much as possible, and
understood that my reclamation of Hawaiian language would be a life-long journey and pathway.
A year later (2011), I accepted a position in the department of Language and Literacy
Education at UBC. Relocating to Canada grounded me as a Hawaiian academic scholar
promoting and advocating for Hawaiian and Indigenous language education and cultural values.
A full circle opportunity materialized when I was invited to participate as a site instructor at
UBC. The mentorship and guidance I received from Leisy Wyman, Pila Wilson and Perry
Gilmore (UA) helped me prepare specifically for this seminar; I was ready to take on this
kuleana (responsibility). In fall 2012, I joined the international collaboration as a site facilitator,
but I did not have a class of students until fall 2013. The seminar at UBC engaged eight
linguistically and culturally diverse graduate students in a hybrid environment. Every week,
students connected from far distances (i.e. Squamish, Duncan, Abbotsford, all in BC and Fox
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Lake, AB). Despite their locale, uniting my students together in one space was made possible
through technology, interest and sheer motivation shared amongst our community of practice.
Depending on the student’s location, Internet connectivity, and the technology that worked best
that weekGH or Skypethey each bridged the space and time to participate at in the
Vancouver site. Once connected to my students, I would dial the host site (UHH), which joined
my UBC class with the other international sites.
During the fall 2013 seminar, at the American Anthropology Association (AAA) in
Chicago, Illinois, colleagues Beth Leonard (UAF), Sheilah Nicholas, Perry Gilmore and I were
roundtable presenters for the session titled “Knowledge Production in Indigenous Scholarship:
Fostering Relationships, Reciprocity, Responsibility and Respect Through Cross-Institutional
Collaborations.” As part of our presentation, we also demonstrated the power of multimedia,
using the very technology we used in the seminar—VT and GH—virtually bringing me in from
Vancouver BC and into the conference room to join the discussion on the impacts of the cross-
collaborative model.
Providing post-secondary students with this unique opportunity to engage with academic
scholars internationally across varied venues, has allowed me to reciprocate my knowledge and
expertise with a critical mass of Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars in the academy, while
developing and sustaining relationships that celebrate achieving our milestones collectively. The
seminar has been instrumental in establishing the spaces for us to seize opportunities for
academic power, privilege our marginal positions, and legitimize our cultural knowledge
(Leonard, Nicholas, Gilmore, & Galla, 2013).
Invitation to Join the International Community: Sheilah Nicholas
The Hopi perspective of responsibility is best understood in the expression, “Hak so’on
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naala hiita ang mongvasiwmangwu,” “No one accomplishes something worthwhile or of benefit
alone.” The concepts of relationship, respect, reciprocity, and resiliency are inherent in this
understanding while also signifying that there have been many mentors including those mentor-
scholars we cite, who have encouraged and supported me in my academic journey.
Perry Gilmore (UA) played a pivotal role in paving the pathway for my entry into this
international community while I was still a graduate student. In 2004, as in-coming President of
the Council on Anthropology and Education (CAE), a section of AAA, she also initiated a new
Indigenous Education Committee in the existing CAE organizational structure. To celebrate this
new beginning, Perry played a key role in organizing two events held at the National Museum of
the American Indian in Washington, D.C. as part of the 2005 AAA. A poster session featured
invited representatives of institutions engaged in Indigenous language research and
revitalization. I was an invited panelist for the panel session titled, “Promoting Indigenous
Scholarship and Thought in the Academy: A Critical Research Agenda” that introduced
emerging Indigenous scholars in the field. She maintained a watchful eye on my progress toward
completion of my doctoral degree, and was instrumental in my departmental hire in fall 2008.
With the seminar as my first teaching assignment, I was brought into the fold of this international
community as a co-instructor alongside Perry. At her invitation, I was also a panelist at the 2008
AAA/CAE Presidential Session, “Advancing Indigenous Scholars and Scholarship in
Anthropology through Language and Culture Revitalization Research and Community
Engagement: Creating a Better Kind of Anthropology”, in San Francisco, California. This
mentoring trajectory is one Perry describes as a “strategy” for increasing the critical mass of
Indigenous scholars in the academy. Such strategic efforts undertaken in the institution and on
the part of mentor-scholars characterizes the “serious commitment” critical to finding pathways
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for access to academic power, authority, and opportunity while creating “a more hospitable
climate” for them within those institutions and organizations (Kirkness & Barnhardt, 2001, p.
15).
For those of us newly engaging in this work, such strategies opened opportunities for us
to meet face-to-face, and initiated subsequent collaboration among those of us who joined this
community at our respective academic institutions. Beth Leonard (UAF) and I have bridged our
courses on Indigenous oral traditions with technology and Candace Galla has been a Skype
presenter in my course. Moreover, Beth and I have collaboratively extended the tradition of
asserting the visibility of Indigenous and non-Indigenous allied-instructors and colleagues at
AAA (2013 and 2014). An upcoming collaborative venture with a non-Indigenous colleague,
Vanessa Anthony-Stevens, working with Indigenous educators from Mexico in a departmental
program, will further expand on this tradition by featuring emerging Indigenous scholars from
the international seminar and Mexico at the 2014 AAA.
Nevertheless, such successful outcomes do not escape behind-the-scenes tensions that
arise as well as reveal and call attention to emerging needs. At the UA site, a collective tension
surfaced around the perception of diversity as problematic in contrast to that of ostensibly “one”
strong unified movement among the Hawaiʻi, Māori, and Alaska sites in addressing Indigenous
issues. At first, this tension was intimidating as the students compared their seemingly “small”
individual efforts in developing student projects for their respective communities. As we worked
to deconstruct this intimidation in our post-Polycom discussions, we recognized that 1) our
diversity in itself was a unique and important contribution to the international discussion—
student comments on Moodle interactions expressed appreciation and curiosity about similar
issues in the United States context, a perspective that was unfamiliar to them; and 2) in
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reciprocal appreciation, we were able to apply well-established Indigenous models—culture-
based models and centering well-being—to our own work with success. In addition, while
multimodal technology allowed for extending the dialogic process across distance and time,
maximizing dynamic interaction among the students and instructors across all sites during the
Polycom session required a response. I was introduced to the VT technology through a student in
another course. It offered a potential solution to providing access to scheduled presentations
prior to rather than during the Polycom session. Site presenters created and shared their
presentations both visually and orally ideally within a week’s time frame, and in turn, the site
audiences individually accessed the presentations at their convenience with the opportunity to
post comments or questions through audio or written text. The presenter could then return to the
VT to preview all posted comments and questions and address these at the Polycom session.
Despite the rapid “buy-in,” the intended outcome was achieved, and as the semester progressed,
familiarity with VT further maximized the interaction during the Polycom session. The VT not
only allowed us to engage in live international dialogue but also provided the venue for students
and instructors to accurately (re)tell and present contemporary Indigenous knowledge,
worldviews, and epistemologies of Indigenous peoples and communities.
The journey from instructor-mentee to instructor-facilitator at the UA site has been
empowering in the development of my own Indigenous academic identity, enriching in the
broadening of perspectives I have gained, and fulfilling in assuming a responsibility that has the
potential for far-reaching impact.
Panoply of Voices: Advancing Indigenous Self-determination
As Indigenous scholar-educators, we are directly impacted by the overall experiences in
this community and inspired by the growing number of Indigenous scholars. These demonstrate
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Indigenous perseverance, an aspect of survival that we view as driving the desire and motivation
for all of us to move forward and toward continuity—to prepare the way for the next generations
(Brayboy et al., 2007). This movement is dependent on understanding the source(s) of our
strength and that we are heeding the calls of our predecessors.
In this section, we discuss the reflections of site instructors including our own which
were collected as email responses to the items below. We also include relevant information
gleaned from course evaluation reports (Demmert, 2006a, 2006b) as well as existing documents
and anonymous student comments. However, our primary data are the instructor responses to the
following:
1. Please highlight one or more significant impact(s) the cross-university collaboration has
effected for your students, your course and/or institution.
2. What Indigenous topics/issues have emerged as the central foci of interest/concern
among the students who have enrolled in your course? Highlight student projects that
have been designed in response to these.
3. In what ways has the diversity across sites contributed to and shaped individual (student
and/or faculty) and our collective-collaborative experiences: of well-being (in terms of
responsibility, relations, reciprocity, and respect as Indigenous and non-Indigenous
educators-scholars, or scholar-educators); with knowledges (knowledge systems, bodies
of knowledge-readings); on academic trajectories (bridging university to community); on
academic trajectories (bridging university to community)?
4. In what ways has the course provided opportunities for privileging, theorizing, and
substantiating Indigenous epistemologies, practices, and research methodologies? What
further opportunities could be developed?
Impacts
Overall, the instructor responses pointed out significant impacts along four themes:
institutionalization; an international community of practice; privileging Indigenous thought,
scholarship and concerns in the academy; advancing language and culture initiatives.
Institutionalization. The International seminar is a core masters or doctoral course at
UHH and in the UAFs’ masters Cross Cultural Studies program and the Indigenous Studies
doctoral program. At the UA, the seminar has been offered every fall semester for seven years as
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part of the Indigenous education strand of the LRC graduate program. Currently, offered as a
special topics course, it is slated to become a permanent course in the overall graduate LRC
program. At UBC, though the seminar has been offered once as a special topics course, this
seminar has also been used for faculty professional development for two years. Similarly,
TWWOA invites their faculty and staff to participate in professional development and students
for ongoing learning opportunities. At Lakehead University (LU), the seminar has inspired
masters theses topics in Indigenous language revitalization and knowledge systems drawing
upon the literature afforded through participation. At Diné College (DC), the seminar was an
invaluable resource for supporting the “tribal” side of “tribal-college.” Participation of DC
students has been an influential factor in the development of strategic goals to perpetuate and
expand Diné principles and values toward a framework that reorganizes how academic
institutions envision planning and evaluation.
International community of practice. Gilmore (2010) describes the seminar as a
“mentoring project” which focuses on scholarly community identity and counter narrative
studies as deliberate strategies to “affirm subaltern knowledge, create ‘free spaces’ for identity
affirmation and reconstruction, and provide access to academic power in higher education” (p.
2). In these spaces, site instructors noted that research topics students brought to the seminar
(Figure 3) and shared through weekly discussions across university sites not only established a
sense of identity, community, global unity and local commitment (Gilmore, 2010), but an
understanding of core issues important to Indigenous communities and peoples. The reasons
students cited for enrollment included: cultural and linguistic backgrounds, experiences,
scholarly interest in issues and concerns regarding Indigenous education, peoples, and
worldviews as well as the motivation to explore personal cultural and linguistic identities.
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Figure 3: Range of topics and issues of concerns discussed by seminar students in 2013
Students saw how their work was connected to a larger discourse in relation to the work of others
in different contexts (Demmert, 2006a, 2006b). The LU instructor encouraged students to
participate in conferences and community gatherings as a means to “value the work being done
in their own communities.” Such practices cultivate an Indigenous orientation that bridges global
Indigenous movements to local practices. Thus, according to one site instructor, collaboration
among scholars committed to Indigenous issues within their institutions strengthens their
positions and identifies them as national and international programs rather than a number of
small, local programs. This broader status strengthens the ability to serve local Indigenous
communities more effectively. Site instructors also noted that these cross-collaborative
conversations have contributed to students’ self-confidence in the process of developing research
grounded in Indigenous knowledge systems and research methodologies, and for others,
motivation toward developing new approaches for serving local communities (Barnhardt,
Kawaiʻaeʻa, Gilmore, Archibald, & Pidgeon, 2010).
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Privileging Indigenous thought, scholarship and concerns in the academy. The
seminar is viewed as having established international spaces in the academy linked to
opportunities to:
engage in rich dialogue about our comparative studies around shared themes/issues;
validate a broader range of method for study;
promote Indigenous research;
apply research to relevant and essential topics in their communities; and
assist students in developing Indigenous academic identities grounded in Indigenous
knowledge systems and research methodologies.
According to UHH site instructors, such “opportunities” provide their students access to “two
different streams of thought” in Indigenous education. The first access is to the foundational
knowledge base in the Hawaiian context and history cultivated in the more culturally insular
and locally based approach. This knowledge base contrasts with the Indigenous education
scholarship premised in the P-20 North American and international standards. The second
access involves the Indigenous funds of knowledge of students and faculty involved in the
seminar. This amalgamation of cultural and linguistic resources highlights 1) the differences
among Indigenous communities, and 2) the historical engagement of different groups with
dominant group education. Nevertheless, as one instructor offers, the Hawaiian language and
education context exemplifies an Indigenous model. Since Hawaiian seminar students tend to be
situated within the classroom, they share and model “what they are doing as action-researcher
educators” in building curriculum around deep Indigenous concepts in a Hawaiian focused P-20
system. In contrast, the reality for most students is that they work across very different contexts
and levels of educational systems, in and out of public schools and universities and most likely,
in individualized and marginalized spaces of opportunities. Such diverse experiences impact
how they view themselves while working on becoming Indigenous educator-activist scholars.
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Nonetheless, the notion of “differences” allows for a broadening of perspectives that benefits
research undertaken beyond local borders.
Advancing language and culture initiatives. It is important to note that the founding of
the seminar at the Hawaiʻi and Alaska sites centered on the goal of advancing Indigenous
language and culture through reclamation projects, and is particularly attractive to students who
are motivated to engage in this topic. Student projects on Indigenous languages such as
Chickasaw, Cherokee, Zuni, Kalinago (Dominican Republic), and Bribri (Costa Rica) have led to
dissertation research topics. The DC instructor describes a broad impact at the local level in
describing the seminar as having “galvanized efforts to revise and implement Navajo as second
language course offerings,” promoting Navajo language and culture activities across the college.
Former and current students have pursued additional or higher degrees, returned to their home
communities to assume various educational positions, and many play a role in academic
institutions in expanding opportunities for Indigenous students. The seminar has further inspired
instructor projects, many of whom are engaged in Indigenous language revitalization efforts.
Indigenous Topics and Issues: Student Interests Informing Research Development
Figure 3 shows the broad range of topics and issues of concern for Indigenous
communities that students brought to the fall 2013 seminar. Grouping students around shared
research interests allowed for developing further in-depth, cross-collaborative dialogue; they
were encouraged to use GH to accommodate the different time schedules of group members.
Students developed a variety of projects: innovative language programs, culture-based curricula,
critical Indigenous pedagogies, Indigenous theoretical frameworks, explored language identity
and ideologies, and produced compelling research which have expanded the knowledge in
Indigenous studies and education.
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Diversity
Students represented Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native, Māori, and First Nations as well as
Indigenous communities across the lower 48 United States including urban Chicano/a
communities and beyond: Brazil, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Saudi Arabia. This
diversity is a significant draw for students from diverse academic disciplines as well. The course
attracted students from American Indian studies, anthropology, museum education, language and
literacy education, Native American linguistics, Indigenous knowledges and pedagogy, school
psychology, and measurement, evaluation and research methodology.
The opportunity to gain access to alternative worldviews, perspectives, and experiences
with contemporary global circumstances through our cross-university sharing spaces was
invaluable. Student projects expanded our awareness of local and global Indigenous issues such
as: the struggles of Somalia/Bantu refugee populations in Tucson, Arizona; the impact of
“internationalization” on Taiwanese Indigenous identity; the impact of resource extraction on
Indigenous communities in Mongolia.
Overall, the diversity inherent in the seminar space has contributed to our well-being
through inspiring interactions, engagement, and collaboration in comparative studies around
shared themes, and is viewed as sustaining and supporting the academic trajectories of emerging
Indigenous scholars. Students used the words, meaningful, authentic, gratitude, enriched,
honored, inspired over and over, communal effort and heartfelt to describe the impact of the
course. One student was amazed that the seminar could make the levels of sharingacross
space, geographies, distance, interests—a “reality” while another expressed the experience as
“mind/soul expanding.” Further, diversity validates a broader range of culturally appropriate
methodologies and ethics for graduate work in developing relevant research on issues directly
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impacting Indigenous communities while generating valuable new knowledge.
Carrying the Torch Forward: Challenges, Implications and Conclusions
Despite the near decade-long model of this collaboration, complexities continue to exist.
Some of these are largely logistical and involve the challenges that relying on technology can
present. Others are site specific such as the diversity that the UA site describes, though most are
shared commonalities as described by students and instructors which include the following
pedagogical challenges: 1) cross-collaborative syllabus development; 2) continuing dialogue
with technological tools; 3) dynamic access to student generated projects and scholarship; and 4)
course recruitment and enrollment which are further elaborated on here. We view these
pedagogical challenges as implications for the work that we must continue to forge.
Pedagogical Challenges and Implications
Cross-collaborative syllabus development. In a course that views both instructors and
students as vital contributors to the intellectual community of practice, the challenge is with
accommodating flexibility in the coordination of course delivery across academic institutions
and time zones (Demmert, 2006a, 2006b). This highlights the fact that a conventional syllabus
format may not adequately align with the current approach to delivering course content on a
shared theme at each institution. The conventional syllabus generally requires a static and
sequential listing of course readings aligned with weekly topics for discussion. However, the
seminar readings and presentations are dependent on active contributions from site participants
germane to the overall course theme. This has presented challenges in student anticipated access
to the semester’s specific schedule of topics and required readings. More important to consider is
the benefit of a move away from the conventional in terms of complementing the dynamic and
interactive dialogue on relevant topics across sites. This emerging pedagogical shift has yet to be
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shared with and discussed among site instructors. The essential implication is an early and
concentrated attention to cross-collaborative planning that includes the following challenges and
implications discussed below.
Continuing dialogue with technological tools. Despite the rich discussions that take
place in the limited time frame each week, the prevailing challenge is continuing the dialogue
between students outside of the prescribed time essential to sustaining the relationships
cultivated in the seminar. Instructors have utilized GH to facilitate such interactions by assigning
students to GH groups according to their research area and interests (Figure 3). The challenge
remains with establishing protocol that will foster ongoing international academic networking
with the goals of global unity and local commitment. Site instructors themselves are exploring
the broader potential of technology toward this goal; for example, GH was used to hold a
seminar planning meeting. The implication is for instructors and students to become familiar
with the technological tools as well as utilizing technology for collaboratively developing in and
out-of-class individual and group activities as course requirements at each site.
Dynamic access to student generated projects and scholarship. Moodle has been the
primary repository for the body of student generated projects and knowledge produced around
and in response to “community needs” particular to the Hawaiian contexts, according to one
UHH site instructor. With the increase of university sites joining this international community of
practice and the diversity of Indigenous topics and issues students bring to the conversation, the
impacts of the work undertaken in these Indigenous spaces remains unknown. Moreover,
whether students and instructors utilize this repository of knowledge beyond the VT
presentations to inform their own work in addition to time-finite access are also unknown. The
implication is to expand the distribution and utilization of this body of knowledge in dynamic
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ways such as developing a collaborative seminar journal, encouraging collaborative co-authored
publications as well as student submissions to established journals.
Course recruitment and enrollment. Collectively, student enrollment across
participating sites is high; however, low enrollment is a reality at each academic institution, thus,
problematizing and challenging the notion of Indigenizing the academy. There is an increasing
and continuing top-down pressure for programs, departments, colleges, and faculties to fill seats
with the expectant outcome that the course will at least break even or be financially profitable.
Advocacy for institutionalization of such courses rests largely with faculty, requiring them to
vigorously engage with the institutional power and demand inclusion (Marker, 2014). The
implications this challenge proposes for faculty are to 1) continue pursuing alternative pathways
for student participation in the seminar, and 2) remain vigilant in calling for the academic
community to assume responsibility in both advocacy as well as transformative efforts within the
institutions. This requires dismantling the existing academic silos that have isolated Indigenous
peoples and knowledge systems from the mainstream academy. Further, in order that such
transformative effort “rewrites and rerights” (Gilmore, 2010) the accurate history of Indigenous
peoples around the world calls for scholar-educators to “awaken existing university faculty and
administrators to recognize and understand Native community priorities necessary for the
development and well being of Native America” (Demmert, 2005, p. 197). The six principles of
relationality, respect, responsibility, relevance, reciprocity and resiliency underlie and guide such
vigilance.
As Indigenous scholars, we are each fully vested in this work on behalf of communities
locally and globally who benefit directly from the efforts being undertaken in higher education
spaces. We call upon scholars “who want to listen and join us” (Deyhle & McCarty, 2007, p.
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210) in shifting how the institution understands our roles and responsibilities to students who “go
to the university” (Kirkness & Barnhardt, 2001, p. 8) to achieve their goals.
Conclusions
Those of us seeking to follow the path paved by those before us, acknowledge the
constant vigilance required to maintain the ties to Indigenous knowledge, knowledge systems,
and heritage. Our personal narratives and student and instructor reflections confirm for us that
we are carrying the torch forward in addressing the research needs and advancing the knowledge
of Indigenous peoples in spite of the challenges outlined.
We also acknowledge that when we are challenged or discouraged in our efforts, we can
(re)gain inspiration and encouragement in turning to tradition such as practicing the teaching of
hands back, hands forward as taught by Elder Vincent Stogan, of Musqueam First Nation.
Metaphorically, in joining hands across the institutions, we hold our left palm up to
acknowledge, honor and grasp the teachings passed to us by our Elders, mentors, and those who
have supported our journey. We hold our right palm down to pass on these teachings to the
younger and future generations and leaders who may continue the path that we have been
privileged to walk (Archibald, 2008).
We close by asserting that we are empowered with the responsibility and motivation to
carry the torch forward alongside our colleagues, and in heeding the wisdom and advice
embodied in the ʻōlelo noʻeau or Hawaiian proverb (Pukui, 1983), and Hopi teaching (Nicholas,
2008) respectively:
I ulu nō ka lālā i ke kumu. The branches grow because of the trunk.
Hak kyavtsit akningwu. One undertakes this work with respect.
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Acknowledgements
A grateful mahalo and askwali to site instructors and students for their willingness to share their
reflections on their insights and experiences in this Indigenous cross-collaborative model, which
were central to documenting the source of Indigenous resiliency today.
Notes
We made every attempt to provide an accurate history and depiction of the seminar gleaned from
existing, but sparse documentation and those held in the memories of participants. Informed by
our experience in co-authoring this paper, we encourage our site instructor colleagues and
students to further document the potential for such collaborations that assist students and faculty
in opening spaces and pathways in higher education toward Indigenous self-determination
broadly.
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In this article, we offer a tribute to the memories of Dr. Beatrice Medicine and Dr. Vine Deloria Jr., two of the most revered and celebrated Indigenous educators. We describe the legacy these scholars leave as one that calls on Indigenous communities to survive by both fighting against ongoing colonization and pursuing individual and communal well-being. We respond to reflections offered by Troy Richardson, Donna Deyhle, and Teresa McCarty in this issue. Medicine's and Deloria's scholarship and leadership remind us about the importance of recognizing the wisdom of elders, of developing research that serves a community purpose, and of working toward the self-education of Indigenous peoples through claiming power and sovereignty.
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In this article, we take up the call for more multilayered and ethnographic approaches to language policy and planning (LPP) research by sharing two examples of how ethnography can illuminate local interpretation and implementation. We offer ethnographic data collected in two very different institutions—the School District of Philadelphia and the Andean regional graduate program in bilingual intercultural education in Cochabamba, Bolivia—both of which act as intermediary agencies between national language policies and local educational initiatives. Drawing from long-term ethnographic work in each context, we present excerpts from spoken and written discourse that shed light on the opening up or closing down of ideological and implementational spaces for multilingual language education policy and practice. We illustrate through our examples that ethnographic research can, metaphorically speaking, slice through the layers of the LPP onion (Ricento & Hornberger, 1996) to reveal agentive spaces in which local actors implement, interpret, and perhaps resist policy initiatives in varying and unique ways.
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Lisa Delpit uses the debate over process-oriented versus skills-oriented writing instruction as the starting-off point to examine the "culture of power" that exists in society in general and in the educational environment in particular. She analyzes five complex rules of power that explicitly and implicitly influence the debate over meeting the educational needs of Black and poor students on all levels. Delpit concludes that teachers must teach all students the explicit and implicit rules of power as a first step toward a more just society. This article is an edited version of a speech presented at the Ninth Annual Ethnography in Education Research Forum, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, February 5-6, 1988.
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Native American college students often feel conflict between traditional holistic forms of knowledge and the compartmentalized knowledge encountered in college. University policies aimed at decreasing Native American student attrition must emphasize respect for cultural differences, education relevant to the Native American worldview, and reciprocity in teacher-student relationships. Contains 20 references. (SV)