A Place to Be Navajo: Rough Rock and the Struggle for Self-Determination in Indigenous Schooling

A Place to Be Navajo: Rough Rock and the Struggle for Self-Determination in Indigenous Schooling

A Place to Be Navajo: Rough Rock and the Struggle for Self-Determination in Indigenous Schooling

A Place to Be Navajo: Rough Rock and the Struggle for Self-Determination in Indigenous Schooling

Synopsis

A Place To Be Navajo is the only book-length ethnographic account of a revolutionary Indigenous self-determination movement that began in 1966 with the Rough Rock Demonstration School. Called Dine Bi'olta', The People's School, in recognition of its status as the first American Indian community-controlled school, Rough Rock was the first to teach in the Native language and to produce a body of quality children's literature by and about Navajo people. These innovations have positioned the school as a leader in American Indian and bilingual/bicultural education and have enabled school participants to wield considerable influence on national policy. This book is a critical life history of this singular school and community.

Excerpt

American Indians have been through so much: so many ups and downs, so much promise and so many disappointments, so much hope and so much hopelessness, so much unforgivable agony and so much forgiving, so much mature independence and so much infantilizing patronization, that a sympathetic observer and advisor—especially one who is an outsider—must take particularly great care not to repeat and prolong the process of interminably shuttling between extremes. Accordingly, I cannot begin these few words of introduction without honestly asking two questions: Shouldn't a Native person have written this book, and shouldn't a Native person be writing its foreword? In my heart, I know that the answer to both of these questions is “Yes, but …” A Native person should have written this book, but if a non-Indian had to write it, and apparently the Navajo school board at Rough Rock thought that such was the case, I can think of no one better qualified to do so than Terri McCarty. Emotionally, attitudinally, philosophically, cognitively, experientially, and professionally, there is no one who can match her, all-in-all, for this task. And no Indian or non-Indian today can come close to doing so, insofar as involvement in and dedication to the Rough Rock Navajo School are concerned. Her 20 years of service to the school constitute an unrivaled record, as does her simultaneous excellent record as a university-based educator and anthropologist of Indian life and education throughout the American Southwest. Rough Rock is very fortunate to have attracted a psychological, anthropological, and sociological biographer of her refined talents and advanced professional distinction.

My only claim to some justification for being asked to write this foreword is having visited Rough Rock both early (in the late 1960s) and recently (in the late 1990s), thus being able to personally compare it at two crucial points in time. In addition, I have had the further good fortune of being a colleague and/or instructor of some of the school's leading teachers, researchers, and administrators, thus putting me in a favorable position to ask questions about the school's progress during a 30-year period. I have tried to view the school . . .

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