Science and Native American Communities: Legacies of Pain, Visions of Promise

Science and Native American Communities: Legacies of Pain, Visions of Promise

Science and Native American Communities: Legacies of Pain, Visions of Promise

Science and Native American Communities: Legacies of Pain, Visions of Promise

Synopsis

Education among American Indians has lagged behind that of almost all other groups in both the United States and Canada, and it generally has not offered what Indian communities need. It is this disturbing state of affairs- along with the intractable realities, unexamined assumptions, and cultural conflicts and misunderstandings behind it- that Science and Native American Communities confronts. Representing an unprecedented gathering of Native American professionals working in the sciences and advanced technology, the book combines theory and practice, firsthand experience and strategic thinking, in a provocative exploration of the uneasy meeting ground between science and Native American communities. In highly personal, deeply informed, and frequently moving essays, the authors wrestle with a legacy of mistrust and violence. They ask: Is a common ground between science and Native America possible? The problems and prospects that emerge from such a meeting, and that these essays address, include the impact of science and technology on Native lands and environment; economic and technological opportunities and challenges for reservation communities; and the differences and similarities between Native and scientific thought and practice. The authors not only showcase different reactions to the consequences of science, but also energetically propose strategies for renegotiating Native communities' relationships with science, seizing control of their destinies, and moving forward in the twenty-first century.

Excerpt

We need you to help us understand what the white men are up to. My
Grandchildren, be good. Try and make a mark for yourselves. Learn all you
can.–Tatanka Iyotanka (Sitting Bull)

Sitting Bull knew whereof he spoke: Indian people still need to learn all they can. Not only so that they can come to understand what whites are up to and help whites understand the impact of their own schemes but also so that Indian individuals and communities can fully reclaim their heritage and control their future. Education among Indians has lagged behind that of almost all other ethnic groups in both the United States and Canada, and education has generally not offered what Indian communities need. For instance, in a survey I did in 1995 of a sample of Canadian First Nations in every province, the failure of education systems to teach the skills Indian communities need was the single most commonly cited problem for community development. As Fred Roe of Gwich’in First Nation in the Northwest Territories stated at a conference on sustainable resource development in Arctic and Subarctic Native lands, there is great community concern about education. There is, he indicated, recognition that skills are needed but also recognition that degrees do not necessarily translate into skills that are effective for Indian communities. Moreover, he lamented that those Indian students who do complete degrees, typically with support from tribal funds, are often lured away from communities by corporations and government agencies interested in the reality, or the sheen, of diversity.

Problems with Indian educational achievement are rooted in a combination of several community-level factors. There are economic roots, such as . . .

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