Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Voices of Native Resiliency: Educational Experiences from the 1950s and 1960s

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Voices of Native Resiliency: Educational Experiences from the 1950s and 1960s

Article excerpt

Introduction

As a human being, one can always reflect on the past, examine the present conditions of society, and prepare for the future generations by sharing cultural stories. Throughout history, stories have often been viewed through the eyes of the dominant society of the White man (Yellow Bird, 2004). A broad range of educational and social research has converged on the issue of social dominance and as Howard (1999) has explained, the true "enemy" is dominance itself and not White people.

The study of dominance has been related to research on issues such as prejudice, stereotyping, discrimination, racism, social identity theories and work in the field of political socialization (Sidanius & Pratt, 1993). Characterized by institutional racism in the public school arena, there has been a long history of misunderstanding traditional American Indian cultural values and beliefs on the part of the dominant culture (Deloria, 1991). Institutional racism has been defined as the power systems to control the behavior of nonwhites (Spring, 2004b). There has been a long history of misunderstanding of traditional American Indian cultural values and beliefs and discrimination on the part of the government and its policies during five recognized stages (Deloria, 1995).

Purpose of the Study

A variety of research has focused on American Indian students who have experienced limited educational opportunities, societal stigmas, and unemployment as adults (Alfred, 1999; Griffin, 2000; Pewewardy, 1998). The purpose of this study was to explore the lived educational experiences of American Indians who grew up during the 1950s and 1960s, known as the termination period in American history and how these experiences influenced their career decisions. This study investigated the following questions:

1. What are the lived experiences of American Indians attending boarding school?

2. What are the lived experiences of American Indians attending traditional public school?

3. What factors influenced American Indians in making their career decisions?

4. What recommendations do American Indians make for culturally responsive teaching?

Historical framework

Governmental policy throughout the United States has transformed American Indian culture through the implementation of political policies. These major stages of governmental policy in which political and cultural misunderstandings have occurred are the removal period from any colonial occupied land, the restricted reservation, reorganization within tribes, termination of the people, and finally self-determination on Indian education and political awareness (Heinrich, Corbine, & Thomas, 1990; Spring 2004a).

Removal

The first increment of time was considered to be the removal period which began in the 1600s and lasted through the 1840s and was characterized by the statement, "the only good Indian is a dead Indian" (Heinrich et al., 1990, p. 129). Congressional approval of the Naturalization Act of 1790 highlighted the racial and cultural attitudes of early government leaders which excluded from citizenship all nonwhites, including Indians (Spring, 2004a).

Reservation

According to Heinrich et al. (1990) the reservation period began in 1860 and lasted to the 1920s. This era was characterized by the statement, "kill the Indian, but save the person" (p. 129). This era of time included Noah Webster's dream of the common-school movement which was part of an attempt to halt the drift toward a multicultural society (Heinrich et al.). Thomas McKenney, the first head of the Office of Indian Affairs implemented his final solution for acquiring the lands of the southern Indians by forcing them off their lands and removing them to an area west of the Mississippi River (Spring, 2004a). Upon completion of this forced removal, the southern tribes were to be civilized through a system of segregated schools (Spring, 2004a). …

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