Re-Visioning the Future of Education for Native Youth in Rural Schools and Communities

By Faircloth, Susan C. | Journal of Research in Rural Education (Online), May 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Re-Visioning the Future of Education for Native Youth in Rural Schools and Communities


Faircloth, Susan C., Journal of Research in Rural Education (Online)


In Learning to Leave, Corbett (2007) argues that (1) education has served as a tool to disassociate students-both physically and culturally-from the places from which they come, particularly if they are from rural places, in effect creating an ambivalence toward education; (2) the ways in which individuals express this ambivalence is shaped, in large part, by factors such as socioeconomic status and gender, and I would argue race and ethnicity; (3) the purpose of schooling is often in conflict with the values and beliefs of rural communities (i.e., formal education may run counter to local forms of social or cultural capital, and it may also be locally perceived as having little effect on the ability of students to increase their economic capital within the rural context); and (4) the effects of globalization are found in many rural areas as evidenced by increasing access to services typically found in more urban areas; thereby decreasing individuals' need to migrate out of these areas.

Guided by these themes, each of the authors in this special issue were asked to consider the following questions: (1) How do rural community members, educators and students resolve the tensions between preparing students for success in an increasingly globalized world and maintaining their commitment to the places from which they come? (2) What does this mean for the sustainability and growth of rural communities and schools? and (3) How will this affect rural schools and their relationship(s) with the communities they serve? I attempt to respond to these questions using the tradition of storytelling found in Native communities around the globe.

Our Story1

Globalization is not a new concept for Native people in the United States. We have experienced the encroachment of outside forces on our lands and our peoples for more than 500 years. We have lost or been taken away from our lands, lands that hold the key to who we are in ways that are difficult to describe in words. We've endured the long march of the Trail of Tears in which thousands of Native people lost their lives as they were forced to march in harsh conditions from the mountains of Tennessee and Georgia to the plains of Oklahoma. Educationally, we've witnessed our children forcefully removed from their families and placed in boarding schools operated first by religious groups and then by the federal government. Never were we asked what we wanted for our children or what we dreamed for their future. Instead, our hair was cut, we were dressed in new clothing, our languages were silenced, and our spiritual and religious practices were banned. In spite of the damaging effects of globalization on our tribes and communities, Native people have continued to survive-demonstrating our resilience and determination to thrive in the face of seemingly insurmountable conditions.

My Story

The effects of globalization on Native peoples are glaringly evident among the Native tribes and communities scattered along the eastern coast of the United States. These are the tribes that first encountered the colonizing forces who came from across the seas in search of religious freedoms, land, and wealth. Encounters with these forces resulted in the loss of life, land, language, and some would argue culture, forcing many Native peoples to acculturate, assimilate, or die. Many of those who survived turned to farming and other land-based means of subsistence in rural and remote areas. I am a descendant of one of these tribes-the Coharie People of North Carolina.

Growing up in rural North Carolina, I never imagined that I would one day work in a university far removed from my family and community. To many of my public school teachers, success for me would have been graduating from high school and working in the same meat packing company my mother had worked in for 37 years. However, my mother and father had aspirations for me that spanned outside our local community. …

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