Conversations That Matter: Decolonizing the Inclusive Discourse of American Indian Education Reform
Hopkins, John Paul
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This dissertation examines a recent law in the state of Montana that seeks to reform American Indian education. Entitled Indian Education For All (IEFA), the Montana law mandates that educators must include American Indian culture and history into the mainstream curriculum, requiring all students to learn that curriculum in a culturally responsive manner. It also requires mainstream educators to work cooperatively with tribal communities and Native educators in the design and implementation of that curriculum. IEFA promotes what I call an inclusive conversation, which brings whites and Natives into dialogue for the purpose of finding common ground on a shared topic. The scholarship on IEFA praises the law as an innovative multicultural education strategy that can sufficiently reform American Indian education. But this dissertation argues that inclusion is not sufficient to reform education for Native students in the context of public schools. Using recent theory in multicultural education, postcolonial and Indigenous studies, and political theory, I analyze and critique the concept of inclusion that pervades IEFA. Rather than an inclusive conversation, I argue that white and Native groups need to engage in decolonizing conversations that directly and explicitly address colonization and its enduring effects on tribal communities. A decolonizing conversation recognizes and is informed by what Indigenous scholar Gerald Vizenor calls survivance. It is only when white and Native groups and educators engage in decolonizing conversations centered on survivance that these groups can engage in conversations that will transform American Indian education.
- Education - Seattle