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American Indian Ways of Knowing Critical

Typical western schooling practices emphasize the importance of competition between students, whereas Indigenous ways of knowing that are grounded in a strong cultural foundation emphasize the importance of cooperation (Brayboy, 2005). Other researchers have demonstrated that cooperation is the preferred method of learning among Native American students (Demmert, 2001; Klug & Whitfield, 2003). Indigenous ways of knowing should be validated within the school setting and curriculum choices should include a strong Indigenous cultural foundation (Barnhardt & Kawagley, 2010; Lomawaima & McCarty, 2002).

Haynes Writer (2008) suggested that efforts have been made to provide a cultural foundation to curriculum that is used with Native American students, but those efforts have been ineffective because they are grounded only in a historical context. Banks (1995) surmises that “the West paradigm in American history and culture is powerful, cogent, and deeply entrenched in the curriculum of the nation's institutions of learning” (p. 394). One scholar suggests that curriculum should be developed that addresses both the historical and the contemporary context of the Native American experience, and Educators should learn to think critically about their own identities and examine the frame of their prejudicial thoughts regarding Native American identity (Haynes Writer, 2008). The goal of education from a TribalCrit perspective should be to eradicate “centuries of colonial ethos imprinted on the minds and souls of Indian youth and to replace that model with one of pride, respect, and knowledge of Indian nationhood” (Lomawaima & McCarty, 2006, p. 182).

IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your school community gain an understanding of one’s sense of self, as well as developing an understanding of students’ values; having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown that it is linked to better well-being, less stress, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed.

Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally sustaining practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a dynamic learning environment that honors your student community, visit our website at, or contact us at or 1800-507-2502.

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