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American Indians Experience Ethnicide, and Linguicide

Nearly two decades ago, Gloria Ladson-Billings (1995) proposed culturally relevant pedagogy, “a theoretical model that not only addresses student achievement but also helps students to accept and affirm their cultural identity while developing critical perspectives that challenge inequities that schools (and other institutions) perpetuate” (p. 469). Culturally relevant pedagogy has not only ignited countless studies, but the theory has also assumed a central role in teacher education, inspiring a generation of teachers to enter the classroom with a renewed commitment to affirming students’ cultural, racial, and ethnic identities.

The notion of Cultural Sustaining Pedagogy (CSP) affords the opportunity to extend this conversation to new realms. Today, Native communities are in a fight for cultural and linguistic survival in which Paris and Alim’s (2014) question—“What are we seeking to sustain?”—takes on heightened meaning. As Brayboy (2005) notes, Indigenous peoples’ desires for “tribal sovereignty, tribal autonomy, self-determination, and self-identification” (p. 429) are interlaced with ongoing legacies of colonization, ethnicide, and linguicide. Western schooling has been the crucible in which these contested desires have been molded, impacting Native peoples in ways that have separated their identities from their languages, lands, and worldviews (see Reyhner & Eder, 2004). As a consequence, Native American shall be understood to include culturally revitalizing pedagogy.

Language education in Indigenous settings is informed by international research and practice in bilingual education (e.g., García, 2009), by virtue of its revitalizing goals it requires novel approaches to second language learning. Brayboy and colleagues (2012, p. 436) argue for the “the four Rs” including respect, reciprocity, responsibility, and the importance of caring relationships. The ideas borrow from Brayboy et al.’s (2012, p. 435) discussion of critical Indigenous research methodologies, and serves the needs of Indigenous communities as defined by those communities.

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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