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Decolonizing Education: Native Americans

This guide was originally created for the use of instructors and students in the reACT Decolonizing Education Experiential Learning Program funded by the 2022-2023 TLTC Curriculum Grants. Specifically: ARCH460; ARCH478; ARCH601; ARCH678; CHBE473; ENCH648


In Decolonizing Methodologies (2021), Smith describes the effects of imperialism and colonization on Indigenous people. These oppressive practices have shaped historical research on  Indigenous people in ways that are misaligned with Indigenous beliefs, values, and practices.  These traditional research methods harm Indigenous communities by framing them as “others”  and misinterpreting their beliefs and practices through Eurocentric lenses. In contrast, Smith  (2021), Wilson (2008), Braun, Browne, Ka ‘opua, Kim & Mokuau (2014) and many others have called for decolonizing research methodologies where Indigenous researchers are active participants, Indigenous perspectives are provided directly by Indigenous people, research questions are framed through Indigenous theories on knowledge and knowledge transfer, and the research conducted seeks to serve needs identified by Indigenous communities in meaningful ways.  Research methods aligned with decolonizing methodologies center Indigenous people and their perspectives and are often qualitative in nature. Participatory action research (PAR) and community-based participatory research (CBPR) are relational and aligned with Indigenous ways of knowing (Wilson, 2008). Thus, PAR and CBPR methods have the potential to be transformative  (Kovach, 2009) by shifting away from traditional researcher/subject relationships to research partnerships, where power is shared, and collaboration and co-learning are critical. Blair &  Minkler (2009) reported that findings from PAR studies are more likely to be action oriented, and  PAR studies inclusive of Indigenous practices, such as storytelling and discourse, are well-aligned with decolonization frameworks (Kovach, 2010).  Source: reACT Native American Client Research Report, 2017.

"Decolonization only occurs by re-centering Indigenous ways of knowing, rather than layering them superficially on a Western conception of the world"  -- Loyer, Jesse. "Indigenous Information Literacy: nêhiyaw Kinship Enabling Self-Care in Research." In The Politics of Theory and the Practice of Critical Librarianshipeds. Karen P. Nicholson and Maura Seale. Sacramento, CA: Litwin Books, LLC, 2018. p. 153. 


Carter, T., et al. (2021) Towards diverse representation and inclusion in soil science in the United StatesSoil Sci Soc Am J. 2021; 85: 963– 974.   Across all domains of diversity, historically marginalized groups are under-represented in soil science. This article provides recommendations toward recognizing diversity within the field and improving and encouraging diversity within the SSSA, and suggested responses for both individuals and institutions toward improving diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Decolonisation in Universities: the Politics of Knowledge. (2019) Wits University Press. ebook. This book brings together some of the most innovative thinking on curriculum theory to address this important question. In the process, several critical questions are raised: Is decolonisation simply a slogan for addressing other pressing concerns on campuses and in society? What is the colonial legacy with respect to curricula and can it be undone? How is the project of curricula decolonisation similar to or different from the quest for post-colonial knowledge, indigenous knowledge or a critical theory of knowledge? What does decolonization mean in a digital age where relationships between knowledge and power are shifting? Strong conceptual analyses are combined with case studies of attempts to ‘do decolonization'.

Simpson, L. (2004). Anticolonial Strategies for the Recovery and Maintenance of Indigenous Knowledge. American Indian Quarterly, 28(3/4), 373–384. it is not enough to recover certain aspects of Indigenous Knowledge systems that are palatable to the players in the colonial project. We must be strategic about how we recover and where we focus our efforts in order to ensure that the foundations of the system are protected and the inherently Indigenous processes for the continuation of Indigenous Knowledge are maintained

Deepening Knowledge Project: Indigenous Knowledge Resurgence and Education, which seeks to infuse Indigenous peoples’ histories, knowledges, and pedagogies into all levels of education in Canada, was created by the OISE Centre for Indigenous Educational Research and rooted under OISE’s department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning (CTL).

The Politics of Theory and the Practice of Critical Librarianship. Nicholson, K. P., & Seale, M. (Eds.). (2018). Litwin Books, LLC. Over the past fifteen years, librarians have increasingly looked to theory as a means to destabilize normative discourses and practices with LIS, to engage in inclusive and non-authoritarian pedagogies, and to organize for social justice. "Critlib", short for "critical librarianship," is variously used to refer to a growing body of scholarship, an intellectual or activist movement within librarianship, an online community that occasionally organizes in-person meetings, and an informal Twitter discussion space active since 2014, identified by the #critlib hashtag. Critlib "aims to engage in discussion about critical perspectives on library practice" but it also seeks to bring 'socal justice principles into our work in libraries.'

Decolonizing the Curriculum Resources. List of Resources developed by Stockton University to guide instructors in Decolonizing their Curriculum. 

Mignolo, W. (2017). Coloniality Is Far from Over, and So Must Be Decoloniality.  Afterall: A Journal of Art, Context and Enquiry 2017 43: 38-45. This article describes the necessary work of delinking from Western narratives in order to relink and affirm the modes of existence we want to preserve.

Wilson, C. Revolutionizing my Syllabus: The Process, Professor Chanelle Wilson shares her own syllabus revision and decolonization process.

Cagle, N. (2022) How to Create a Culturally Inclusive Course and Beyond. Duke University, Nicholas School of the Environment.  Provide resources and ideas for creating a culturally inclusive learning environment. This is also referred to as “culturally sustaining pedagogy,” “diversifying the syllabus”, and “decolonizing the curriculum.” Decolonizing the curriculum is a way of questioning and broadening academic practices and pedagogies to include and respect all cultures and belief systems, not just the cultures and belief systems of countries that participated and participate in modern colonialism, i.e.,  the process of gaining political and economic control of a region after occupying it with settlers. 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Decolonization of the Syllabus. Begly Library, SUNY Schenectady. Decolonization of the syllabus describes the process of undoing colonizing practices. It discusses different ways in which we can become more aware of cultural sensitivity and representation, and expecting that college students fit a certain expected stereotype.  Within the educational context, this means confronting and challenging the colonizing practices that have influenced education in the past, and which are still present today.

Shahjahan, R., et al. (2021 )“Decolonizing” Curriculum and Pedagogy: A Comparative Review Across Disciplines and Global Higher Education Contexts. Review of Educational Research, 92(1), 73–113. Drawing on the global interdisciplinary literature on decolonizing curriculum and pedagogy (DCP) in higher education, we critically examined the idea of decolonizing in the context of disciplines and universities around the world. Based on a critical analysis of 207 articles and book chapters published in English and centering a geopolitics of knowledge frame, we present three themes: (a) decolonizing meaning(s), (b) actualizing decolonization, and (c) challenges to actualizing, all related to DCP. We observed three major meanings of decolonization and four ways to actualize DCP that were associated with geographical, disciplinary, institutional, and/or stakeholder contexts. We argue that while there are similarities within the literature, ultimately the meanings, actualizations, and challenges of DCP are contextual, which has political and epistemological consequences. We end by offering directions for education research on DCP, revealing the possibility for a field or discipline of decolonial studies.