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76 c h a p t e r 6 Stealing Horses indigenous student metaphors for success in graduate education Sweeney Windchief (Assiniboine) What is your metaphor for education? This question is asked for the specific purpose of prompting what scholars have termed “self-­ authorship” (Magolda & King, 2008; Pizzolato, 2003; Torres & Hernandez, 2007), in this case specifically through the internal creation of metaphor, with the intent of considering cultural context in successfully navigating graduate education. If you are an Indigenous graduate student this question is for you! Self-­ authorship assists students in moving from feeling unsatisfied through the development of their own internal perspectives to feeling in control of their own educational destinies. Self-­ authorship facilitates student self-­ definition as they internally define their own perspectives in guiding action and knowledge construction (Magolda, 2001). In other words, by metaphorizing their own educational experiences, students are taking ownership of their own education and participating while simultaneously maintaining Indigenous identity. Owning one’s own experience, in any endeavor, is an important part of success . By stating their metaphors, Indigenous students aspiring toward a graduate degree will be better able to protect their Indigenous identities against the problematic phenomenon of assimilation. Education has historically been, and continues to be, experienced as an assimilative practice by Indigenous students. The foundations of this phenomenon are located in assimilation era (1824–­ 1879) policies that were intentionally created to move Indigenous peoples away from aboriginal ontological space and unique cultural identity (Calloway, 2004). The assimilation era was rooted in a political landscape that is historically constructed, and subtly continues to promote assimilation, which is challenging because it erases Indigenous experiences from the educational environment. The literature indigenous student metaphors for success  77 in the field of American Indian education documents the Western educational institution’s role in the homogenization of cultures, as recently stated by Sims: “The policies developed for the Indian education system at the time reflected society’s beliefs in a racial hierarchy and in a national identity of progress that was achievable through individual industry. A system of schools for Indigenous students was developed both on and off reservations that would purportedly help students assimilate into the civilized nation and abandon their backward ways” (Sims, 2013, p. 81). Though Indigenous communities are no longer experiencing the official “Assimilation Era” of American history, the assertion of this chapter is that “incidental assimilation” is a current phenomenon and postsecondary educational institutions maintain these practices of assimilation. “Active” and “passive” assimilation are the potential result of participating in the modern educational paradigm. “Active” assimilation is evident when an Indigenous student willingly turns away from their Indigenous identity in order to be successful in higher education. This is characterized by knowingly disregarding that which makes them Indigenous,including participating in aboriginal community events, forgoing community contributions and responsibilities, and severing their familial connections in order to become successful in the academy. In relation to “active” assimilation, “passive assimilation” occurs when a student experiences the conflict between community and academic expectations, and in order to be successful in school, plays by the rules, and graduates while uncritically accepting a majoritarian perspective in their given academic field. These phenomena call for an Indigenous response that serves as a critique of the higher educational system in the United States, as well as the implementation of practices that can be utilized by Indigenous students in the successful and culturally conscious navigation of graduate education. The critique of the American educational system comes in terms of relatable curriculum that is well documented in the literature around culturally responsive pedagogy (Belgarde, Mitchell, & Arquero, 2002; Brayboy & Castagno 2009: Carjuzaa & Ruff, 2010; Castagno & Brayboy, 2008; Pewewardy & Hammer, 2003) which is primarily focused on primary-­ secondary education. In the context of postsecondary education , connections with Indigenous professors and a direct connection between the work that is accomplished in class and its relationship to one’s community of origin empowers students in their academic pursuits. The focus of this chapter is to share Indigenous student metaphors applied in the realm of graduate education toward success, defined here as the successful navigation of graduate education while maintaining a strong sense of Indigenous identity. If the goal for Indigenous students is indeed the attainment of an education that preserves a suitable quality of life and supports the perpetuation of North American Indigenous societies, Indigenous educators and students alike must strive to construct an educational paradigm that is relevant and culturally responsive (Castagno & Brayboy, 2008; Ladson-­Billings, 1995; Pewewardy & 78 Sweeney Windchief Hammer, 2003) to...


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