Native American Cultural Identity Exploration in Their Postsecondary Education: A Narrative Inquiry

Native American Cultural Identity Exploration in Their Postsecondary Education: A Narrative Inquiry

Susan Shepherd Ferebee (Purdue University Global, USA) and Andrew C. Lawlor (University of Phoenix, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3583-7.ch009
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Abstract

Thirteen percent of American Indians/Alaskan Natives have achieved a bachelors' degree or higher compared to 28% of the overall United States population. Improving Native American educational attainment is critical as a pathway to economic prosperity and social equality. The problem is that educational leaders do not know what American Indians/Alaskan Natives consider a successful educational experience as aligned with their cultural identity. The purpose of this qualitative narrative inquiry was to examine the post-secondary experiences of American Indians/Alaskan Natives through their online stories via social media. Results showed the American Indians/Alaskan Natives' culture dominated their educational experience, and they were unlikely to widen their social identity. Moving from a mono-cultural view to one that includes a Eurocentric college culture could be contributory and fruitful. Online education might allow these Native American students to remain in their culture and still experience the Eurocentric college culture.
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American Indian/Alaskan Natives’ Post-Secondary Education

Problem Statement

American Indians/Alaskan Natives have a significantly lower rate of persistence in the American higher education system (Harrington, 2012). As an illustration, the proportion of American Indians and Alaska Natives who had achieved a bachelor's degree or higher, and were 25 years and older based on information gathered in the 2010 U.S. Census, was 13 percent. In comparison, the overall United States’ population achieving a bachelor's degree or higher was 28 percent. (American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month, 2011). Additionally, enrollment figures for this marginalized group are not growing. In 2019, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that from 2000 to 2016 college entrance rates increased from 39 percent to 42 percent for White students. For Black students college entrance increased from 31 to 36 percent, and for Hispanic students from 22 to 39 percent. However, for American Indian/Alaskan Native students there was little to no change from 19 percent in 2000. How they navigate the system, the effect of cultural identity and negotiation of cultural differences, and how these students perceive themselves within this environment may help to identify ways in which educators can become more sensitive to the factors that affect Native peoples and their success in post-secondary educational attainment.

Specifically, the problem is that educational leaders do not know what American Indians/Alaskan Natives consider a successful educational experience as aligned with their cultural identity. We do know the enrollment and persistence of American Indians/Alaskan Natives in the Eurocentric higher education system is significantly lower than all other ethnic minorities (Harrington, 2012; National Center for Education Statistics, 2019; Shotton, Lowe, & Waterman, 2013, Waterman, 2011). Their educational attainment is critical as a pathway to economic prosperity and political and social equality. The engagement strategies of Native peoples in the context of their cultural identity may help to identify the gaps between the Eurocentric model of education and the cultural lived experience of American Indians/Alaskan Natives. Examining these factors as provided by American Indian/Alaskan Native students through online venues may provide a better understanding of what determines their post-secondary education experience and how it may affect their educational attainment.

Key Terms in this Chapter

American Indian: A person who is a member of any of the indigenous peoples living in the western hemisphere other than people that are designated as Inuits or Eskimos.

Eurocentric: Interpreting the world based on Anglo-American and/or European customs and values.

Native American: Any of the indigenous persons in the Western hemisphere but especially those living in North America and typically in the United States.

Alaskan Native: A person who is a member of indigenous peoples of Alaska, the U.S., Inupiat, Yupik, Aleut, Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, and other Northern Athabaskan cultures.

Indigenous: Living or occurring naturally in a specific environment or location.

Tribe: A group of people that includes families, multiple generations, clans, and dependents and who share common values.

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