Making Global Indigenous Doctoral Scholarship Count for our Communities

Dawn Pichon Barron & Associate Professor Mera Penehira - IIRC20
Thursday, November 19, 2020

TWWoA is the only tertiary institution in Aotearoa currently offering an International Indigenous Doctoral Programme.  Likewise, the only wānanga offering doctoral study.  The degree of Doctor of Indigenous Development and Advancement (IDA) is designed specifically for students in professional areas – that is a degree that considers the working experiences of its student body and encourages them to consider how their research can contribute to the tribal, community and Indigenous organisations within which they are located. This session begins with an overview of this unique programme by Programme Director, Associate Professor Mera Penehira. The remainder of the session then centres on the research of one of our Native and Indigenous doctoral candidates from Washington State whose research is firmly centred on Indigeneity, Identity Politics, and Institutions of Higher Learning.  

This research is a way of being, a way of knowing that braids multiple perspectives and stories to provide a common ground from which Indigenous people and institutions of higher learning can turn to as we all forge a holistic, more inclusive path of pedagogical approaches in higher education. As a mixed-heritage (Choctaw/Mexican/Euro) researcher and writer, I approach my work from a Grounded Theory[1] framework with curiosity and hope for expanding my initial line of questioning:  How do identity politics intersect, impact, and revolt against settler-colonial, euro-centric practices in institutions of higher learning for Indigenous People.  My research focuses primarily on the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island (North America). Following the Medicine Wheel and Four Directions— the Circle of life: East & Body, South & Heart, West & Mind, and North & Spirit, the organizational sections of this academic research are Indigenous, holistic, and a guide to remember all realms of living, being, and knowing.  

 It is intended that this work not negate or compete with the current mainstream pedagogical approaches in institutions of higher learning, but expand, empower, and assert that learning and teaching are fluid, thus open to change. Identity politics in concept can be contentious and regarded as a political burden to Indigenous Peoples due to the repeated harm by settler-colonial political policies. This research is mindful of the complexities and traumas that Indigenous Peoples carry around issues of identity and of partaking in the dominant political arena. In the end, it is all about decolonizing the political and educational practices that thwart and deny the ethos of Indigenous Peoples.  

Keywords: identity politics, institutions of higher learning, euro-centric pedagogy, Indigenous pedagogy, Indigenous Peoples, settler-colonialism, education, decolonization, Medicine Wheel, Four Directions, Native Americans, Indigenous Americans, Turtle Island

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