Voices of Resistance and Renewal: Indigenous Leadership in Education

Volume 28, No. 2 - Winter 2016
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Voices of Resistance and Renewal: Indigenous Leadership in Education By Dorothy Aguilera-Black Bear and John W. Tippeconnic IIIBy Dorothy Aguilera-Black Bear and John W. Tippeconnic III
University of Oklahoma Press (2015)
216 pages

Review by Michael D. Wilson

Voices of Resistance and Renewal explores the connection between theories and practices in Indigenous education and the larger political goals of American Indian sovereignty and self-determination. In the introduction, editors Dorothy Aguilera-Black Bear and John W. Tippeconnic III write that “the book’s intention is to describe contemporary Indigenous leadership that focuses more pointedly on developing educational sovereignty through action-oriented leadership for self-determination.” The essays in this volume reinvigorate the decades-old concept of “educational sovereignty” by grounding it in the theories and practices of various Indigenous communities.

The book is divided into two parts. Each of the essays in the first section engages different areas of research in describing Indigenous epistemologies, including place, governance, language, or oral traditions. “Sacred Places,” by Linda Sue Warner and Keith Grint, discusses how Indigenous perspectives on leadership are often tied to specific communities and geographies, such as the Medicine Bluffs for the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma, where tribal members continue to harvest traditional medicines and practice traditional ceremonies. In her essay, “Woksape: The Identity of Tribal Colleges and Universities,” Cheryl Crazy Bull explains that tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) are in the unique position to determine what their schools should value and teach. Crazy Bull writes, “Native studies at TCUs is for Native students and is a collective experience with Indigenous ways of knowing at the core of its design.” Other essays in this section discuss how Indigenous oral traditions guide the vision of language and teacher education programs.

In the second part of the book, five writers discuss practical questions for leadership in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous settings. Ray Barnhardt’s “Theory Z + N” and Joseph Martin’s “Getting the Right Leadership” explain how leadership systems from outside Indigenous communities are useful when school leaders understand that their “primary allegiance” is to the local communities, not to bureaucracies. Martin writes, “All leaders, Indian or non-Indian, will need to use both types of procedures in their leadership roles but . . . Indian school administrators will use cultural background knowledge and attributes of power found in tribal communities.” The other three essays in this section address the importance (and sometimes difficulty) of incorporating Indigenous knowledge into non-Indigenous K-12 public schools and doctoralgranting institutions—whether it is to strike a “harmonious balance” that leads to change in schools or to “narrow the gap” to make higher education useful to Indigenous communities.

Aguilera-Black Bear’s “Concluding Remarks” returns to the question of sovereignty and self-determination in education, emphasizing the value of alliances across all levels of instruction. Her remarks underscore the value of this collection in re-invigorating the conversation about the many intersections between tribal nations and education. Although this volume could have addressed some of the theoretical problems with such terms as “sovereignty” and “self-determination,” for example, the essays demonstrate the immense dedication and care that many researchers bring to their communities. If readers are like me, they will find this anthology thoughtful, informative, and even inspiring.

Michael D. Wilson (Choctaw) is a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and author of Writing Home: Indigenous Narratives of Resistance.

2017 AIHEC Student Poetry Slam


On the opening evening of the 2017 AIHEC Student Conference in Rapid City, students from an array of TCUs entertained conference goers with the spoken word at the annual poetry slam. View the video

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