Indigenous people and education

Lacourt’s Description of a Tree Outside the Forest was my favorite article out of the feminism articles we read. The reason I liked it so much was because our conversations about insiders and outsiders on the reservation in class and how closely it tied into this article. The author is an educated lady of Menominee descent. A graduate student and tree enthusiast. Lacourt’s experience in college was shot down in the beginning of one class after her contributions and comments didn’t seem good enough for the rest of the class. This was the last time she spoke in class. Regardless she pursued a PhD and through her program learned that trying to write more academically rather than how she would normally speak, she got lost in the words and not what she was trying to say.

Lacourt continued her doctoral candidate and worked on her home reservation gathering oral histories from elders and making a curriculum with reservation schools where students would work with their own families to document their own history.

Lacourt was working on her own reservation and she was still sort of thought of and respected as an outsider. She was watched while working but was fine with it because she understood why she couldn’t be trusted, just as she wouldn’t trust an outsider. Our discussion of whether or not indigenous people should be educated or share their views coincides with this story. This indigenous person, Lacourt, lost some of her ability to voice what she thought was right in class and to her professor about her religion and culture by being in school.

After finishing her research she became a professor at a large state university. She’s also the advisor to the American Indian student organization which brings back her voice and allows her to share her experiences and express her thoughts and views the other indigenous students at that school. It’s clear that her voice still isn’t respected because she’s an Indigenous women of color, a minority.

I think that this article shows what happens if indigenous people do go to school and get educated. Even though it is good for them and allows them more opportunities to get jobs, their voices are appreciated which shoots down their willingness to share about their culture, religion and people back on the reservation. Their chance they have while educated to talk and express what they need to in order to change other peoples views about the indigenous religion is limited because people are still ignorant and do not want them (indigenous people) around. I think that even though these people aren’t getting their voices heard it’s still good that they’re able to get educated, help their community on their reservation preserve culture and history and continue to finish their education and want to educate others.



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2 Responses to Indigenous people and education

  1. z_bellows says:

    I also read Tree Outside the Forest and thought it was brilliant! It seems options for higher education on reservations are that much more important for that reason. It would allow indigenous people to engage with these texts more when firstly, the institution is more interested in facilitating learning then discussing abstract concepts in a rigid set way, and secondly the institution is interested in questioning the assumptions of dominant Western culture. The example she gave where the professor wouldn’t even consider discussing the author’s view of nature even though that was an underlying assumption in the book she was reading was pretty shocking to me. To my mind, these are two things institutions in education could do to help alleviate this situation and it actually seems easier and more helpful to reservations to try and increase opportunities for higher education on the reservations instead of expect Western style education to change any time soon. Perhaps the benefits of getting educated that you mention (helping community preserve culture and history) could extend to pushing for more systems of education on the reservation.

  2. c_cary says:

    Kate, this wasn’t one of the articles I chose to read, but I really enjoyed reading your summary and opinions about Lacourt’s experiences. I think this topic is tricky to talk about because there are pros and cons to both sides, and I like that you took a stance at the end of your post. I agree with you that pursuing education is the best idea, and I think that in order for Indigenous People to feel more comfortable in a classroom environment, there needs to be more education about Natives in general.

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