This dissertation discusses the intersection of schooling, justice systems, and educational achievements of American Indians. This dissertation is divided into three parts covering six sections; American Indians in the U.S. as a political and racial group, current trends in Indian…
This dissertation discusses the intersection of schooling, justice systems, and educational achievements of American Indians. This dissertation is divided into three parts covering six sections; American Indians in the U.S. as a political and racial group, current trends in Indian education and economic conditions with a discussion on the role of epistemological and ontological clashes between Indian ways of thinking and western education practices. Six policy eras are discussed that have shaped Indian education followed by a discussion on how and in what ways the justice system and schooling intersect with the educational achievement of American Indian students.
A qualitative case study explored the experiences of six Navajo prisoners, ages 24-35, in the Winslow State Prison in Arizona. Open-ended interviews inquired about their K-12 education, family, community, and institutional experiences with discipline. Findings revealed negative experiences with schooling had powerful impacts on participants in contrast to family, community, and other institutions. All participants reported experiences in school contributed to interfacing with the justice system. Second, teachers and principals were identified as powerful forces contributing to participants’ negative school experiences. Third, negative family impacts triggered participants’ dependency on the school for support. Findings from this study, evidence suggests that schooling plays a pivotal role influencing a Navajo man's life chances.
This type of research focusing on Indigenous prison inmate voices is needed to understand the experiences of Navajo male offenders who are within the criminal justice system and to then make policy recommendations to support healing and rehabilitation. I conclude by calling for a reimagining of schooling practices based on restorative justice that can mitigate negative disciplinary and violent schooling experiences and restore trust and success of American Indians in the education system.
Keywords: American Indian schooling, school to prison, federal boarding schools