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Educational Leadership

Dissertation highlight: Julie Smith, EdD ’16

February 02, 2017

Countering the Narrative of Borderland Public Schooling: Voices from the Columbia Plateau


The purpose of this study is to highlight the narratives of Native American youth to develop an understanding of social practices supporting and hindering educational achievement and attainment for Native American youth from their own perspectives.

In this study, young adults who have recently completed K-12 education in a small rural school district tell their story of their schooling experiences. Understanding their lived experiences contributes to the body of research regarding Native American schooling in the Pacific Northwest. This study adds to our understanding of schooling for Native American students who attend public schools in rural borderland settings.

Though limited in scope, the personal retrospective accounts contain rich descriptions of the lived experiences of the five participants from which to gain directions for educational practice and educational research.

Tribal Critical Race Theory analysis of in-depth individual semi-structured interviews with five young adults ages 19-24 from a confederation tribal organization in the Columbia Plateau yielded four major themes. These themes are: The legacy of colonization still present in schools, schooling, and social contexts, importance of school credentials/credentialing to move on with life, power of relationships to shape our realities, and forging our own reality.

Future leaders from public schools and tribal education agencies in rural borderland settings can use this research to inform educational practices for Native American students. Future researchers may wish to replicate this study increasing the scope, range of participants, and locations to further our understanding of schooling practices supporting and hindering educational achievement and attainment through strengths based explanations.