Teaching & Learning Champions 29: Season 3, Episode 3: Nichole Prescott, Ph.D.
December 4, 2021
For this episode, you’ll hear speaker Dr. Nichole Prescott share how to Honor Indigenous People. Dr. Prescott joined us for our Purpose & Belonging speaker series and we’re excited to share with you what we learned from her presentation.
[Matthew Evins] Welcome to Teaching and Learning Champions, the podcast hosted by the Teaching and Learning Excellence Division at Austin Community College. During each TLC at ACC episode, we interview faculty, staff, and students on the things that positively impact teaching and learning, and as a result, the success of our students. For this episode, you’ll hear Dr. Nichole Prescott share how to honor indigenous people. Dr. Prescott joined us for our Purpose of Belonging speaker series, and we’re excited to share with you what we learned from her presentation.
[Susan Thompson] Good morning, welcome, and thank you for joining us today as we continue our work and journey in purpose and belonging. This month, we celebrate Native American heritage and we are honored and grateful to have Dr. Nichole Prescott with us today. She is Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs and P16 Initiatives at the University of Texas system. And she is also a respected leader in the Miami tribe. Thank you for being with us, Dr. Prescott, and we look forward to hearing the wonderful things you will share with us today.
[Native Language Spoken]
[Nichole Prescott] Hello, all my relatives. It’s good to see everyone. I see some colleagues in there, some familiar faces. So, hello everyone. My Miamian name is [inaudible], which means, “she speaks or she goes forth,” and Nichole is my English name. [inaudible] for allowing me to spend a little bit of time with you today to tell you a little bit more about my story and also put that into a broader context of Native Americans in education with K-12 and higher education today so [inaudible]. Next slide, please. Before I begin, I would like to do a land acknowledgment. I would like to acknowledge that we are located on the indigenous lands of Turtle Island, the ancestral name for what is now called North America. I’d like to honor the traditional stewards of the land upon which we now stand, the Alabama [Native names] and all the indigenous peoples who have been or have become a part of these lands. Next slide please. So, first off, I want to start with terms, but I want to set the stage. I want this to be a safe space. I really want this to be interactive, that just be sharing with you a bunch of, I would say, pretty interesting facts, but I also want to give you an opportunity to engage with me and with each other through the chat box. So, if you would, and again, safe space. I’m not going to get offended. I’m sure we’re all going to act with respect. Please share out what are some of the terms you’ve heard people talk about Native Americans by or used to call Native Americans. Again. It’s okay. Don’t worry about me being offended. Put them in the chat box. I’d like to read some of these out. What are some of the terms we use to talk about Native Americans? Indigenous people. Indians. Indigenous people, Indians, redskins, yes Pick natives. People of the global majority. Indios, Indijenas, First Nations. Yep. A couple more, natives, Indians, First Nations. All right, I think you all are hitting most of them. Next slide, please. So, a lot of people ask me what do I prefer to be called? I prefer to be called by my tribal affiliation which is Miami, or the Miami Nation of Oklahoma. That said, me, personally, I do not mind it when people call the native American, indigenous, or Indian or American Indian, although I feel like people don’t really use that term anymore. It feels little bit more antiquated, and the reason why I don’t mind people calling me any of those things, there’s problems with every single one of those labels, but I don’t really mind it, because I really feel like we have to have a point to start the conversation, and if someone is afraid to even approach you because they don’t even know what to call you, I don’t think that’s a really good start for an open and honest dialogue. That said, I feel like it’s your pronouns. Like someone’s pronouns. You go and you ask what are your pronouns? I think it’s always best to ask people what they prefer to be called, first and foremost. Most folks are going to be too upset if you call them any of the terms listed on this board, on the slide, but for the most part, it’s always best to use tribal affiliation. So, I also get questions about, you know, are we tribes, communities, nations, governments, pueblos, villages, peoples? The answer is, yes. We are all of those things. The history of the relationship between our tribal governments and the federal government is very confusing. It’s very complex, and essentially, we are sovereign nations within sovereign nations, and that is, I mean, people get law degrees in this and still have a hard time explaining it or understanding it, but I can talk a little bit more about this later if you all are interested. Next slide, please. So, there are some indigenous folks who reject all of the terms like John Trudell here. John says, “We we’re not Indians and we’re not Native Americans. We’re older than both concepts. We’re the people. We’re human beings. Everyone, even all the white people, were descended from a tribe. There was a time in their ancestry that they wore beads and feathers.” So, he rejects all of them. John Trudell was a Native American author, poet, actor, musician, and political activist. If you don’t know about him, I would encourage you to look him up. He was one of the leaders of the American Indian movement and the occupation of Alcatraz, the former prison. It had been closed down, but in about 1969, a bunch of Native Americans went and occupied Alcatraz for several years, in protest of broken treaties. So, interesting guy. Interesting movement. Not a lot of folks know about that particular episode in American history, but go check it out, John Trudell. Thanks. Next slide please. To indigenous people, our identity is really tied to culture. So, what makes someone Navajo? Pottawatomie? Ojibwa? Or in my case, Miami, right? My chief, or akima, Leonard, the said this. He said that how we view the people in the world around us and how we treat all of those elements is what makes us Miami. So, many of us to have worldviews, many natives have worldviews that are slightly different than what the dominant culture holds. For example, we believe that all things are connected to us. We believe that everything is interconnected, like a big circle. So, the earth, the animals, the rocks, the rivers and the humans. We are stewards and not masters, and that is a really important worldview that is embedded in our culture and is very much tied to who we are as Miami people. And again, happy to talk more about that later in the Q&A section. Next slide please. Since all identity is intersectional and anchored in self, let me share a little bit about who I am. I am wife. You can see up there in the left-hand photo, you can see me. I’m the short dark-haired woman, and the tall, gorgeous woman to my side is my wife. I am a bonus mom. You can see down kind of in the lower part of this slide, you can see me with two very tall children. Those are my two kids. I’m a doting parents of two dogs and three cats, and I’m about to be a pig mom. Again, I can tell you more about that later. I’m an equestrian. I’m a lover of history and archaeology. I’m also first gen. I have a PhD, and I’m Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs in the university system. Also, very importantly, I am [native word]. I am a Miami woman. I was born in Indian hospital in Claremore, Oklahoma, which is about 90 miles from Miami, Oklahoma. And Miami, of course, as you might be putting pieces together, was named after my tribe. Our tribe is headquartered in Miami, because we were forcibly removed from our lands in the eastern — we were Eastern woodland Indians. So, up around the Great Lakes region, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio. We were forcibly removed at gunpoint, put onto riverboats, and put into a reservation and what became Kansas. After a few years, white settlers decided that they wanted our Kansas land to farm. And so, then, we were forcibly removed once again into Northeastern Oklahoma under the General Allotment Act, also known as the Dawes Act, and that was about 1887, I think. I’m a historian. I should know dates, but that’s not my strong suit. About 1887, we were removed into northeastern Oklahoma, which is now where we’re headquartered, along with about eight other Indian tribes that were also removed to that area. When I was two years old, my dad took a job in Del Rio Texas. So, we moved from Miami to Del Rio, which is on the Mexico/Texas border. So, I’m a border gal, and I was raised there. My dad had been a migrant farmworker and ended up getting, eventually, a job in the federal government, which is how we got moved into the border. I grew up speaking English and Spanish interchangeably. I had no idea they were two different languages. I attended an under-performing, under-resourced school with really lovely people and under-performing, under-resourced school district. I did end up — well, the first time I ever took home a book was in my junior year, and it was math, and then I graduated. And when I graduated, I knew that I was smart, but what I didn’t know at the time is that I was truly not college ready. My K-12 experience had not prepared me for higher education. But my parents always encouraged me to go and so under the, at the time, 10% rule, I got into UT Austin, and I made my way to Austin in 1990. So, I was a first-generation college student, and now I’m Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Texas system. As Assistant Vice-Chancellor, I work on student success initiatives. I support and I lead these initiatives in the P20 continuum. So, everything from pre-K all the way into graduate school on into working and learning, on into the workforce. And I do focus, most specifically, on serving historically marginalized student populations. I managed to earn a doctorate in history from a really great university, Stony Brook, but I took a very circuitous route. So, I started in 1998 with my graduate work in my Miami University, also named after my tribe. That was our hunting lands and finished in 2015 with my PhD, and I took a few years off and ended up going back to my program. So, I had a lot of life experience in the middle of that journey. Since then, I’ve been recognized by the White House for some of the work that I’ve done around English language learners, testified in front of the Texas legislature. I regularly advise University provosts and presidents. So, I’ve come a long way from Del Rio, and the reason why I mention all of this is that while I’m proud of my accomplishments, and I did have something to do with it, really, I’m also incredibly grateful. Because I could not have done it on my own. There were so many people along the way that really helped me, encouraged me, supported me, and got me to where I needed to be. And so, I just want to make sure I underscore that point. It was not just me. I owe, in great measure, gratefulness to my tribal community, my chief, who really encouraged me to go to graduate school when I didn’t think I was somebody who would succeed in graduate school. He was like, “Nichole, you have to go to graduate school, because you need to come back and you need to help your community.” So, I bring all this up partly because I’m going to show my contact information in the last slide, and I want to encourage you all to reach out to me, and particularly, if you’re a student. I want to reach out to me. You can ask questions, advice, or you just simply want to make a contact, I really encourage you to do that. I would love to hear from you. Next slide please. So, as I said, somehow in 1995, after college graduation, I began to get a lot more involved in my tribe. I traveled with my parents to Miami, Oklahoma, which is a 10-hour drive from Austin. We’d go to our annual tribal gatherings, and I participated in language and culture revitalization efforts. Though I’d always been proud to be a Miami, and when you were in high school and your early 20s going to college, I was way more involved in myself and figuring out who I was then in my tribe and my history. It was always in the background, but it was not in the forefront. I was a lot more interested in traveling the world than I was, you know, interested in traveling to rural Oklahoma. Nevertheless, over the next few years, after I graduated, being Miami really started to take a much deeper meaning, and I began to learn and actually practice my culture. That was transformative for me. So, as I said, one day, my chief, akima, he called me up and said, “Nichole, you’ve got to go to graduate school.” And eventually, I did, I went to graduate school, and I just kept going, and I have a PhD. His call started me on a path, a different path, a path opportunity, a path that led me to where I’m at. But not all Native Americans ended up finding a positive pathway through education. I want to share with you a little bit about that history and why it’s important to indigenous folks today, and particularly, to students. Next slide, please. So, I am a historian. So, I have to give you a little bit of history, but I promise I’m going to keep it fairly brief. I’m going to try to. So, I want to tell you a little something about Indian education. Very few folks actually understand Indian education or even know about this particular story or its history. So, we all know that, perhaps you know, states are the ones that are obligated to provide education for their residents. For natives, however, that obligation actually resides, first and foremost, with the federal government. The federal government is legally obligated to provide quality education to Native Americans, and the legal basis for this obligation resides in federal treaties that have been signed for hundreds of years. And you would think that this imperative seems pretty straightforward, but the reality is that Indian education is anything but straightforward. And part of that has to do with the confused jurisdictions between what, you know, the accountability that the federal government has around native education and the accountability that states have around education. Next slide please. So, where that accountability for that obligation to educate Native Americans resides is really hard to determine. There are two distinct branches of the federal government that do have some sort of oversight and participation in Indian Ed. First is the Department of the Interior, and the second is the Department of Education. Originally, anything to do with Indian affairs was addressed within the War Department, because that is the way in which they interacted with Native Americans, first and foremost, as the country was being formed. It was through war. So, that was the original interaction with Native Americans and Indian education. Eventually, when the Department of the Interior was established in 1849, and that was quite a ways after the time of the formation of the United States. So, we were in the War Department for really long time. We did get moved to the Department of the Interior. Now the Department of the Interior is charged with the internal development of the nation and the welfare of its people. That includes natural resources and Indian affairs. And so, the Department of the Interior hasn’t always done a really great job with dealing with Native Americans, but as you know, there is a brand-new secretary of the interior, and she’s native, Deb Haaland. So, I do feel like we might be on track for a much better relationship with so Department of the Interior in the years to come. So, within the Department of the Interior, there is something called the Office of Indian Affairs, and it is the oldest bureau that was us actually established in 1824. And then, eventually, it was the Bureau of Indian education, and that Bureau was formed to specifically focus only on the education of Native Americans. No on the other side of it, we have the Department of Education, and that was created in 1868 and doesn’t really have any specific imperative to serve native students, until, that is, 1972, when a special Senate subcommittee report came out detailing how Indian education was actually a national tragedy. That they were doing such a bad job of educating Native Americans that it was a national tragedy. And so, from that, they actually established the Office of Indian education. And that was, actually, a really good thing, because the Bureau of Indian education only services schools that are on Indian reservations. So, that’s only about 8% of total native population. So, the Department of Education is actually educating 92% of Native Americans, because few of us live on reservations at this point. Next slide please. The crazy thing is is they have no formal mechanism to talk to each other about Native education. So, you have two federal offices in silos that have no formal ways to actually talk to each other about Native education. So, no wonder Native Americans are falling through the cracks. Next slide please. Okay, so, I’m going to ask you this, and I know I’ve already kind of given you a little bit of an answer. So, why would the federal government choose to educate indigenous children? I know I said treaties, but why would they put education in the treaties in the first place? So, please use the chat box. I’m going to give you a couple minutes to share out your answers. Control over what they learned. Control them. Assimilation. What else do we have? You all are all on the right track. Indoctrinate. Erase their culture. Yeah, anybody else? To reframe history. Force them speak English. I’m going to have to say yes to all of those things, there’s actually even more to this story. Next slide please. It’s actually cheaper than killing us. I swear. I can’t even make this stuff up. I would wish I was making it up. The fact of the matter is is you can go into the archives and see lots and lots of documents talking about doing the actual math to show that it is cheaper to educate Native Americans than it is to wage war on us. So, the Secretary of the Interior from 1877 to 1881 was Carl Schurz. He wrote that it was — it cost nearly $1 million to wage war against an Indian, but it only costs about $1,200 to give an Indian child eight years of education, and this is one of many, many documents that actually does the calculation of that. And while I do think there are a lot of people who sincerely saw education as a way of survival for Indian peoples. Like so we don’t eradicate Indians, let’s go ahead and educate them and bring them into white society. The government’s impetus for educating us was not a benign enterprise that all. Next slide, please. And of course, what many of you all mentioned in the chat, assimilation. “Kill the Indian, save the man.” That was a very famous quote that you’ve probably heard in conjunction with boarding school conversations. It comes from Captain Richard Pratt, who was an Indian fighter turned educator later on in his life, who is also the founder of the Carlisle school. And the goal of Indian boarding schools was the complete erasure of indigenous identities and indigenous ways. Next slide please. So, boarding schools began in 1860, but the first treaty that included a provision for Indian education was actually signed in 1794. And it wasn’t long before there were, you know, numerous boarding schools all over different parts of the United States. So the question is what happened at the schools? You all might have recently heard about the unearthed mass graves of students who attended Indian boarding schools in Canada. These are becoming way too common, and we knew that they existed. And I would venture to say that they probably also existed in the United States. There was a very similar model in Canada and in the United States, but we’ve not found them here in the United States and the same numbers as we have in Canada. Boarding schools were built on the model of manual labor schools. Next slide please, actually. So, they were meant to teach natives how to be laborers, how to work on the farm. How to work on farm machinery, and for the women to be domestic servants and wives. The government chose the boarding school model over the day school model, which, of course, where you go to school for the day, and then you come home with your family, because they wanted students to be kept away from what they saw as the negative influence of their families and their culture. And most wouldn’t even let the students come home for any type of extended break, like for the holidays or anything, because they felt that if they had more time with their family, then they would lapse into their traditional ways and would possibly not come back to the boarding school. So, what was going on in the boarding schools? Well, you know, they brought the students. They cut off their braids. They were made to wear the clothing of the white man, and as folks pointed out in the chat, they were made to speak the language of the white man. If they spoke their own language, they were frequently beaten and punished in a variety of ways. And so, this history is really my family’s history. Many of my family members went to the Indian boarding schools. Many of whom Chilocco and to Seneca Indian boarding schools. And we have family oral histories talking about how they were literally ripped from the arms of their families and pulled out of the house and into boarding schools. When they were there, again, braids cut. Clothes were changed, and if they spoke our language, they were made to kneel on broomsticks or on corn cobs. So, that had a very lasting legacy. That has a lasting legacy, because that’s not just my history. That is the history of mostly every Native American in the United States today and in Canada. Next slide please. Here are a few pictures, mostly from Carlisle Indian School that really show the transformation that thrust natives into a liminal space, right? They’re not quite Indian, and they’re not quite white. Next slide please. Here’s some before and after pictures. This is a really famous one from Carlisle. Next slide. Before the Chautauqua. And these are folks that are actually from around the El Paso region. Next slide please. Here’s their transformation. Next slide. Some Lakota boys. They’re even sitting in chairs. Next slide please. Next slide. So, all of that caused what we call historical trauma, and historical trauma is a cumulative emotional and psychological wound over the lifespan and across generations caused by massive group trauma, and boarding schools were traumatic. It was traumatic for the individual and for our communities. So, from that moment on, the Native Americans who left the traditional ways and went to the boarding schools were transformed into liminal beings. Essentially, they were outcasts, outcasts from both societies. There’s a famous Native American named Sun Elk, and he actually recalled of his own home coming from Carlisle. He wrote, “The chiefs said to my father, “Your son, who calls himself Rafael, has lived with the white men. He’s been far away from the pueblo. He’s not lived in the kiva,” which is the sacred ceremonial chamber. “Nor learned the things that Indian boys should learn. He has no hair. He has no blankets. He cannot even speak our language, and he has a strange smell. He is not one of us. And I really think that sums up an experience that many Native Americans felt when they came home from their boarding school experience. And there was a great deal of internalized racism coming out of that and a great deal of struggling. As I said, many of the early graduates of the schools were not accepted by either of their communities, the native or the white, and many of these graduates, kind of later on in the history, after the boarding schools had kind of been up and running for quite a while, and due to the internalized racism and shame that were really indoctrinated into them while at boarding school, they chose to turn away from their native communities. One of our tribal members, I was reading a letter from our archives that called some of the Miamans “dirty little Indians.” And she saw herself as a different kind of Indian, because she had gone to boarding school, and she was the best version of Indian, best version of Miami. That is really sad. And as they turned away from their native communities, language and culture loss ensued, loss of a sense of community. The tribal nation structure was weakened. The loss of identity, all of this happened, and why? How did this happen? Well, the traditional education versus the boarding school educations were very, very different. Traditional education, there was both formal education and informal. The formal was sacred knowledge that was taught in very specific ways. There was a ceremonial knowledge attached to the spiritual knowledge, and then, the informal knowledge, the life skills. How to skin a buffalo. How to forage for the right kinds of medicines in the forests around you. It was very much ability and strength based. So, you progressed at your own pace. In terms of like the economics, it was about the changing seasons and understanding that, and was ultimately tied to the survival of the community. It was very much cooperative and collective. It was incentive-based, multi-generational, where the littles spent a lot of time with the elders, and there was no shame in failing. You succeeded or you failed, but you learned from that whole experience. You also traveled with the seasons. So, you weren’t place-based. You actually learned as you were traveling, and then, also, you know, you find that there are very few spaces in Native American culture where children, small children, are not allowed. They’re always there, because they’re there to learn and observe adults, and then, later on, they begin to really understand what is happening. And of course, we have our stories and legends that held a lot of really deep meaningful information and knowledge. On the boarding school side, that’s very different. All the education was formal. It was at a desk, and then you would go in and practice through — in a shop or out in the fields. It was very much age-based. So, it didn’t matter what your skill level was. If you’re old a particular age range, you were in with the same group. The economic motive was money and material accumulation. It was very competitive and individualistic. It was very authoritarian. You did what the teacher said, and if not, you got punished. Failure is unacceptable, and it’s shameful, and I have to say, we really hold onto that today too. That same idea that not being good at something or failing at something is really bad, and that means we’re less than. It was based on farming. So, it was very much place-based, very much adult to child, and learning was to take place in a very specific way. Next slide, please. So, I’ve kind of already covered a little bit of this. There was a great deal of historic trauma they came out of these very divergent approaches to the world, to community, and education. And a lot of this historical trauma, as I said, the loss of identity and low self-esteem, difficulty forming healthy relationships, really be pulled away from their families, which were anchors. Everything was focused on the collective good. You know, we got our senses of self-value through what we contributed to the community and to our families. When all of that’s pulled away, then this really paved the way to many of the contemporary challenges faced by Native Americans, right? Alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, and even, I would say, the massive amounts of missing and murdered indigenous women. So, this all came together, and it’s a legacy we’re also dealing with in some shape, form, or fashion. Next slide please. So, let’s like take a step back and think a little bit more broadly for a second, and I’m going to need your help. So, share out why it is that if you’re a student you go to school, or if you have already been through school, why is it that you went to school? What is the purpose of Western education, in general? Write your answers in the chat, please. What is the purpose of Western education? Generational wealth. That’s a good one. Creative, productive workforce. Prepare for future professions. Go to school to get a better job. Get a better job. Contributing members of society. Personally liking/learning things. Me too, Catherine. I love to learn things. Yes, I think that a lot of times, we are very much focused on how to get a better job, and I think that that is kind of how society has created education, right? Coming out of the 19th century and industrialization, but if you ask Native Americans what is the purpose of Western education? Next slide please. And I’m included in this group, it’s actually to serve and to strengthen tribal communities. So, I believe that while education has taken a lot from Native Americans, Western education, I also believe that now it could actually be the key in preserving our traditional sovereignty. It’s the key to our futures and navigating our futures in the contemporary realities in which we live. Next slide, please. So, the question is how well are we educating Native students today? Next slide, please. The fact of the matter is is that Native Americans lag behind in almost every single education indicator, and I could’ve put a ton of data up here. But basically, we are underachieving in K-12 and in post-secondary. We do have some of the lowest educational attainment rates of any other population in the United States. So, next slide, please. The answer is not well. We are not doing a good job of educating native students, and there are a whole bunch of reasons for that. Next slide please. Here’s what tribal leaders have identified as some of the big problems as to why Native Americans are lagging behind. So, lack of access to culturally appropriate curricula. Educators without sufficient cultural training. Poor learning conditions. Insufficient resources, lack of Internet, and limited opportunities for members of tribal communities to actually meaningfully participate in the education of their own children. Next slide please. So, you see, Western education has really been a double-edged sword for Native Americans. Many Native Americans have a deep mistrust of the government, and quite frankly, for really good reasons, and by extension, they have a mistrust of educational institutions. Also, again, for really good reasons. Next slide please. So, here’s my favorite part of today’s presentation. So, to understand the way that Native Americans feel when they enter into our educational institutions, let’s stretch our imagination a little bit, in order to try and glimpse their experience. It will be kind of like immersing yourself in a foreign country, where it’s a little bit disoriented. You might not know the language. It feels a little different, but it’s a little bit familiar. So, first, let’s look at what kind of pedagogy or curriculum, culturally informed pedagogy, or curriculum, that an indigenous student might actually respond to. Okay, it’s going to be holistic, connected, cultural, value-based, thematic, and experiential. So, how do you do that? Next slide please. Let me illustrate this concept with one of my favorite stories that I first heard from Richard West, who was the former head of the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, and this story is about a Northern California Native American basket maker, who he calls Mrs. Matt. So, Mrs. Matt was hired to teach basket making at a local university in Northern California, and after three weeks of her class, her students complained that all they had done was sing songs. So, they asked, “When we going to learn to make baskets?” Mrs. Matt was a little confused, a little taken aback, and she replied, well, we are learning to make baskets. She explained that the process to make a basket began with songs. You sing the songs so you don’t insult the plants when the materials for the baskets are picked. So, her students were placated by this for a little bit, and they learned the songs, and then they went out to pick the grasses to make their baskets. Well, upon their return to the classroom, guess what happened? They started to learn more songs, and by this time, they just freaking out. They’re upset. They wanted to learn how to make this basket already. Well, Mrs. Matt was teaching them songs that have to be sung as the materials are put in your mouth, because they would put the reeds and stuff in their mouth and soften them as they would chew them. And you have to sing the songs for that process, and it has to happen before you weave. You’re softening the reeds. You’re singing the songs, and then you weave, and for the students, the weaving part was the making of the baskets. So, Mrs. Matt was a little exasperated by them, but very patiently explained that you’re missing the point. A basket is a song that is made visible. I think that is really poignant, and I absolutely love this story. Because what she’s evoking in this story is the interconnectedness of everything. Her simple explanation, and one that seemed very obvious to her but not to the students, embodies the whole philosophy of native life and culture that I think it’s fundamentally different from much of Western thought, and definitely different from Western pedagogy. It’s this type of holistic, experiential, and connective thinking that needs to be infused into curriculum. And I realize that does not lend itself to addressing critiques, right, in our standardized curriculum. But for indigenous students, it’s imperative for them to find that material culturally meaningful. I also think it’s a pedagogically sound way to conduct education for all peoples, who wouldn’t learn really well in this way. So, as disoriented as those students in Northern California felt with Mrs. Matt’s brand of education, native students frequently feel that way every single day as they enter the classroom and engage in Western pedagogy, right? They’re at the receiving end of Western pedagogy. So, I think that diverse pedagogies have the potential of really liberating the academy and our educational institutions from these really narrow parameters that we’ve created for ourselves. That this is education and this is not education. Education needs to be more holistic, and it needs to be less like a fast-food franchise where, you know, one-size-fits-all, because you know, I can tell you from personal experience, one size does not fit all, and I’m sure everyone here today would agree with that. Next slide please. So, just kind of wrapping up here. Some indigenous students have no context with which to navigate higher education. They don’t have that cultural capital, and I would say that’s not just something that we can say about Native Americans. I think we can say it about a lot of historically marginalized populations. We don’t have the cultural capital, or the knowledge, to be able to navigate formal education or Western-based pedagogy, right? So, I think for me, the two most important incidences of that disorientation, or not understanding how to navigate, was this notion of competition and of mentoring. So, I’m pretty uncomfortable with competition among my peers, although my wife would actually say I can be very competitive, but it’s in very specific ways. But in general, I approach everything with the very much cooperative collective. And she can also attest, when we go to our kids basketball games, I really want everyone to do well, and I really want everyone to win, although, ultimately, I do root for my kids teams to win. But I do want everyone to have a really good showing. But that is not really how we’re taught, particularly if you go into graduate school. It is extremely competitive. It’s about, you know, finding holes in everyone else’s arguments and being able to put forth your own. It’s very much based off of competition and an individualistic mindset. And that can be really tough for a lot of indigenous people, where, as I said before, our sense of value comes from contributing to the collective good. The other piece is the mentoring, and I bring this up, because mentoring is how I ended up where I’m at. I didn’t know how to navigate my path to get to where I’m at today, and it is one of my missions in life to ensure that I lift other people as I rise, which is why I say, you know, I want folks to reach out to me if they have questions and don’t know how to navigate something. Please call me, email me, I mean, probably email me. I don’t like to talk on the phone very much, but I will. Email me. Set up a time for us to chat. I want to help you. I want to be that connection. So, next slide please. So, I get asked a lot what can educators do? Well, the first thing is mentor. Please be a mentor, and I know that’s really hard to work into everything you’re already doing, but I do know that if you’re in education, that is already something that you’re predisposed to do, because you care that students succeed. Also, you know, seek out indigenous curriculum and pedagogy. I mean, use it responsibly. Make sure you’re getting it from a trusted source, and I put one up there is an example. The Miami, we have some curricular resources, and this particular one called Earth and Sky, the Place of the Myaamiaki, was done in conjunction with one of our tribal members, who happens to work at the Smithsonian. He’s in charge of all the space rocks. He would probably be mortified I just called them space rocks, but that’s basically. Any type of rock that came from the sky, he’s in charge of. And so, he worked with some of the folks at the Miami Center at Miami University, to make this very culturally informed curriculum. So, it’s really cool. You can ask me about it. I’ll tell you about it. Be inclusive in your language. I feel like a lot of times when we talk about DEI and we’re trying to be inclusive in the classroom, we always bring up Latinx, and we bring up African-Americans. Absolutely, bring them up. Bring everyone up, but also, don’t forget the Native Americans. We’re already absent in much of the curriculum. So please, when you find an opportunity to talk about us and share our story and our concerns and our triumphs. Please do that. Please try not to accidentally perpetuate stereotypes by showing movies that, you know, have stereotypical native air American images in it. Think about that when you’re talking about Thanksgiving. And again, you know, I’ve already talked about legitimate sources. Be aware that cultural differences mean that Native American students might interact differently in the classroom. For example, in many tribes, it’s disrespectful to look someone in the eye, particularly if it’s a cross-gender conversation. So, be aware that that doesn’t mean that they’re any less engaged or less prepared or less capable. And then the last thing, when in doubt, ask an Indian. You know, I don’t speak for all Indians, but you can definitely call me up, and I will do my best to answer your question or put you in the right direction. Next slide please. Okay, and then, the last thing here is, you know, what can everyone do? Please don’t wear items that have racist imagery on it like mascots, for example or all of the really cute geometric designs and stuff that we get at Urban Outfitters. Instead, try to go and buy .directly from indigenous artists, because all of those images that are completely attached to native cultural traditions have been co-opted. None of that money goes to the indigenous communities. Seek to understand natives rather than imagine them. Learn about us. Learn about our culture. Visit the powwow. We have a big powwow here in Austin. Go to cultural events. Go to the [inaudible]. They’re doing a really good job these days in representing Native Americans. And then, lastly, advocate for native voices to be at the table whenever decisions are being made. So, that’s basically at the end of it. Next slide, please. If you want to get in touch with me, you can go to the NicholePrescott.com. You can follow me on Twitter. If you sign up and drop me a line just to say hi and email me through my little forum, I’m going to be doing a drawing in the next month, actually, in the next two months, where people will get a book by Anton Treuer. He’s Ojibway scholar. It’s Everything You Want to Know about Indians but Were Afraid to Ask. He’s a good resource. It’s a great book. So, thank you very much. Open for questions.
[Susan Thomason] Thank you so very much, Nichole. Courtney’s going to help us with the facilitation of some questions, perhaps, from the audience.
[Courtney Grams] Yes, if you all have any questions for Dr. Prescott, please pop them in the chat or raise a hand. I certainly learned a lot just in the last hour, Dr. Prescott. Thank you so much for sharing everything that you did today. All right, in particular, was just reflecting on how some of the less-formal ways of teaching in different tribes can often — it sounds like they can be just as helpful for non-natives students, as well. Just thinking about contextualizing things that you’re learning and how it’s all connected. Looking at how failure is okay, because failure is often learning. So, you know, in different DEI conversations, a lot of what we talk about that is culturally responsive often benefits everyone in the classroom, not just the folks that we’re targeting. So, it was really interesting to hear this particular point of view. Nichole Prescott: Thank you. I will say that, you know, natives, we’re, in general, and you know, I can’t say this for every single native person, because we’re all very different, but kind of the way in which we go about things is we’re very holistic. We have to see what the big picture is to understand how all the different parts fit in, but I have to say, I’m definitely like that. And so, it’s really good to start with the big picture first. Why are we learning what we’re learning, and then go into talking about what we’re going to be learning.
[Courtney Grams] Absolutely, I love that. We did get one question in the chat from Terry. She says, “Can you please share more about the powwow in Austin. Is at the same time of year each year?” Nichole Prescott: Sure. Happy to. So the powwow is usually in November, and — oh, it’s been canceled for this year, Sara says. Thank you. It’s usually in November. The Great Promise for American Indians are the ones that hold the powwow, and I highly recommend that you go take a look. They have a lot of indigenous artists there that have wares that you can buy, goods, blankets, all kinds of jewelry, and all kinds of really cool things. So, I encourage you to go take a look and support the indigenous artists. But also, throughout the year, there are all kinds of cultural events to help raise money to put on the powwow. So, go to Great Promise for American Indians and sign up for their newsletter, and then, you can also volunteer, which is pretty cool.
[Courtney Grams] That’s awesome. It looks like we’ve got a hand raised. Susan, would you go ahead and ask the question?
[Susan Thomason] Yes, thank you so much, and I’m curious. You referenced mentoring was a key pivotal time in you moving into the current work that you’re doing, and in essence, sort of looking at your purpose, we’ve been talking about through this theme this year, what about that mentoring experience helped you realize this was your purpose? Nichole Prescott: That is really great question. So, I mean, first of all, I had to have someone believe in me, which was really helpful. Somebody who I saw as an authority figure. So, it started out with, I mean, my parents definitely believed in me, but that my chief did, and he really pushed me to go to graduate school. But I had to have someone in the graduate school tell me how do you fill out this form? What is a GRE? How do you sign up for the GRE? Like all of these things that might be common knowledge to people who come from a college-going culture, but I didn’t know. I didn’t even know what a discussion section was in college. I mean, I didn’t go to my discussion section for the six weeks, because I had no idea what it was. So, that was a hard lesson to learn, and throughout, I just had people saying, you know, Nichole, you should go get your PhD. Here’s how you do that. I believe in you. You should apply for this job. You should do this. So, it was really folks who took the time to sit and talk with me and understood who I was and understood that just because I didn’t know how to do something, it wasn’t because I wasn’t smart. It was just that it was not — it’s like me and technology today, I just don’t know how to do some of it, and I think that’s okay, and I need someone to show me the way and be patient. And so, I really think it’s important to have like students, for example, being able to talk to somebody at my level. I have this position of privilege and responsibility and influence. If I don’t do something to help other people, then I’m wasting that opportunity.
[Susan Thomason] Well, thank you, again. We are very grateful to you, for sharing your story and your history with us, helping us see through your experience, the journey of Native American peoples. Our hope is to continue this dialogue, the conversation, the reflections and how it’ll inform our own work and our own purpose going forward. We hope to continue the collaboration with you, and again, thank you all for joining us and to you, Dr. Prescott, for being with us today. Nichole Prescott: Well, thank you all. Appreciate it.