Urban Public Schools: Lived Experiences of Indigenous Students

Urban Public Schools: Lived Experiences of Indigenous Students

Author: 
Georgianne M. Hudson Smith
Program of study: 
Ed.D.
Abstract: 
More than half of the Native American population has migrated to cities during the last 30 years resulting in a higher percentage of American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) youth growing up in urban areas than those of their parents' generation. The survival of the American Indian is no less a miracle when combining staggering statistics of poor health, lowest per capita incomes, and highest rates of infant mortality with educational outcomes that predict more than half AI/AN students will drop out. Students are at a disadvantage when the culture of their school is foreign or it marginalizes their cultural backgrounds. This qualitative phenomenological study explored the lived experiences of 20 Indigenous students between the ages of 18-28 who attended urban public schools in three cities in northeastern Ohio, a non-reservation state. The research questions explored a range of factors that may influence the perceptions, feelings, and beliefs of the participants with the central question being; how do young AI/AN students describe their urban public school experiences? Data analysis revealed three major themes concerning social, cultural, and individual teacher issues with several sub-themes emerging highlighting pervasive issues such as, bullying, alienation, learning difficulties, and overt racism. Interpretations of the data from the surveys and narratives resulted in three main recommendations: (a) increasing cultural competency of educational leaders and practitioners reflective of local ethnic and cultural environs, (b) maintaining critical support to local urban Indian centers, and (c) enhancing a model of teaching that enables personal connections with American Indian students.
Dedication: 
This work is dedicated to my grandsons Dominic and Paden, my grandchildren yet to come, my daughters Meaganne and Cierra, sisters Tina and Roxanne, brothers Mark and Scott, and my parents. May my grandsons think well of my efforts and in doing so reap the benefits of a persistent dedication to learning as inspiration for their own educational quests. May my daughters think well of the new legacy for which they played an integral part in constructing. May my siblings and parents revel in the knowledge that there is a new legacy for our family. Finally, for the generations yet to come, may you uncover and nurture the seeds of curiosity enough to propel you on exciting journeys for knowledge that will enable you to make changes for the betterment of your communities and your own future generations. I love you all.
Acknowledgements: 
With a humble heart I gratefully acknowledge the power of the enveloping love of the Creator, who’s soft but persistent voice pushed me ever forward on this journey. I would also like to acknowledge the unwavering support of my daughters Meaganne and Cierra, and their families. Like pillars of concrete, my children are my strength. Strong and stalwart, Meaganne and Cierra give me the courage to carry on when I feel weak. I thank the Creator for the gift and privilege of being their mother. To my siblings, Tina, Roxanne, Mark, and Scott for kindly offering blind belief, despite my sometimes shaky belief in myself, thank you. Dad, I thank you for always expecting more, and for pushing me to push myself and not settle for less than a personal best. You inspire me. Mom, I know you are beaming with pride from your heavenly post. To the Nagy family for their steadfast encouragement and absolute excitement in my pursuit, and especially Sandra, with her clear-headed writing expertise and generous advise, thank you. I need to acknowledge the cooperation of the local Indian centers that led to the individuals who courageously shared their stories and gave voice to the study. And certainly not least, I would like to acknowledge the patience, guidance, and support from my mentor and committee members, especially Dr. Tere North, and the continuous support from all my friends and fellow doctoral learners, too numerous to mention by name. Know that each of you holds a special place in my heart, as we have walked all or in part of this journey together.