UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Unmeasurable phenomenon : Native American students overrepresented in early school leaving but underrepresented in the data Keegahn, Leah Joyce


American Indian students persistently have the highest dropout rates compared to all other racial and ethnic groups but we cannot describe educational pathways for this group due to problems with data. Lack of data for American Indian students is a primary obstacle facing researchers interested in tracking educational outcomes for these students. This dissertation explores connections between the U.S. government’s creation of colonial categories that produced American Indian identities and their lack of representation within educational data. Colonial efforts to remove the Indian from society has resulted in ongoing struggles over land, sovereignty and identity which has been informed by views of Indigenous inferiority and white superiority. This dissertation critically examines questions of Indigenous education and data sovereignty by considering U.S. governmental data and statistics that are publicly accessible to researchers interested in educational outcomes and in the underrepresentation of American Indian students within these data sets. It also examines Indigenous sovereignty over education through a case study of two Coast Salish tribes, the Lummi Nation and Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and their responses to a colonial educational system through the tribal curriculum, “Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State.” This initiative and other efforts to claim Indigenous sovereignty over education highlights what is missing from public education and what these tribes would like their students to learn.

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