Title

An Interview Study of Native American Philosophical Foundations in Education

Date of Award

8-1-1997

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Education, Health & Behavior Studies

Abstract

The purpose of this research was to focus on oral Native American world views or philosophies. Native world views and philosophies and epistemology deal with the foundation of knowledge of and about aboriginal peoples. In most cases oral traditions are thousands of years old and have maintained their philosophical value. Prior to the establishment of Western education, narratives among indigenous people were used to teach and educate in the most formal sense. Today it serves as a credible and authentic source in Native American education and is weighted with the same importance that it has always had. The re-discovery of collecting oral traditions from Native peoples deserves attention in educational institutions among scholars of predominantly Euro-American origins.

Qualitative research methods were used in the study including participant observation, interviews and a review of available literature written by or about the interview participant. Triangulated features involved traveling to the home community of the participants and participating in gatherings and visits to historical sites. Data were analyzed for themes or commonalities, and results were discussed in relationship to the literature. Recommendations for teachers and teacher educators were provided.

The question, “How would you define wisdom?” began this study. The purpose of this study was to describe what five Native elders from various Native communities acquired in terms of their knowledge about their Native teachings. As the study developed the importance of a theoretical base concerning Native American philosophy was supplemented by the importance of documenting oral traditions.

Four themes emerged as a result of this study:

1. The concept of respect is referred to and is applied to everyday living and lifeways. It is so highly revered among the participants that they believe that no kind of learning or teaching could go on without it.

2. Spirituality is a cultural principal that permeates every aspect of Native life was taught to the participants by their relatives and ancestors.

3. The participants profess that family relationships among most Native people has always included extended family.

4. The participants report that many educational approaches were the most powerful agents in influencing the world view and personal philosophies among Native people.

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