Scott Lyons

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




There has been a good deal of talk about "'multicultural education" in the past few years; at the center of these discussions are issues of ethics, politics, and values. What does it mean to be "multicultural"? How does one's culture figure into pedagogical situations—as a teacher? as a student? How should these complex social and historical backgrounds be utilized at the university? Finally, what are the cultural costs of a university education for students, especially those students from historically oppressed cultural backgrounds?

This study specifically examines the situation of Native American students in the university writing classroom. Drawing upon many different disciplines and methodologies—ethnography, autobiography, composition theory, and cultural studies—it is foremost a personal account of the author's attempt to develop a politically responsible pedagogy for teaching writing to Indian students, one which not only seeks to understand and respect Native American life and culture(s), but which attempts to utilize it as a means of teaching critical consciousness.

The study begins with questions of representation, addressing various theoretical orientations to issues of ’’writing culture”: "accuracy,” responsibility, methodology, and counter-hegemonic criticism. The author gives a select account of his own Indian family background, specifically discussing the relationships between education and assimilation. In addition to "representing" himself, his family, and his legacy, the autobiographical histories also raise several prominent issues: what "messages" pertai .ing to culture and "success" are given by educators to Indian students? What are the ramifications of those messages? How can they be resisted or revised?

Ethnographic descriptions of the author's teaching experience in two Native American classrooms bring out several Indian cultural features, aspects of life which are usually ignored or even denigrated in the university: religion, politics, and Indian-white relations. Focusing on these issues in class led to an uncomfortable classroom setting, but also show promise for new ways of thinking about Indian students and pedagogy.

Following Gloria Anzaldua, the author suggests approaching and revising the writing classroom through the development of a "mixedblood pedagogy," a theoretical orientation which foregrounds and theorizes difference, "straddles cultures," and highlights political, cultural, and epistemological contradictions.