Community-based learning: Why I am here

Blog Home    |     04.27.2017 by     |    


I came into public scholarship long before my formal education began. I am a member of the Hoopa Valley Tribe in northwestern California and our community based education begins early in life. We sing to each other, dance, and grow up knowing our histories and stories before we step foot inside of a classroom. Growing up, I noticed that the stories I heard day to day in my household, about our culture, people, and contribution to the world around us, were never told accurately or fairly in academic settings: American Indians were relegated to the past. I remember vividly in kindergarten making “macaroni Indian necklaces” and receiving the name, “Princess Cactus Flower” and reflecting, even at five years old, how that vision was wrong. I also remember my grandfather’s anger and him coming into the classroom to “set the record straight” much to the chagrin of my teacher.

It is this desire to set the record straight that has brought me here. I have an undergraduate degree in History, a Master’s in Public History, and now am embarking on Ph.D. in Native American Studies in the hope of privileging the stories of indigenous and people of color through public humanities work. Native American Studies is a very community based field, it is the main reason I decided to join the program (aside from the amazing faculty, of course), and the support from the program to tell our stories, in our own way, has been invaluable. Outside of the NAS program, however, I find that public humanities work is looked down on and disregarded. My hope is to demonstrate that community based scholarship is as rigorous, as research intensive, and is as valuable as any other academic endeavor. I have always believed that education, and what is produced from that education, should be given back to communities. I hope to make my own contribution, in a small way, through the Mellon Public Scholarship program this summer.