Indigenous Geoscience Education
One-line solution summary:
Indigenous research frameworks can transform mainstream geoscience education through place-based, culturally relevant geoscience experiences
Pitch your solution.
Diversity in the geosciences has stagnated over the past forty years, with Indigenous peoples representing only ~1% of geoscience degree-holders according to recent reports. Research initiatives highlighting Indigenous perspectives of science and higher education over this same time period have shown that Western science and Indigenous Knowledge need to be deliberately connected in ways that respect Indigenous values in order to meet the needs of Indigenous communities. Increasing the pursuit of geoscience careers among Indigenous community members through constructivist approaches to valuing Indigenous Knowledge alongside Western science will help diversify the geoscience workforce and create opportunities for Indigenous governments to retain community members that understand the cultural values of their home communities as well as the scientific information needed to make sustainable land management decisions. This project will develop geoscience education materials for K-16 instructors that connect Western science to Indigenous Knowledge and can be adapted to various Indigenous communities.
What specific problem are you solving?
Acoma Pueblo is one of the oldest continually inhabited communities in North America. Our people have always provided opportunities for the next generation to learn and uphold responsibilities associated with the Indigenous Knowledge our community holds. Natural resources and land management have always been a part of these responsibilities, however climate change and contemporary political processes have disrupted our community's traditional forms of passing on Acoma Pueblo Indigenous Knowledge. Many Elders from our community feel that there should be more Acoma community members with scientific expertise that will be able to help our community interact with outside scientists and the US Government in a way that doesn’t compromise our Traditional values. Currently, much of the scientific expertise used by our Tribal Council is gathered from outsiders to our community who do not have access to culturally sensitive information and so cannot surmise all of the implications that Western science may have for the Acoma community. In addition, science education research conducted among Indigenous populations has shown that Western modern science continues to perpetuate disparate educational outcomes for learners from underrepresented groups, especially Indigenous peoples. This project will help strengthen the Acoma Pueblo Indigenous Knowledge system while also teaching Western science.
What is your solution?
This project will develop place-based, culturally relevant geoscience education curricula that are amenable to state educational standards but also uphold Acoma Pueblo Indigenous Knowledge. The development of these curricula will be documented so that other Indigenous communities can use them to create curricula that is aligned to their community's Indigenous values. Community members who are fluent in Keres, the Traditional language of the Acoma people, will be engaged in the development of the science curricula so that the learning of Western scientific concepts is coupled with learning Keres vocabulary and concepts. The activities will incorporate active learning techniques that focus on Traditional Acoma Pueblo uses of earth materials such as the building/upkeep of Traditional homes, adobe bread ovens, the gathering of clay for pottery, the gathering of minerals for Traditional paints, and the identification of Traditional farming lands. This holistic approach will engage community members of all ages who wish to learn Traditional Acoma Pueblo technologies that have enabled our community to endure for centuries. The resulting curricula will be approved by the Acoma Pueblo Tribal Council and presented to the local, Tribally-operated Haak'u Community Academy as an example of scientific curricula that is culturally meaningful for the Acoma community.
Strong preference will be given to Native-led solutions that directly benefit and are located within the Indigenous communities. Which community(s) does your solution benefit?
This project will serve the Acoma Pueblo community in New Mexico. The activities developed for this project are action-oriented and are not meant to be relegated only to the classroom, but instead will result in tangible benefits for community members. For example, as learners are taught Traditional methods for creating adobe homes, they will also be learning about the geologic history of the rocks that are used to build the homes. A culminating project would be for participants to help repair Traditional homes of community members that would otherwise not be affordable. This approach not only helps current community members in need but also prepares the next generation of Acoma people to retain the Indigenous Knowledge of our Ancestors while also providing a context for how this Indigenous Knowledge relates to Western modern science. In effect, these students (and other community members) would be better prepared to pursue STEM-related opportunities in high school and/or college while maintaining a strong sense of their Acoma Pueblo identity.
In another aspect, this project will help Acoma community members share the Indigenous Knowledge they hold with others in the community. This will increase the social capital of everyone in the community who participates because we will have developed a network of people who identify as Indigenous Knowledge holders as well as creating opportunities for the sharing of Indigenous Knowledge within Traditional Acoma Pueblo social contexts. This would not be possible in Western modern science classrooms.
I will use Indigenous research frameworks to develop the project timeline and to engage with community members as well as the Acoma Pueblo Tribal Government throughout the life of the project. Indigenous research frameworks center Indigenous perspectives and provide opportunities for reflexive approaches to engaging with Indigenous communities. Indigenous research frameworks also dictate that Indigenous communities retain data sovereignty over all products of research, which for this project will include all of the curricular materials that are developed. I have previously developed a set of geoscience education modules that were conceived from a Western scientific perspective at Acoma Pueblo as well as the Yakama Nation using Indigenous research frameworks. The outcomes from this NSF-funded project (Award # 1712378, "GeoConnections") showed that there was indeed interest from Acoma Pueblo community members in developing connections between Acoma Pueblo Indigenous Knowledge and Western science. Some of the participants voiced that they would have preferred to learn about these connections in a more "Traditional" setting rather than in a classroom environment. This project will meet this need identified by the Acoma Pueblo community while serving to better prepare community members for pursuing geoscience-related careers.
Which dimension of the Fellowship does your solution most closely address?Support language and cultural revitalization, quality K-12 education, and support for first-generation college students
Explain how the problem, your solution, and your solution’s target population relate to the Fellowship and your selected dimension.
Negative sociopolitical interactions between Acoma Pueblo community members and outsiders to our community have resulted in suspicion and concern when scientists attempt to engage with our young people and/or propose research projects within our community. This project will provide an exemplar for how Western modern science can be called to served the needs of the Acoma Pueblo community. With this shift in power dynamic Acoma Pueblo governing entities may see the potential for strengthening our Acoma culture by preparing the next generation of Acoma people with Western science so that our community has scientists who also understand our cultural needs.
In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?Acoma Pueblo, NM, USA
What is your solution’s stage of development?Prototype: A venture or organization building and testing its product, service, or business model
Who is the primary delegate for your solution?
Dr. Darryl Reano
Please indicate the tribal affiliation of your primary delegate.
Acoma Pueblo & Kewa Pueblo
Is your primary delegate a member of the community in which your project is based?
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?A new application of an existing technology
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
Indigenous research frameworks are becoming more widely known as a potential way for academic researchers to engage with Indigenous communities with Western science in a respectful, ethical manner. Many of these frameworks, such as Tribal Critical Race Theory, involve a critical perspective that entails deep attention to power dynamics between the researcher and the Indigenous community, tangible benefits of the research for the Indigenous community, and institutional injustices such as the marginalized sociopolitical status of Indigenous communities in the United States. These issues may often be addressed within social scientific research projects, but are less commonly considered within physical science research frameworks, especially within the geosciences. Acoma Pueblo is a unique Indigenous community that has retained a Traditional way of life through colonization and maintains a deep spiritual connection to our Traditional Homelands. These Traditional Homelands are part of a unique physiographic province known as the Colorado Plateau, which exposes local stratigraphy that has little deformation. This project is unique because we will approach learning/teaching about Western science from an Indigenous perspective using Traditional Acoma contexts for passing on Indigenous Knowledge rather than relying on Western scientific pedagogies that relegate learning/teaching Indigenous Knowledge to a secondary, optional outcome.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
This project will focus on the ancestral technology and practices of the Acoma Pueblo people that utilize earth materials to support our Traditional ways of life. Adobe homes require yearly upkeep which includes gathering stone blocks from the local geologic framework as well as processes for extracting natural cements from specific geologic formations to create "whitewash". Specific deposits of clay are gathered from the local area, mixed with other earth materials (e.g. minerals, previously fired pottery shards), and formed into Traditional pottery that is used for practical purposes (e.g. gathering water, storing food) as well as a source of income for many Acoma community members. These technologies have been developed over thousands of years and the practices involved with these technologies is imbued with spiritual significance as well as Traditional teachings that are meant to perpetuate our Traditional worldview. Since colonization, succeeding generations of Acoma community members have been pressured to assimilate to non-Acoma ways of life, often with the perception that Traditional ways of being must be forsaken. This project will confront this cognitive dissonance by providing examples for how Indigenous Knowledge and Western science can enhance learning about the ancestral technologies and practices of Acoma Pueblo.
Provide evidence that this technology works.
My PhD dissertation (link above) describes how I have used Indigenous research frameworks in previous research. The chapter titled "Empowering Traditional Knowledge Using Indigenous Research Frameworks at Acoma Pueblo, NM" describes in detail the outcomes from my previous research at Acoma Pueblo which included: the contextualization of Western scientific concepts with Acoma Pueblo cultural values/experiences (i.e. "geoconnections"), adherence to Acoma societal norms through power sharing with Acoma Elders, and a recognition that using Indigenous research frameworks provided a way for students learning Western science to maintain their Acoma identity.
Acoma Pueblo community members have been using their ancestral technologies since time immemorial. Their continued existence and practice of Traditional ways of being lend credence to the ongoing viability of these ancestral technologies, undeterred by contemporary challenges including climate change, racism, neoliberalism, and colonization. The protection and promulgation of these Traditional technologies is imperative to maintaining the Acoma Pueblo way of being even while we learn to utilize Western science to support our Traditional ways of life and address inequity between our community and dominant society.
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
What is your theory of change?
The Indigenous research framework I use has relationships to critical theory, multicultural education, and social justice theory. Using backward design in conjunction with this framework allows for the development of Indigenous Knowledge/Western science education experiences that do not ignore the sociopolitical context of the Acoma Pueblo community and the values of Acoma culture. The transformational component of these frameworks require that the research project does not end in theory but enacts tangible change that the community recognizes as a long-term benefit. Results from my previous research in the Acoma community supports the idea that culturally relevant geoscience educational experiences support the affirmation of Acoma Pueblo identity can be established when learning Western science (Reano, 2019).
Secondly, this project will help establish a method for developing curriculum that recognizes Indigenous Knowledge as valid, reliable, and important for understanding Western science. The ongoing oversight and approval of project activities by the Acoma Tribal Government will adhere to Acoma Pueblo community protocols and establish trust within the community that this approach does not conflict with Traditional Acoma Pueblo values. This relationship of trust has been ongoing for the past 7 years during which I have been in regular communication with Tribal Officials to ensure they understand the motivations and purposes of my research. Considering this project and its participants as "communities of practice" (Fisher et al., 2019) the Tribal governing Officials are important leaders that have sway over how the Acoma Pueblo community perceives Western science. As a member of Acoma Pueblo as well as a trained geologist, Darryl Reano, represents an "insider broker" that is positioned to present Western science in a sensitive manner that respects Acoma Pueblo cultural protocols.
Fisher, K. Q., Kaufman, E., Calagna, O., Myles, L., Brinkworth, C., Simmons, D. R., & Dixon, P. G. (2019). Developing scientists as champions of diversity to transform the geosciences. Journal of Geoscience Education, 67 (4), 459-471.
Reano, D. (2019). GeoConnections: The impacts of geoscience education informed by Indigenous research frameworks. (Doctoral Thesis). Retrieved from https://hammer.figshare.com. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25394/PGS.8...
Select the key characteristics of your target population.
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?
In which state(s) do you currently operate?
In which state(s) will you be operating within the next year?
How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?
Currently, ~30 people (students and community members) from the Acoma Pueblo and Yakama community are served by preliminary versions of this project.
In one year, ~30 people will continue to be served.
In five years, ~100 people will be served as we develop regular cycles for implementing the activities developed in this project in multiple locations.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
There are two major goals for this project over the next 5 years:
1. Document the development of place-based, culturally-relevant geoscience education curricula that is adaptable for K-16 Indigneous students and implement these curricula at Haak'u Community Academy and within informal educational settings on the Acoma Pueblo Reservation.
2. Begin working with other Tribal Governments (e.g. Yakama Nation Tribal Council) to replicate the process for developing geoscience education modules using Indigenous Knowledge as a foundation for teaching Western science within authentic, cultural contexts.
Goal 1 will be achieved through engagement with current science teachers at Haak'u Community Academy and the Director for Education Services at Acoma Pueblo. This will ensure that state standards are achievable through the curricula that is developed and increasing the likelihood that the developed curricula are used in the future at Haak'u Community Academy.
Goal 2 will be achieved by gaining the approval of the Yakama Nation Tribal Council to develop educational experiences that incorporate Yakama Indigenous Knowledge. Previous research I have conducted with this community resulted in educational modules that were focused on the Yakama Nation Climate Change Adaptation Plan and incorporated only the Indigenous Knowledge that was shared within that document. This goal will require working with the Yakama Nation Higher Education office and the identification of Indigenous scholars from the Yakama Nation who are willing to invest the time to develop geoscience education curricula, following the process this project will develop using Indigenous research frameworks.
What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?
The primary barrier over the next five years include time as a limiting factor. Establishing trust with Indigenous communities as a representative of Western science is difficult and demands a level of accountability that is underappreciated within academia. Timelines for achieving outcomes are often extended because the everyday life situations of Indigenous community members does not always allow for them to focus on anything beyond survival. In addition, Tribal government officials change regularly and so long-term projects may not always be be received the same way by different Tribal Officials.
How do you plan to overcome these barriers?
Gaining trust in the Acoma Pueblo community requires a presence within the community. This means that I will need to be present for cultural activities throughout the year as a way to maintain relationships with community members. In effect, Acoma community members will be able to identify me as a member of the community who is invested in our Traditional way of life and will recognize that my intentions as a Western scientific researcher do not involve assimilation but are focused on upholding Traditional Acoma Pueblo values. This will also require regular presentations to the Acoma Tribal Council so they are informed of the progress of the project and are ensured that they have direct control over the project activities. By maintaining regular communication with the Tribal Council and the wider community, it will be more likely that community members who are chosen to be on the Tribal Council every year will be aware of this project's activities, goals, and motivations.
What type of organization is your solution team?Not registered as any organization
How many people work on your solution team?
1 person is currently working on this project. However, more people will join the team as development of the curricula continues and community members are recruited to share Indigenous Knowledge technologies and practices.
How many years have you worked on your solution?
Why are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?
Darryl Reano has a B.S. and M.S. in geology taught by Western scientific institutions of higher education (New Mexico State University and Purdue University). I also have a Ph.D. in geoscience education (Purdue University).
One of my major goals as an educator and researcher is to continue to promote diverse and equitable practices within higher education, especially the geosciences. In the future, my research is building towards understanding how the respectful practices inherent to Indigenous research frameworks can move beyond academic research and pedagogy into the realms of professional development, mentoring, nation building, and community revitalization. I currently use Indigenous research frameworks to design my research projects, to facilitate communication with Indigenous communities that I collaborate with, and also to teach and mentor undergraduate and graduate students.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are important facets of both my professional career as a researcher and my personal life as a gay, Native American man who grew up on the Acoma Pueblo Reservation in New Mexico. My experiences as a diverse student within predominantly White geology departments have informed my understanding of the need for developing ways to contextualize geoscientific research for underrepresented communities of learners. My current research uses the same foundational principles that underlie multicultural education theory, social justice theory, as well as critical race theory to create inclusive educational environments. Using these frameworks within educational environments has shown great potential for empowering underrepresented students to feel respected, valued, supported, and enriched by their academic experiences within higher education.
Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, or to other organizations?Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?