Widoktadwen Center for Native Knowledge
What is the name of your solution?
New Narrative Project
Provide a one-line summary of your solution.
Revising the narratives surrounding Native Americans through multi-modal educational tools
Film your elevator pitch.
What specific problem are you solving?
The Widoktadwen Center for Native Knowledge is dedicated to promoting the visibility of Native Americans in Berks County through community education, leadership, and activism. Census results identify Native Americans as a rapidly growing population in the United States. Historically, harmful policies have negatively impacted Native Americans, such as forced removal and boarding schools such as the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, whose mission was to “kill the Indian, save the man” through complete cultural assimilation.
These experiences coupled with the whitewashing of American history obscure the history of horrors perpetrated by the United States government and local militias against Native American people, actions which still greatly impact Native American communities today. Despite the extreme efforts to eradicate Native Americans from the fabric of the country, Native peoples have demonstrated resilience and have arrived at a point in history where indigenous peoples can begin to retrace the steps of their ancestors and pick up the pieces of culture and language that they left behind.
In 2020, the number of people nationwide who identified as Native American and Alaska Native (AIAN) alone and in combination with another race was 9.7 million, up from 5.2 million in 2010. They now account for 2.9% of all the people living in the United States, according to the Census Bureau.
Thousands of indigenous people call Berks County their home. According to the 2020 Census, Berks County is home to over 9,000 American Indians/Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians/Other Pacific Islanders, and other Indigenous peoples. As a minority group, no formal structure exists in the County that specifically focuses on the needs of the Native American community and educational reform related to teaching about Native peoples in K-12 and higher education.
In order to address the invisibility of Native Americans in Berks County and bring about educational narrative change, the Widoktadwen Center for Native Knowledge was founded in October 2020.
What is your solution?
Our solution is to expand upon our New Narrative Project to revise the narratives told about Native Americans through formal and community education. The pandemic hastened many technological changes related to education that can take education beyond the classroom. We plan to review our community's educational needs post-pandemic and invest in technology necessary to create high quality multimodal educational resources well-suited to local educators’ needs.
Strategic planning and investment in technology, which will be crucial to our organization’s success in a post-COVID landscape, is the focus for this solution. The pandemic’s restriction of in-person learning and community building activities has highlighted the need for Widoktadwen to invest in good quality equipment and technology that will allow us to create high quality educational programming and digital materials.
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? In what ways will your solution benefit this community?
The New Narrative Project is meant to be an educational tool for both Natives and non-Natives, in both formal and informal settings. We strongly believe that community representation is critical for promoting positive social outcomes for Native Americans and their communities. The majority of public school students are not taught about Native Americans after 1900, and coupled with the American imagination full of Native stereotypes, the general community has very little working knowledge of Native Americans, if at all.
We have a large urban Native population in Berks County, yet we remain largely invisible in our community due to lack of representation and education. Through targeted community outreach, we are engaging our Native community members in creating narrative change so that they feel empowered to stand strong in their Indigenous identities and tell their stories.
We're also attempting to learn the needs of educators at all education levels and across disciplines. We can provide support to schools for professional development in teaching and learning about Native Americans, and we can connect community members with valuable resources for health, education, and employment. We support local public libraries in providing books and resources for/about Natives, including story times and Native crafts. It's necessary for all us, Native and non-Native, to learn these new narratives so that we can be a part of creating a well-educated and equitable community that recognizes and upholds Indigenous values.
How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?
I am enrolled in the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Shawnee, OK, but I have lived in southeastern Pennsylvania for most of my life. I know what it's like to be invisible as a Native American in my community. I defy the stereotypes, and my identity has often been called into question by those unfamiliar with today's Native Americans. I know what it feels like to have my identity diminished by my peers due to their ignorance.
I noticed the lack of local opportunities to learn about Native Americans accurately and responsibly, and that's how the Widoktadwen Center for Native Knowledge was born. Since no one else was stepping up to do this work, I decided that educating my community in this way is my calling. My passion for this work and my desire for a thriving multicultural community motivates me to find new ways to promote the visibility of Native Americans through education.
Community outreach events offer plentiful opportunities to connect with the Native Americans in my community. When Native folks see our organization represented, they identify themselves to us and talk to us about their experiences, needs, and hopes for the future. We are very accessible to our community and invested in meaningful relationships that advance our mission.
Later this year, we are planning to work with the Berks County Intermediate Unit to revise their social studies standards for K-12 public schools.
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Reading, PA, USA
Our solution's stage of development:Pilot
How many people does your solution currently serve?
Why are you applying to Solve?
I'm hoping that this program can help provide strategic guidance and support as we pursue innovative ways to use technology to promote Native education. I want to be sure that we are producing educational resources that are useful to our community and easy to access and use. I would love to learn more about what teaching technology is out there that I may not be aware of, and how I can leverage that technology to grow our reach and promote our mission.
We'd like to link to our resources from our website and make sure it's easy to connect local educators and community members with the content they need. We would also like to explore other avenues of funding this project in the long term.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
Who is the Team Lead for your solution?
Please indicate the tribal affiliation of your Team Lead.
Citizen Potawatomi Nation
Is the Team Lead a resident of the United States?
Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?
Drive positive outcomes for Native learners of any or all ages while supporting culturally grounded educational opportunities on and/or off reservations.
What makes your solution innovative?
Our solution is innovative because it has the potential to transform our community through promoting the visibility of Native Americans throughout history and today. Education is the foundation for all change, and through our New Narrative Project, we can demonstrate how to create lasting narrative change in our community with innovative tools. With the online availability and ease of access to our resources, we have the potential to reach beyond our immediate physical community to a broader online audience. My hope is that this project sets an example of how to deploy strategies for narrative change by leveraging multimodal resources for Native education, and that it inspires other educators to shift the narrative.
What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?
Impact Goal 1: Educators will be equipped with reliable information and multimodal resources to teach students about Native Americans within their respective disciplines.
Impact Goal 2: Widoktadwen Center for Native Knowledge will increase visibility in the community through resource development and outreach.
Impact Goal 3: Educators, students, and community members will learn more about the histories and contemporary lives of Native people by using our multimodal educational resources.
Impact Goal 1: Widoktadwen is recognized as a leader in Native education.
Impact Goal 2: Berks County has a thriving Indigenous community of intertribal people that maintains cultural and relational connections.
Impact Goal 3: Native education resources are accessible and widely-used by educational institutions and community organizations.
How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?
Outcome 1: Educators will be equipped with reliable information and multimodal resources to teach students about Native Americans within their respective disciplines.
Measure # of educators participating and administer survey about experience.
Increase and evaluate website content to deliver robust educational resources for educators to use to teach students about Native Americans.
Outcome 2: Widoktadwen Center for Native Knowledge will increase visibility in the community.
Measure # of community partnerships and outreach events.
Survey community partners about what they perceive as value of partnership.
Outcome 3: Educators, students, and community members will learn more about the histories and contemporary lives of Native people.
Measure # of students/educators/community members participating.
Offer various special topics relating to Native education to create interdisciplinary avenues to learning about Indigenous peoples.
Survey participants about their experiences and what they learned.
What is your theory of change?
Invisibility is the number one threat to Indigenous communities. Research from the 2018 Reclaiming Native Truth project confirmed that invisibility of Native peoples fuels bias and racism –– in schools, the media, the courts, and Congress. Erasure and invisibility are critical challenges that Native Americans face –– and the scope of the problem is staggering. The research found that 87% of state history standards fail to mention Native American history after 1900, thus contributing to today's pervasive problem of invisibility and the stereotypes that fill the void.
Our New Narrative Project interrupts stereotypes and combats invisibility. Narrative change happens through a variety of strategic actions that shift the dominant story people receive, internalize and act on, consciously and unconsciously. Shifting the dominant narrative can change the way decision-makers and influencers are educated and selected, the way children are taught, and the way funding is distributed. By leveraging multimodal educational resources relating to Native education and cultural enrichment, we can promote the visibility of Native Americans in our community and influence positive social outcomes for Native and non-Natives alike. Emphasizing the strengths of traditional knowledge systems, relationships, and cultural connections improves the social health of our community as a whole.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
We plan for our website to provide easy access to multimodal resources for the community to use in educational institutions. These include audiovisual resources and external links to resources from other providers. We are also looking into the potential impacts of AR or VR in cultivating learning environments. For example, AR that explains the significance of certain locations in the County to Indigenous history, culture, or spirituality, or AR that can supplement the resources we share at community outreach events.
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?
A new application of an existing technology
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
In which states do you currently operate?
In which states will you be operating within the next year?
What type of organization is your solution team?
How many people work on your solution team?
How long have you been working on your solution?
What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?
We are in a prime position to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion through our solution. Our organization is Native-led, with Native Americans represented on our board. We want our educational solutions to be accessible to any learners, regardless of socioeconomic status and/or connection to an academic institution. We bring educational initiatives to our community in order to meet people where they are. In creating multimodal educational materials, we are actively working to make sure that our resources are easy to use and free to access for users. We envision these tools to be used by public and private school educators, homeschoolers, community organizations, and anyone who wants to learn and promote new narratives about Native Americans.
What is your business model?
Our key customers include K-12 educators, higher education institutions, Berks County Intermediate Unit, and the Berks County community. We advocate for the visibility of Native peoples, revision of educational narratives, and improved social health outcomes for Native Americans and our communities. We pride ourselves on being a reliable resource for local Native Americans to connect them with scholarship, training, and employment opportunities, in addition to community health information, cultural enrichment, and youth development. We provide professional development, special topic programs, keynotes, expertise, cultural activities, crafts, and more. Some programs require a fee while others are grant-funded, like our Firekeepers Youth Program. We work with our clients to customize resources or training to their needs. The majority of our funding comes through grants and fundraising rather than through speaking and program fees. We gain most public exposure through direct community outreach events.
Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?
Ongoing fundraising is necessary to continue to fund our operations and programs. In addition to consistent grant writing, we plan to host at least two major fundraising events each year, one being the Indigenous Film Festival and the other a vendor fair. We charge a fee for speaking engagements and other special events. We also plan to offer more one-time event programs, like foraging walks or cooking demos, throughout the year to bring in additional revenue. We intend to pursue government contracts for employment and training support and serve as a certified Assister to help PA residents shop and compare insurance plans on the official state health insurance exchange platform, Pennie.