Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-15-2017


This study is an educational memoir of my experience working for education liberation with hundreds of Diné (Navajo) people written in the style of auto-ethnography. We are indigenous to what is now known as the southwestern United States and organize in the wake of attempted genocide and destructive assimilation policies. Our collective set out to answer the following question: If we could teach and learn anything we wanted, in any way we wanted, what would we do? Based on our ancestral Nitsáhakees-Nahat’á-Iiná-Sii Hasin strategic framework, this Diné collective organized a summer school that reflected their hearts’ true pedagogical desires. What resulted was a month-long community-sufficiency curriculum taught by traditional elders and local experts in unconventional “classrooms” distributed throughout our ancestral homeland. This study follows my journey as a co-organizer and student of the summer school and all the epiphanies that ensued. It was found that, when given the freedom to choose, my people tend towards a pedagogical style that is: intergenerational, geographically decentralized, experiential, ceremonial, ecological, traditional, communal, place-based, kinship-based, consensual, synergistic, healing, gendered, skills/craft-based, practical, outdoor, popular, methodical, systematic, self-led, self-sustaining, engaging, mobile, fun and easier to implement due to shared leadership and responsibility. This study encourages Indigenous Peoples to: 1) have faith in ourselves, each other and our ancestral curricula, 2) honor our traditional planning processes as effective organizing tools, 3) think outside the colonial education box, 4) consider the effects our teaching practices have on the natural world, and 5) practice and hone the profound art of sharing power.


Community Curriculum Development, Self-Determination, Indigenous Education, Decolonization, Diné, Consensus Planning

Document Type




Degree Name

Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)

Gregory Cajete

Second Committee Member

Vincent Werito

Third Committee Member

Ricky Allen


This is an educational memoir of my experience working for Diné education liberation. It's a story of how I came to work with over 300 Diné community members to dream, plan, implement and enjoy our very own school. Thank you for peering into a world of living and learning that grows from the seeds of The People’s dreams and from the soil of The People’s hearts. May it help us to revalue our own epistemologies and walk free from these intellectual fetters that the colonial state has placed on us for far too long. May it give all Indigenous peoples greater courage to be just exactly who we are.