Rez talk: How reservation residents describe achievement
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In a recent meta-review of literature on research projects (Demmert, 2002) associated with improved academic performance of Native students, it was noted that, out of over 8,000 documents, only a little over 100 studies provide evidence of what does or doesn't work to improve academic performance. Knowledge about characteristics of successful Native students has been studied in typical research methodology, with surveys and pre-determined semi-structured interviews. What are missing are acculturated approaches and analyses and a look at the larger community structure that impacts student development through a cultural lens. Perhaps we need to look past the standard benchmark of academic achievement. What do native peoples consider to be meaningful achievements in life? What attributes or structures do Native peoples perceive as helping them in their achievements? In this study, an intergenerational sample of Haudenosaunee (aka Iroquois) reservation residents described achievement. The participants were 14 recent high school graduates, with 12 parents and 6 grandparents. The general questions asked about what is important or meaningful were open-ended, leading to narrower follow-up questions about what possible backgrounds or social infrastructures may have played a role in their perceptions of achievement. A modified Grounded Theory approach was used in the analysis with a keen awareness of the recent work on 'decolonization' was maintained throughout the study, with special notes made of the process in the analysis. Examining the very definition of achievement across generations of reservation residents gives a foundation for understanding for the findings, motivational factors of collectivist values, and core traditional values of helping others, selflessness, patience, strength in community and humor Understanding these underlying cultural values may help development of more effective academic programs, assessment and educational environments.