From Oklahoma, the land of ‘red people’, from the Choctaw word oklahumma, my name is Linda Sue Warner. I am a member of the Comanche Tribe of Oklahoma and have worked in schools since 1970. As a former tenured faculty member at Tier 1 universities and President Emerita of the oldest continuously operated American Indian boarding school, I have multiple experiences with research and evaluation practices in Indian Country. For years, my colleagues and I have encouraged, supported, and mentored American Indian/Alaska Native students in mainstream doctoral programs. Our own experiences have taught us lessons, much like gender lessons, where women have to be better than men to get the same status; so, too, do American Indians in academia have to be well-trained and well-read to be considered “equal.” Our own tribal communities’ oral traditions link with qualitative methods, long thought to be less rigorous than quantitative methods. For all our encouragement, we still lack significant numbers of American Indian/Alaska Native trained professionals. For American Indian/Alaska Native evaluators, it is essential to be able to “walk in two worlds” methodologically, as well as culturally. The ultimate goal (you’ll forgive my quoting Shakespeare’s The Tempest here, but I was an English teacher first) is similar to Caliban’s speech to Prospero:
You taught me language, and my profit on’t
Is I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
For learning me your language!(I.ii.366-368)
This quote reflects the vexed relationship between the colonizer and the colonized. Those of us who choose academia know their rules before we begin. Our goal is not a continued string of curses to the academy, it is to change the academy by expanding our numbers so that our voices, our traditional languages, and our methods are recognized for the value these perspectives bring to understanding the world.
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