Honoring our heritage: culturally appropriate approaches for teaching indigenous students

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Calgary]On: 07 October 2014, At: 16:53Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Journal of Multilingual andMulticultural DevelopmentPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rmmm20

    Honoring our heritage: culturallyappropriate approaches for teachingindigenous studentsAugie Fleras aa Department of Sociology , University of Waterloo , Waterloo ,ON , CanadaPublished online: 24 Feb 2012.

    To cite this article: Augie Fleras (2012) Honoring our heritage: culturally appropriate approachesfor teaching indigenous students, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 33:3,315-316, DOI: 10.1080/01434632.2012.656973

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01434632.2012.656973


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  • of whether or not (as she claims in her introduction) western-origin theories need to be

    modified to account for the situation in the Arab world.

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01434632.2012.656971 Eirlys E. Davies and Abdelali Bentahila

    Abdelmalek Essaadi University

    BP 1220 Tanger Principal, Tangier, Morocco

    eirlys_davies@hotmail.com; bentahilaali@hotmail.com

    # 2012, Eirlys E. Davies and Abdelali Bentahila

    Honoring our heritage: culturally appropriate approaches for teaching indigenous students,

    edited by Jon Reyhner, Willard Sakiestewa Gilbert and Louise Lockard, Flagstaff, Arizona,

    Northern Arizona University College of Education, 2011, xii198 pp., $20.00 (paperback),ISBN 978-0-96705-545-9

    Indigenous language revitalization: encouragement, guidance and lessons learned, edited by Jon

    Reyhner and Louise Lockhard, Flagstaff, Arizona, Northern Arizona University College of

    Education, 2009, viii214 pp., $15.00 (paperback), ISBN 978-0-96705-544-2

    The child shall lead the way

    Te Kohanga Reo Foundational Principle

    I was very fortunate to have witnessed and studied the birth and spectacular growth of a

    revolutionary language reclamation/learning project as part of a post-doctoral fellowship I

    accepted in the early 1980s. Language immersion preschools called Te Kohanga Reo (TKR) Maori language nests focused on averting the rapid decline of te reo Maori (the Maorilanguage) among the youth (rangatahi) of the different Maori tribes (hapu and iwi) in

    Aotearoa, New Zealand. The focus of TKR on language skills for infants and preschoolers

    (mokopuna), through immersion in te reo was unprecedented. Even more innovative was the

    process, centred on an extended-family (whanau) approach in the design, organisation and

    operation of each language nest. Instead of enlisting experts and aligning formal teachers with

    convoluted curricula/pedagogical theories, the authenticity of these language nests relied on

    the goodwill and voluntary efforts of the entire community from elders (kaumatua) whooffered a culturally safe environment for language and culture (tikanga) learning, to the

    unpaid contributions and labour of parents and youth in operating full-day immersion on a

    shoestring budget.

    To say that TKR proved a splendid success in mobilising Maori is an understatement.

    From its inception in 1982, to 1994, there emerged 800 language nests nationwide, catering to

    some 14,000 preschoolers, and eventually exerting pressure to extend Maori immersion into

    primary (kura kaupapa) and secondary schools (whare kura), culminating in the establishment

    of language-based tertiary institutions (whare wananga). With about 60,000 graduates of the

    TKR movement, the decline of te reo appears to have been curbed, thus ensuring its status as a

    living language. The popularity and success of TKR also contributed to (or perhaps even

    served as a catalyst in) the politicisation of Maori-Crown relations along the lines of Maori

    self-determination (tino rangatiratanga) in effect demonstrating how theory could be put intopractice, and vice versa. The concept of community-based language nests was subsequently

    adopted by other Pacific cultures in New Zealand, including Fijian, Tongan, Samoan and

    Rarotangan, and then deployed with some degree of success in a Hawaiian context (Puanana


    Images of the TKR project kept dancing in and out of the pages of the books under review

    here. The collection of articles in Honoring Our Heritage serves to remind us how indigenous

    students in the USA like the rangatahi down under experience difficulty in finding

    Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 315




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  • meaning in a decontextualised and one-size-fits-all curriculum, including a standardised

    instruction schedule that is disconnected from their cultures, communities and lives. Too many

    indigenous students find the school experience alienating and success elusive; after all, they

    must become someone other than themselves, speak a language that does not resonate with

    their innermost intentions, and behave like strangers when they discover the irrelevance of

    their learning at home and the community. This collection is predicated on the premise that

    educating indigenous youth can be improved by building upon their cultural heritage and

    involving both family and community. The first two chapters provide an overview of the

    principles associated with culturally appropriate education, while the last two reflect case

    studies in indigenising education. In between are numerous examples of students and teachers

    engaging in the practices of a collaborative and community-based learning experience, linking

    culture and home life with a meaningful and effective educational programme.

    Woven throughout the chapters is a commitment to the principle of culturally appropriate

    education, one that melds curriculum with pedagogy, including a rethinking of institutional

    organisation and power structures; school policies, programmes and procedures; and levels of

    community involvement. The plea for culturally appropriate education is not just a basic

    human right and good educational practice, it is argued, but also consistent with the principles

    of indigenous peoples self-determination, as enshrined in Article 14 of the Declaration of the

    Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007). Finally, many of the authors endorse the value of a place-

    based education (alongside a culturally responsive and learner-centred system) for its role in

    strengthening communities and responding to their needs, while capitalising on local talent,

    expertise and resources without taxing band/tribe revenues.

    No less interesting is Indigenous Language Revitalization. It too consists of selected articles

    and speeches taken from the annual Stabilizing Indigenous Languages conferences. Most of

    the papers are generally descriptive of strategies and tactics for enhancing language retention in some ways reflective of the books subtitle including two articles that touch on aspects andimplications of TKR. As well, there are several more theoretical pieces, dealing with the

    politics of ideological justification, the effectiveness of technology and the role of linguists in

    language reclamation work. At the heart of each article is a passionate commitment to

    preserving indigenous languages as the heartbeat of a culture. The transmission of language to

    children must take precedence over everything else, preferably through an immersion

    environment that empowers as it enlightens a theme most eloquently expressed in anintroductory chapter by Darrell Kipp of the Piegan Institute. To the extent that they exist,

    disagreements among the contributors tend to revolve about how best to put this principle into

    practice for overturning the toxicity of centurie