Systems of Support: What Institutions of Higher Education Can Do for Indigenous Communities

  • Jessica A. Solyom
  • Jeremiah A. Chin
  • Bryan McKinley Jones BrayboyEmail author
  • Amber Poleviyuma
  • Sarah Abuwandi
  • Alexus Richmond
  • Amanda Tachine
  • Colin Ben
  • Megan Bang
Living reference work entry


The purpose of this chapter is to highlight ways institutions of higher education (IHEs) can support culturally relevant community-driven measures and asset-based research that allows Native students to excel academically and display enhanced well-being, self-efficacy, and self-esteem (McCarty, Teach Educ 20:7–29, 2009). This chapter presents an overview of the challenging social and academic context facing Indigenous boys and men (ages 12–25) in the United States. We argue that Indigenous peoples know how to successfully develop research and engaging learning spaces that advance anti-oppressive education and “permits historical and contemporary perspectives of Indigenous material culture to critically wrestle with dominant discourses” so that Native youth develop a stronger sense of identity and self-confidence (Bequette, Stud Art Educ 55:214–226, 2014, p. 215). Programs that prepare Native boys and men to be academically and culturally successful do so by using asset-based approaches to respond to existing need, placing Native peoples in position as leaders, and understanding that successful mentors and highly qualified teachers are not always one and the same. Furthermore, these programs demonstrate a commitment to capacity- and nation-building efforts and respond to historical trauma and coloniality in Indigenous communities. We introduce two programs as examples, one located in the southwest and one in the pacific that demonstrate support for courses of study, activities, or resources designed by community members and education leaders. Using these programs as examples, we offer six principles that appear to guide successful programs. These principles are intended to serve as the beginning of a conversation with the understanding that more can and should be added.

Students are more likely to develop healthy identity formation, be more self-directed and politically active, and have a positive influence on their tribal communities when IHEs recognize the challenges facing Indigenous students and work to complement education programing rather than seek to dominate and control it. This understanding is important because even though they are designed to assist or address issues facing Native youth, IHEs may create programs that overtake, superimpose, or otherwise colonize community efforts. We conclude by offering recommendations for how IHEs can form meaningful relationships and partnership with existing or emerging community-based efforts to create systems of support that center Indigenous communities and knowledges as partners rather than subjects or objects.


Indigenous education Community-based programs Youth Nation building Capacity building 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessica A. Solyom
    • 1
  • Jeremiah A. Chin
    • 2
  • Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy
    • 2
    Email author
  • Amber Poleviyuma
    • 3
  • Sarah Abuwandi
    • 4
  • Alexus Richmond
    • 5
    • 8
  • Amanda Tachine
    • 6
  • Colin Ben
    • 1
  • Megan Bang
    • 7
  1. 1.Arizona State University, School of Social TransformationTempeUSA
  2. 2.Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  3. 3.Hopi-Tewa Women’s Coalition to end AbuseSecond MesaUSA
  4. 4.Arizona State UniversityPhoenixUSA
  5. 5.University of Colorado BoulderDenverUSA
  6. 6.American Indian College FundDenverUSA
  7. 7.Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  8. 8.Indian education at Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy
    • 1
  • Megan Bang
    • 2
  1. 1.Arizona State UniversityArizonaUSA
  2. 2.College of EducationUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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