Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


Date of this Version



A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Human Sciences, Specialization: Child, Youth, and Family Studies, Under the Supervision of Professor Carolyn Pope Edwards. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2009

Copyright (c) 2009 Linda Mayo Willis


This study investigated American Indian child care directors’ perceptions of the reservation community’s efforts to promote and preserve cultural integrity in the local transmission of cultural values to children aged birth to five who are enrolled in tribal child care programs on American Indian reservations. In addition, the study addressed the directors’ perceptions of how statewide child care quality improvement systems are (or are not) assisting them in their efforts to promote continuity of cultural education and quality child care. Sixteen American Indian directors from child care centers in tribal communities participated in a multiple case study design. The program directors, each a member of a different tribe, represented sites located in diverse geographic regions including the Great Plains, Great Lakes, Appalachian Mountains, Rocky Mountains, southern Gulf coast, Piedmont woodlands, Southwestern desert, Northeastern maritime and Pacific Northwest. The participants were selected to provide variation among different stages in their professional careers and encountering different kinds and levels of challenges in their work (four equal groups defined by two factors: (a) leadership experience; and (b) tribal affiliation). The project builds on earlier research (Willis, 1999) which suggested the influence of these factors. A set of 32 semi-structured interview questions elicited the directors’ views and the interviews were followed up by inspection of child care facilities, artifacts, and documents to allow directors to clarify or elaborate. This national study, the first of its kind, examines the interface between the implementation of child care quality improvement systems cultural preservation and Native language education efforts in tribal child care programs. Key findings from this study revealed that tribal child care programs play an important role in facilitating cultural continuity and education for young children living in American Indian reservation communities.