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Learning through the language: A critical autoethnography of a Non-Native among two Indigenous language communities

Kristine M Sudbeck, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation features a personal narrative of a Non-Native researcher learning two Indigenous languages, Ho-Chunk and Omaha, in northeast Nebraska. Presented in the three publishable pieces format, the first manuscript features an argument for expanding Critical Language and Race Theory (LangCrit) to encompass the unique circumstances that have contributed to the current context of Indigenous languages. After problematizing the three reified concepts of race, language and identity, the author argues that three key factors differentiate the experiences of Indigenous language communities: colonization, dual-citizenship status, and the perception of (dis)appearing languages. The second manuscript focused on the complexities of the research process. Provided the historical trends of dehumanizing research in Native American communities, the researcher illustrates the efforts she took to address the complexities of interactions that underlie research between Non-Native and Native communities. Drawing on the five tenants of Critical Indigenous Research Methodologies (Brayboy, Gough, Leonard, Roehl & Solyom, 2012), she discussed her experience with the research process as it revolved around three key themes: ongoing negotiations, getting it wrong, and adapting the research process. Within this work, the author attempts to provide a transparent lens into the research process by naming the privileges she has within this context and working towards transcending this power. The final manuscript featured in this dissertation was a critical autoethnography of the author’s own experience as a Non-Native researcher learning two Indigenous languages. Using LangCrit (Crump, 2014) as the theoretical lens, the author explored the complex intersections of her visible and audible identities in the context of colonization. Together, this dissertation yields social and educational implications. First, schools, teachers, and teacher education programs should consider language as a way to develop culturally sustaining pedagogical methods, particularly for those serving Indigenous youth. Second, by reframing our understanding of individuals’ unique idiolects (rather than bounded languages), we may be more likely to recognize, and appreciate, the translanguaging practices that occur within the classroom, the home, and the community. This paradigmatic shift has the potential to move beyond the terminal narrative of Indigenous language death and affirms the linguistic survivance occurring within Indigenous language communities.

Subject Area

Teacher education|Language|Native American studies

Recommended Citation

Sudbeck, Kristine M, "Learning through the language: A critical autoethnography of a Non-Native among two Indigenous language communities" (2016). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI10104384.