Date of this Version
Science and Native American Communities, a provocative collection of essays from an unprecedented 1997 conference of Native American professionals in academia, science, engineering, and health sciences, explores "the uneasy meeting ground" between Western science and traditional wisdom.
Education, particularly in the sciences, is not value-neutral to Native peoples. Rather than education's poster children, many of the text's nineteen contributors are survivors of failed educational experiments: mission schools, boarding schools, externally imposed values, forced relocations. To editor Keith James (Onondaga), a professor of psychology, "Education has historically been associated with physical and sexual abuse and the emotional and cultural battery of Indian people." Told by a mission school guidance counselor, "You are average; you will never go to college," Gerri Shangreaux (Oglala Lakota) was relocated by the BIA from Pine Ridge to Los Angeles to train as a nurse's aide. A professor of nursing, Shangreaux, like most contributors, weaves a touching personal story into her professional commentary, which makes for compelling reading. To James Lujan (Taos Pueblo), Dean of Instruction at Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute, the biggest issue facing Native America is "helping Indians manage and integrate competing world views." Science and Native American Communities pulses with the personal and social tensions of that struggle.