Askwith Panelists Discuss Educational SovereigntyBy Jill Anderson
When Carnell Chosa, Ed.M.’96, cofounder and codirector of the Leadership Institute and Summer Policy Academy at the Santa Fe Indian School in New Mexico, entered the Ed School in 1995, it was with the questions, “Who are you?” and “Why are you here?” These questions continue to drive his work to this day.
“When I was the only Native in class … I didn’t have answers to the questions,” Chosa said at last week’s Askwith Forum, “Educational Sovereignty at the Santa Fe Indian School,” noting that many Native Americans entering universities are met with the struggle to be a representative of an entire culture and also to have answers for the world.
Chosa along with his colleagues — Regis Pecos, cofounder and codirector of the Leadership Institute and Summer Policy Academy at the Santa Fe Indian School, and Patricia S. Sandoval, director of planning and evaluation at the Santa Fe Indian School — spoke about the importance of educational sovereignty in a time of vast assimilation through programming, policy, and implementation.
Chosa began to develop the Leadership Institute with Pecos shortly after he returned to the Santa Fe area after graduating from the Ed School. Since being established in 1997, the Leadership Institute has led discourse on public policy and tribal community issues pertaining to the 22 Tribal Nations in New Mexico.
“Where we are, where we have been, and where we are going is a central part of the institute,” Pecos said, noting that as a community the challenges faced have deep roots tracing back to over 100 years of federal policy, many which attempt to undermine culture and values that nurture the Pueblo community. “In extreme ways this federal pendulum swings back and forth.”
The institute focuses on five programming areas: community institutes, a summer policy academy, program and curriculum development, enrichment opportunities for schools and tribal program development, and the American Indian Higher Education Resources network. The aim of the institute is to work to examine and understand the history of the Pueblo people, and also foster the young people of the Pueblo community.
Pecos said that education has been a “key piece in the assimilation” of the Pueblo people and that it created an “invisible society.” “We could continue to our own [cultural] demise if we are not mindful of the past experience,” Pecos said.
Now, through the institute, education is being used to support the core values of the Pueblo people by mixing “rich blessings of a cultural education with formal education,” Pecos said.
Some of the institute’s direct impact has been made at the Santa Fe Indian School, which has an enrollment of 650 students in grades seven through 12. Calling the curriculum a “180 degree shift from the past,” Sandoval said that it aims to infuse the core values and 10 elements of the Pueblo people into the classroom.
Ultimately, the hope is that in the future when Native American students are away at university and asked to represent the community that they will have something to say. “It is important to be engaged in the conversation so when our students go to Harvard they can speak and say, ‘This is what I know,’” Sandoval said.