Voices of Teachers
We’ve found that teachers use our Native cases in many different ways. Listen to the voices of some of them.
I have been teaching with Native Cases for over ten years, and I look forward to teaching with them for the rest of my career. These cases are invaluable because they help students explore the complex issues facing Native communities and governments which are rarely represented in either mainstream or academic literature. In delving deeply into specific contexts, complexities that are glossed or ignored come to the foreground and require students to move past simplistic understandings of Native peoples today. Additionally, because these cases encourage student participation, they are far more effective than traditional publications for engaging students as active learners and knowledge producers.
I’ve been using Native Case studies in my Environmental Science course for a few years now. Initially I began using a single case (Pebbles of Gold or Salmon of Time) as a capstone project at the end of the quarter, as it touches on many of the topics we cover. Recently, I’ve been incorporating other cases into both my online and face-to-face classes. One that stands out is the Navajo case concerning their proposed coal plant (Should the Navajo Nation Build a Coal-Fired Power Plant?). From an Environmental Science standpoint, of course they shouldn’t. But the case brings in the history the Navajo have had with the loss of their mineral rights, and the continued poverty their community faces. Clearly, no easy answer here. Students always enjoy working on these cases, and in a few instances. have commended me as being their only class that has touched on Native American issues.
As Coordinator of the GHC Native Pathways Program, I arrange for instructors in our curriculum to attend the yearly professional development that takes place at the Native Cases Institute. Among those most notable, our English, Psych, and History instructors are a few who have attended and who use case studies in their courses. As Health instructor, I assign students to research and report out in an online discussion forum on health topics they access at the Enduring Legacies Case Study website. Regarding health topics, besides case studies that address physical issues such as obesity and diabetes, topics that cover social, emotional, and mental health are popular among students and provide insight and support for our course content. “Should Indian Mascots Be Repealed?” is a case used often. In the area of health, the effects of psycho-social health are quite evident, but this case also is compatible for a number of other subject areas including Social Science, History, and Psychology.
I use several cases in my History of the Pacific Northwest course including, Is Your Tribal Land Secure? by Larry Ralston. This case accomplishes at least three main objectives: first it both reaffirms and illustrates place-based challenges facing many Tribes in the PNW, and its focus on climate change is an added bonus. The case also encourages students to think about the complexity of stakeholders and overlapping, and at times conflicting, laws and practices inherent in many contemporary issues. Lastly, students particularly appreciate the collaborative learning environment created when working with cases. Their comments indicate that they experience a keen sense of accomplishment after working the case.
Objectives of human services programs include building cultural awareness and an appreciation for different points of view. Toby Sawyer’s case “Does Smudging Belong in the Workplace?” illustrates tribal cultural practice as well as the diversity of perspectives within a tribal community. I use this case in my Human Development course. Following a reading of the case, students focus on the multiple perspectives presented in this example. What are the thoughts of a client who smells something that may be marijuana? How do we balance cultural or spiritual tradition with public health concerns? The case asks students to reflect on a decision-making process that could recognize these multiple points of view. Perspectives on smudging may vary between persons from tribal and non-tribal communities. This case also suggests the diversity of opinion that can exist within a tribal community as well as between staff members from different tribes.
Everett Community College has sent a team of faculty and administrators to the Teaching Native Cases Institute since 2014. Participating in the intensive environment of the Institute has helped us to build collaboration between employees across multiple areas of the College and to deepen our discussions. Faculty return to the campus ready to use the cases as a teaching methodology and administrators apply their new understanding to planning and policy development. This influences both classroom and institutional practices, including re-examining decisions about the totem poles that are part of the college art collection and developing our own case study.
I taught a one credit case-based class called “Battlegrounds: Contemporary Issues in Indian Country.” We have been doing this course for many years with about 60 Native students in a joint course that enrolls students at Evergreen, Peninsula College, and at Grays Harbor Community College. We have used many Native cases over the years, and students consistently rate this as a peak learning experience. “Battlegrounds” has become an important feature of our program. Students love learning more about current issues affecting their communities and working in groups to brainstorm solutions. We use reflective questions at the end of each session to gauge student learning.
Barbara Leigh Smith
As a teacher, using cases provides me with an ideal vehicle for enacting the whole cycle of learning---active learning, community-building, honoring diversity, integration, and reflection and assessment. Cases bring relevance to the curriculum. Many of the Native Cases we use connect current issues to the historical context which makes history alive for students. It also gives them perspective on the huge challenges and enormous achievements of Indian people. Since our students come from tribal communities that have been leaders in the movement for self-determination, students begin to see their tribes and their tribal leaders in new ways.
Mary Big Bow
My family are storytellers. My father Earl Big Bow (Chippewa Cree), and his mother, Flying Around an Ojibwey (Chippewa) were prolific storytellers. The stories they told were rich and powerful, igniting the senses again and again even when the story was retold the third or fourth time during the same winter. These oral traditions are what keep all people’s culture alive. In this sense, case writing is a way to tell stories that will help not only reveal injustices, but perhaps heal as well. These are the aspects that attract me to case writing. Although, I don’t consider myself a good writer, my writing experience has been supported by many who gave me their time to edit and discuss the story. Writing case studies fuels that passion to tell the story to reveal "another's" view point about a people, a place and a time.
I teach at a tribal college in the field of social work. Using case studies in my classes began primarily to use time more efficiently. However, I have new found respect for this approach. Not only does a case study give voice to disenfranchised peoples and bring to light otherwise ignored events, topics, and issues, but they help students define problems more thoroughly, enable students to work through several types of interventions with clear outcomes, and help them evaluate the interventions themselves. For example, when students are given the case study about domestic violence (DV) against men, it exposes the problem of dv and provides a clear view that both men and women are responsible. This removes, at least to a certain extent, the "us vs them" mentality. Case studies also enable students to practice analyzing information and decide the best intervention. Critical thinking is a built- in feature.
I use the Makah whaling case study as a final exam for students in Social and Environmental Ethics. They can analyze the issues with several ethical theories. It is an excellent way for the students to see how changing the ethical theory can change the outcome.
I wrote the case “Native Fishing Practices and Oxygen Depletion in Hood Canal” in part because I wanted students to see the many sources of oxygen depletion in Hood Canal, and the complexity of the issue, as well as to examine an instance where the Native Peoples acted first, before the dominant culture, to take mitigating steps to reduce oxygen depletion in the Canal. I have used this case with students in several environmental studies programs, including Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems, Toward a Sustainable Puget Sound, and Earth Stewards: Sustainable Living in a Threatened World. Almost every time I used this case, I found that most non-Native students were unfamiliar with Tribal Treaty Agreements, and the degree to which Tribes have been involved in improving the fisheries in Puget Sound.
I wrote the case “River Flow for Riparian Health” to explore the rich data that has been collected for many years on river flow on the North Fork of the Skokomish River in Washington State. This river was dammed by Tacoma City Light (now Tacoma Power) in the 1920’s, and those dams initially eliminated the river’s flow in the North Fork below the dams. This cases examines some of the controversy between the Tribes, Tacoma Power, and federal and state agencies that ensued between the 1920’s and the first decade of the twenty-first century. This controversy is, unfortunately, typical of many such controversies between Native Peoples and government and corporate agencies in America. This case also affords an excellent opportunity for students to develop quantitative skills by examining the flow data of the main fork of the Skokomish River, and, using this data, to make recommendations for variable flow release from the dams on the North Fork. This case illustrates one method used for riparian restoration below dam sites on rivers worldwide, and can be generalized to other rivers. I used this case in the program Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems, and students appeared to gain a lot from the historical background, as well as from the spreadsheet lab associated with the data sets.
Cases can be used in many ways. I taught a writing course called “Literature Review, Research, and Analytical Writing.” One of the important components in successful research writing is to understand how to complete a literature review. Students were instructed to read the Native case “Luna / Tsu-xiit the “Whale”: Governance Across (Political and Cultural) Borders.” Their assignment was to review the author’s references cited at the conclusion of the text. From this review, they were to examine each reference, annotate it, and find three more references from their research. With the purpose of teaching critical writing, students learned how to go about finding information in a way that will encourage them to exhaust all resources in order to prove a hypothesis and defend a thesis.
Linda Moon Stumpff
I teach in the Masters of Public Administration Program in Tribal Governance and alternately, in the Masters Program on the Environment. I use cases in a variety of environmental and public policy and administration courses. The Luna, Makah Whaling, and the Bison cases are particularly effective for graduate environmental work. The Indian Gaming case and the Aboriginal Funding case are particularly effective for the study of current tribal policy, while “Is your Land Secure” and the Salish Kootenai forestry case(Sovereign Still from the Forest to the Plans) have broad application as opportunities for students to think critically about the concept of sovereignty. The cases encourage the development of research skills and the rich context makes them real and relevant for students.
I teach online health classes in connection with Grays Harbor College/Evergreen State Reservation- Based Native Studies program. Requiring students to access health topics featured in the Native Case studies is a valuable educational component of our course of study. Below are some student comments that are excerpts from their Native case research.
“The Native story telling traditions are an excellent gateway to explore case studies. Case study provides the background and framework for hypothesis building and doing research.”
“Reading a bit about women’s health issues, I was taken by the need to protect and honor the culturally and historically based health care practices of the tribe while blending it with modern means of improving the health and mortality rate of Native women.”
“This was a great website. In the chemistry link a professor tells Native American students the chemical background of alcohol consumption. Under the ethics course link there is a case about how Native American students banded together and created a support group for gay students to lower suicide rates and protect them from bullying. In the health area I read a case describing strategies to understand the meth problem in Indian Country. In the economics link was a case investigating how sacred sites can lead to tribal economic development.”
Studies in the Social Sciences have been a focus of exploration over my professional life. Guiding questions have been: How does a person learn best? How does the interface of biological, cultural and social elements influence human behavior? In turn, how can humans evolve into more peaceful and balanced individuals, thus communities and the world?
The case study institute at Evergreen College provided a new pedagogy to apply critical thinking to questions such as these. In the social science classes I teach at Northwest Indian College, I apply this approach with current events, personal stories, and cases I have written for the Native Enduring Legacy case project. This methodology has changed the way I conceptualize curriculum design and instruction. During a course, I introduce critical thinking and small case studies to build skill sets needed for application of a capstone case relevant to course outcomes. This has a positive outcome for students. It results in better student retention and comprehension of knowledge and more student engagement with course material, their peers and me, their instructor.
In Fall 2010 I started using Native Case Studies from the Enduring Legacies website. I mostly teach collaboratively, in learning communities, integrating two or more disciplines. In one learning community on Pacific Northwest Ecosystems, fusing biology and composition, the 50 students, of mixed ethnicities, responded to three cases: one on whaling and the Makah, one on climate change and the Quileute, and one on oxygen depletion in Hood Canal and the Skokomish. At the end of the quarter, voluntarily, two groups of four students each decided to do their final poster projects on whaling and the Makah and oxygen depletion in Hood Canal, respectively, which they presented to the public in the Student Center during Finals Week. These poster presentations were deeply engaging, I thought; they also sparked additional research and interest outside of the classroom.
This current winter quarter 2011 I’m co-teaching another learning community focused on American Indian Art, fusing ethnic studies and art history. This class is mostly filled with non-Indian students, but there are several minority groups represented. We started the course with “Indian Identity in the Arts” and followed with “Issues in Contemporary American Indian Art.” Both were blockbuster events. The students did individual art projects on the two cases mapping out visually their responses, which they then presented in class. It was the best class led by students that I’ve witnessed all year. The narrative style of writing in the case study “Issues in Contemporary American Indian Art” was especially riveting and compelling for students. For next year I’m already planning to offer a 2-hour seminar focusing exclusively on Native Cases from the Enduring Legacies website.
I am a faculty member of the Native Environmental Science Program at Northwest Indian College. I use case studies as part of the required course, "Biology and the Natural History of the Salish Sea" to highlight issues associated with natural resource management for tribal communities. Students consistently report that the use of cases help bring life to the course material – adding “real life examples relevant” to our Native students ” and helping to develop on-the-ground problem solving skills. In addition, I have written two case studies, highlighting issues associated with governing resources in a multi-cultural context (Luna case study) and across political borders (Bounded People, Boundless Water Shellfish Case study). As part of the development of our four year science program, I am expanding the Luna case study to be a standalone course, that explores the multiple issues of this case. The course includes seminar discussion, reflective pieces, role play, debate, and the development of resource management plans.
I have taught the 100 level online biology course for the bridge program between Grays Harbor College and the Evergreen State College since 2005. I get a combination of native and non-native students in the course. I have used several case studies focused on the health and environmental issues in Native country over the past several years. Both Native and non-Native students enjoyed working on the case studies. Most Native students seems to be aware of issues presented in the case studies, while the non-Native students either have little or no knowledge of the issues. In online discussions, Native students often end-up educating me and the rest of the class about the issues not discussed in the case study. For non-Native students especially, the case studies are eye openers, because they do not know what life is like on Indian reservations. Native students take deep interest in the case studies, because their lives are directly affected by these issues every day.
I have been looking for a method of teaching that truly forces students to apply their in-class thinking to solve real world problems beyond the classroom walls. The Native Cases provide high stake scenarios that demand leadership, creative thinking, debate, collaboration, and elaboration from the students engaged in them. I can personally say that abstract concepts and terms such as "Tribal Sovereignty" and "Federal Policy" never registered much with myself and my students until we clashed over them in the context of the Native Cases. Students became animated, irritated, impassioned, and in the end suddenly empathetic with their opposition. They became great ambassadors for their causes and great diplomats toward their critics. In my opinion, teaching with Native Cases is the closest one can get a classroom toward real world experience. Any teacher serious about taking the many lofty ethereal notions of academia and grounding them in real world applications for their students must teach these cases.