Mandan and Navajo peoples: Narrative identity in the world of the Indigenous

Emily Helen Chavez
School of Education, University of San Francisco
July, 2006


This research study used an interpretive anthropological approach as a framework to understand two distinctive Indigenous nations living in the United States, Mandan and the Navajo Peoples. The literature review provided an historical overview of these two groups, and included research on the education of Indigenous Peoples and the effects of relocation to boarding schools and urban areas. In addition, conversations with Indigenous research participants shed light on how selected members of these two nations have appropriated their future. The conversations revealed how the historical experiences of the Mandan and Navajo Peoples have shaped their narrative identities and the centrality of personhood. These conversations also revealed how calling and care play an essential role in the participants' lives. Through an analysis of narrative identity, calling and care, it became apparent that it is essential to create education curricula that speak to the needs of Indigenous adult learners, especially if the majority of Indigenous People are to appropriate their imagined futures and live out lives with meaning and dignity.