By their very presence: Rethinking research and partnering for change with artists and educators from Long Island's Shinnecock Nation (New York)

Diane M. Caracciolo
Teacher's College, Columbia University
July, 2006


Unknown to most Long Islanders, their region, which extends over 100 miles eastward from Manhattan, contains two state recognized Native American Indian reservations---Shinnecock and Poospatuck. Long Island is home to contemporary indigenous educators, artists, lawyers, journalists, filmmakers, tribal leaders, and elders striving to maintain, strengthen, and pass on their cultural heritage within an educational, economic, and political context that more often than not excludes their perspectives and concerns. This narrative research takes as its primary focus the educational stories told by members of the Shinnecock Nation. In addition to these indigenous voices, the stories of non-Native high school and elementary school teachers from two Long Island school districts (Levittown and Mattituck) are included in the creation of a multi-voiced forum around the question of how local Native histories, cultures, and contemporary lives are represented, if at all, within the K-12 public school setting on Long Island. This study also explores emerging research methodologies arising from indigenous scholarship and documents the author's ongoing journey toward rethinking research paradigms and educational practices in partnership with the underrepresented indigenous peoples of our communities. Such collaborations, grounded as they are on respect for diverse perspectives, offer a replicable model for necessary curricular reform, one that not only impacts the ways in which Long Island teachers and children learn about the history, culture, and contemporary lives of the first peoples of their island community, but also the ways in which teacher preparation programs across the nation critically address issues of hidden curricular bias---through honoring the first voices of the land on which they live.