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Open Access Publications from the University of California


In print since 1971, the American Indian Culture and Research Journal (AICRJ) is an internationally renowned multidisciplinary journal designed for scholars and researchers. The premier journal in Native American and Indigenous studies, it publishes original scholarly papers and book reviews on a wide range of issues in fields ranging from history to anthropology to cultural studies to education and more. It is published three times per year by the UCLA American Indian Studies Center.

Volume 47, Issue 1, 2024

Special Issue: Community-Based Inquiry from within Indigenous Early Learning Communities of Practice

Issue cover
Cover Caption: © Crystal Worl, "Inua" (2016)

Editors in Chief: Randall Akee (Native Hawaiian) and David Delgado Shorter 

Guest Editors: Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz, Amanda LeClair-Diaz, and Ethan Yazzie-Mintz

Front Matter


Community-Based Inquiry from within Indigenous Early Learning Communities of Practice: Introduction to the Special Issue

Community-Based Inquiry (CBI) is a research method in which Indigenous communities engage in asking and answering their own questions about their early childhood practices. Community members are the researchers: they formulate the questions based on community needs, create the methodology to pursue answers to those questions, find solutions, and put those solutions into practice to strengthen early childhood education in their communities. In this introductory piece, we share the philosophical and practical foundations of CBI, and introduce readers to the visionary community and university scholars who, throughout this special issue, share their stories of innovation, insight, and advocacy on behalf of early learners, families, and their communities.

Niwiidosendimin (We Walk with Each Other)

Five rivers flow into Gichigami (Lake Superior). Reflecting their surroundings, five early childhood education leaders in the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community have come together to strengthen early childhood teaching and systems of care and learning across four programs in the community. We are the Wiikwedong Early Childhood Development Collaborative, and this is our story of how we implemented Community-Based Inquiry to collaborate, share information and insights, and work with each other to create stronger early learning opportunities in our community.

Meeting Our Ancestors’ Legacy: The Community-Based Inquiry of Wicoie Nandagikendan

More than twenty-five years ago, a group of women in South Minneapolis conceived of “a place to learn words,” a place where our children could learn the Dakota and Ojibwe languages. Today that place is Wicoie Nandagikendan Dakota and Ojibwe Immersion Program. For our entire existence, we have partnered with other organizations and borrowed space in others’ buildings to teach our children. Our Community-Based Inquiry began as a process of finding and creating our own space. Our inquiry has evolved into a journey of understanding that space is much more than a physical “place to learn words”; our space will be a place of health, wellness, culture, and language for our children, our organization, and our community.   

The Wisdom of Plants: Guides in a Journey of Community-Based Inquiry

The COVID-19 global pandemic brought many stressors that greatly impacted communities on many different levels, and in the shadow of these stressors were opportunities to innovate. This was especially true for early learning communities, and specifically for Indigenous early learning communities. From a foundation of Community-Based Inquiry, I aim to tell my story as a first time director at Daybreak Star Preschool where our process of healing and re-membering Indigenous practices with preschool children is rooted in land-based pedagogy and curriculum. This process built a momentum for our early learning community to move from a place of simply surviving the pandemic, to a place where we could thrive in reciprocity with our plant relatives and their wisdom. 

E kolo ana nō ke ēwe i ke ēwe (The rootlet will creep toward the rootlets)

What is Hawaiian cultural identity? What does it mean to be Hawaiian? Out of the process of developing a curriculum for our Keiki Steps program at the Institute of Native Pacific Education and Culture (INPEACE) emerged these profound questions that form the foundation of all of the work that we do. Our Community-Based Inquiry focuses on understanding who we are and how that impacts the ways in which we teach our keiki (children), setting in motion a process that is transforming our understanding of ourselves, our history, and our culture, and changing the way we work with our earliest learners.

“Why Don’t We Try Something New?”: How Indigenous Educators Supported One Another in Leaning Toward in Community-Based Inquiry

What would the impact be on Indigenous practitioners’ viewpoints if they had access to resources pertinent to Indigenous education and make the information they learn from these resources relevant to their community? How can a teacher push through problematic rhetoric and obstacles when committing to Indigenous youth’s education? This article presents these questions, showing how a group of Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho educators dialogued about education and teaching. When these educators dedicated time to discuss Indigenous education resources, they were able to lean toward in community-based inquiry and dream about curriculum that centered Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho beliefs.

Łe:k’iwhlaw ‘O:lts’it: Knowledge-Gathering as a Methodological Approach to Na:tinixwe-Based Inquiry

This article will highlight the ways in which my community, the Hoopa Valley Tribe (Na:tinixwe), and I have taken part in our own Community-Based Inquiry project with youth in our community. Our Na:tinixwe-based inquiry approach, Łe:k'iwhlaw'o:lts'it (knowledge-gathering), is a careful and intentional process which prioritizes sustained relationships. Knowledge-gathering consists of a three-part process of Ch’idilwa:wh (Conversations), łe:ne:tł'-te (meetings), and Ye-silin [(Re)envisioning Praxis Camps]. Using our project as a case study, I then reflect on important connections between the ways that we and other communities have done this important work.

Centering Community, Indigenous Relationships, and Ceremony through an Alaska Native Collaborative Hub to Prevent Suicide and Promote Youth Wellbeing

The Alaska Native Collaborative Hub for Research on Resilience (ANCHRR) engages Indigenous leadership at all levels in a strength-based study to deepen our understanding of community level protective factors in Indigenous communities, which are the collective influences shaping individual wellbeing across time. Overall, ANCHRR aims to position Alaska Native Tribes, Tribal organizations, and community members as the guides for culturally responsive research that is aligned with community priorities of increasing resilience and wellbeing among Alaska Native youth and reducing their suicide risk. Our approach brings together Indigenous knowledge and research methods that humbly draw attention to the solutions that already exist within communities. An Indigenous paradigm shifts the approach from a singular focus on individuals and their risks and deficits to appreciation for the cultural, community, and systemic ways in which community members support, care for, and guide their young people into adulthood. We describe the lessons learned about this unique approach to Indigenous leadership and community engagement and discuss the research processes that keep the relational heart-work at the center of every project activity. This capacity-building, mutually beneficial and relational approach offers new insights to knowledge development endeavors.

From the Light of Rainbows: Growing the Spiralic Garden of Community-Based Inquiry and Co-Learning

This paper considers my relationship as a co-learner (i.e., evaluator) with the Indigenous Early Learning Collaborative (IELC). I draw on my history of relations and conversations with IELC partners and explore what it means to be a co-learner along a number of dimensions (e.g., roles, responsibilities, reciprocity). Throughout the paper, I discuss the use of metaphor and story as forms of knowing that can support co-learning and Community-Based Inquiry in consequential ways. I conclude by reflecting on what it means to listen for and hear goodness as a co-learner.