Turning a New Leaf: The Realization of Exclusion

Teresa L. McCarty (2005) in the “Editor’s Introduction” of Indigenous Epistemologies and Education – Self-Determined, Anthropology, and Human Rights, discusses several insightful points about indigenous history, language, and education.

I know this article was short in length but it was full of great information that I had never considered before. Personally, I had never had a draw or connection with indigenous studies, articles, or news. Every so often, working in higher education, I would hear about different indigenous issues and brush it off. It was not really until this article and this doctoral class that I really begin to take a different stance at looking and considering the many influences affecting indigenous populations.

One of the main reasons that I began to connect and wonder about indigenous populations was the use of the term ‘ally’. In the last sentence of the article, McCarty (2005) states, “We hope the articles…assembled here lead the way toward transformation…for indigenous people and their allies to build the…cultural infrastructures required to nurture self-determination in education” (p. 4). It was the first time that I had even considered that indigenous people need an ally to help support and protect their interests. I was so used to the term ‘ally’ referring to the LGBTQ population, that I never considered that other populations would need the same support – support from those who are not indigenous or connected to indigenous cultures.

I was also fascinated about the complexities and importance of language to indigenous people. McCarty (2005) opened my eyes to the fact that indigenous populations speak approximately 5000 out of the 6000 known languages. However, although there are thousands of languages, languages are disappearing at an alarming rate which researchers refer to as linguicide (McCarty, 2005). A lot of the reason for their disappearance is the dominance of other languages specifically in educational and urban environments. The author emphasized that languages are epicenters to indigenous populations as they are carriers of identity, knowledge, and ways of knowing, underlining that with a loss of language, there is a loss of history and culture (McCarty, 2005). One way in which to preserve languages is through the implementation of indigenous languages in education. By implementing specific indigenous languages in targeted areas of education, we begin to protect that particular population’s culture and history.

One way that language can be revitalized in education is through universities and language development course work. By implementing programs and spaces for students to have everyday speaking interactions, education can help keep the language alive and thriving (McCarty, 2005). By helping to teach and keep these languages alive, we help support a population that was “burned by centuries of repression, marginalization,and negation” (McCarty, p. 4, 2005).

I am excited to be expanding my education by reflecting and engaging in new information. Because of this class and this article, I can definitely say that I will work on being a better and more educated ally. Which in turn means being more educated about many different types of educational aspects through a willingness to listen and discover new areas of education and its populations.


McCarthy, T. (2005). Indigenous epistemologies and education self-determination, anthropology, and human rights. Anthropology Education Quarterly, 36, 1-7.