Narrated portraits: The lived experience of Native women in academia

Angela M. Jaime
College of Education, Purdue University
July, 2005


The purpose of this study was to examine the experiences of Native American women professors in the academy. Studies in this area are limited. My motivation toward this research comes from the experiences that I have had as a Native woman in academia, both personally and professionally. The lack of Native American women professors throughout the academy is troubling. This study focuses on three Native American women who are tenured professors. Each woman has shared her experiences in education at the elementary, secondary, and tertiary levels. The underpinning threads to my study deal with the theoretical constructs of internalized colonization, decolonization, and the transcendence of identity for each Native American woman participant. The construction of identity for each individual is complex and central to her experiences. Through the perspective of internalized colonization, I can begin to recognize the external effects of historical and current societal influences. A clearer understanding of colonized influences on identity for Native women assists me in viewing the characterizations of a culture through its own decolonization methods and provides me with an alternative view of the identity that each of the women participants has defined for herself---the identity that has allowed her to transcend to the place in which she survives today. The findings for this study indicate a lack of support, recruitment, and retention for Native women in the academy at all levels. In addition to the subsequent obstacles of the academia, these women have been confronted with many barriers and have faced much resistance earlier in their lives. This resistance has left these Native women to negotiate their identities and thus to emerge in a place of balance.