The Spencer Foundation has launched an Indigenous Education Initiative that aims to help cultivate the future of Indigenous educational research. Spencer has long been committed to supporting learning wherever it occurs and investing in the next generation of educational scholars and scholarship; however, like many institutions, Spencer has not been deliberate in engaging Indigenous peoples, communities, and scholarship. This initiative has several goals, including convening scholars to articulate future directions for Indigenous educational research, strengthening the mentoring of Indigenous scholars, supporting publications for the field as well as broader audiences, and developing models for the philanthropic community to engage Indigenous education research.
The Initiative is led by a steering committee of the following scholars and educational leaders to guide us in this work, including: Linda Smith (Maori, Ngāti Awa & Ngāti Porou Iwi), Bryan Brayboy (Lumbee, co-chair), Ananda Marin (Choctaw, African-American, & European-American descent, co-chair), Malia Villegas (Alutiiq/Sugpiaq), Anthony Craig (Yakama), Keiki Kawai’ae’a (Native Hawaiian), Cynthia Soto (Lakota & Puerto Rican), and Megan Bang (Ojibwe & Italian descent). In addition, Natalie Diaz (Mojave, Gila River, & Latina) and Maria Hupfield (Ojibwe), two exceptional Indigenous artists and educators, are serving as advisors to aspects of this work.
“This initiative is an exciting next step for Spencer in our overall commitment to funding equitable research and enacting equitable policies within our own organization. We are hopeful that this initiative, which draws deeply on the knowledge and experience of Indigenous education leaders, will not only help advance the field of Indigenous education scholarship, but also serve as a model for how philanthropy can meaningfully engage with Indigenous communities,” said Spencer President Na’ilah Nasir.
The Indigenous Education Initiative Steering Committee has established these shared goals and activities:
- Convene and support scholars and educational leaders to articulate future directions for Indigenous educational research. Spencer will host several gatherings of Indigenous scholars aimed at synthesizing the knowledge base, articulating key research priorities and working to imagine future educational possibilities and projects.
- Strengthen the training of Indigenous scholars and relationships between junior and senior scholars. Convenings will intentionally engage both junior and senior scholars and will be attentive to community-building to support mentoring.
- Support writing intended for the field of education but also broader publics, communities, practitioners, and policymakers. Initiative activities will produce collective writing—book projects, journal articles, and white papers—to support the development of new and continued programs of research and thought on Indigenous education.
- Develop models and tools for philanthropic community to engage Indigenous education & research. Too often philanthropic organizations perpetuate Indigenous erasure or invisibility through the absence of funding, representation in staff and board, data collection, and many other dimensions. Spencer is committed to ensuring Indigenous people and communities are meaningfully engaged in our organization and to developing models, tools, and supports that can be shared with the broader philanthropic community to better engage with Indigenous communities and Indigenous education research.
“We are in unusual times, times that invite us to imagine, to reach, to do the work of making better futures and forms of education that contribute to just, sustainable, and culturally thriving communities. Indigenous people must be central to the leadership of these endeavors. Working towards educational equity while perpetuating Indigenous erasure and invisibility is fundamentally flawed and perpetuates the structural foundations of inequality. This initiative, we hope, helps to lift up and make visible the important work of Indigenous scholars and communities in ways the grow our collective capacities to do right in the world,” said Spencer Vice President Megan Bang.