“Stay with your words”: Indigenous youth, local policy, and the work of language fortification


  • Elizabeth Sumida Huaman Arizona State University
  • Nathan D. Martin Arizona State University
  • Carnell T. Chosa Arizona State University and The Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School




Indigenous language revitalization, Indigenous language education policy, Pueblo Indian education


This article focuses on the work of cultural and language maintenance and fortification with Indigenous youth populations. Here, the idea of work represents two strands of thought: first, research that is partnered with Indigenous youth-serving institutions and that prioritizes Indigenous youth perspectives; and second, the work of cultural and linguistic engagement that is often taken for granted as part of the sociocultural fabric of Indigenous communities where youth are active participants. By highlighting a study with Pueblo Indian youth in the southwestern United States, we aim to build on the counter-narrative frameworks of other educational scholars and community-based researchers in order to offer alternative approaches towards understanding how Indigenous youth can and do participate in representing themselves as cultural and language agents of change. Arriving at this realization requires several key steps, including deconstructing dominant assumptions, holding ourselves accountable for interrogating and revisiting our own biases, and ultimately committing to long-term research and support with Indigenous youth. As such, we offer empirical evidence that contradicts universal discourse of Indigenous peoples and youth as victims at risk. Instead, we focus on the ways in which Indigenous youth demonstrate both tentative and bold fortification of key elements in their Indigenous identities and illustrate promise in contribution to multiple levels of policy development to address their communities’ most urgent needs and goals. 


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Author Biographies

Elizabeth Sumida Huaman, Arizona State University

Elizabeth Sumida Huaman is Wanka/Quechua and Japanese. She is an Assistant Professor of Indigenous Education at the School of Social Transformation and affiliated faculty with the ASU Center for Indian Education, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, and School for the Future of Innovation in Society. Her work focuses on comparative and international Indigenous education research with Indigenous communities in the U.S., Canada, and Peru. Through her research, she is committed to preserving the link between Indigenous languages, lands and cultural practices, and community-based pedagogies. Recent publications include works in Cultural Studies of Science Education and Anthropology & Education Quarterly, and the edited volume, Indigenous innovation: Universalities and peculiarities (Sense).

Nathan D. Martin, Arizona State University

Nathan Martin is an assistant professor in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. He earned his Ph.D. in Sociology, with a graduate certificate in Education Policy Research, from Duke University. His research focuses on inequalities in postsecondary education, and global shifts in labor, work and class mobilization. Recent publications have appeared in The Sociological Quarterly, Research in Higher Education, and Journal of College Student Development.

Carnell T. Chosa, Arizona State University and The Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School

Carnell T. Chosa is from the Towa-speaking Pueblo of Jemez. He is a graduate of the inaugural Pueblo Indian Doctoral Cohort with a Ph.D. in Justice and Social Inquiry in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. He is also the co-founder and co-director of The Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School, a community development and youth leadership initiative that serves New Mexico’s tribal communities. His interests lie in developing innovative youth and community engagement programs, exploring concepts of community contribution, and research on youth perspectives on issues that impact tribal community. His publications (forthcoming) will be featured in the Journal of American Indian Education and an edited volume on American Indian innovation in higher education (Sense).




How to Cite

Sumida Huaman, E., Martin, N. D., & Chosa, C. T. (2016). “Stay with your words”: Indigenous youth, local policy, and the work of language fortification. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 24, 52. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.24.2346