Indigenous First Steps: Students, Family, Culture, Community

Indigenous First Steps: Students, Family, Culture, Community

Ingrid Anderson, Ed.D.
Dorothy Aguilera-Black Bear, Ph.D.
Sara Koyano, MS
Maria Tenorio, Ph.D.
Shani Johnson, MS
Organizational Affiliation(s)
Portland State University
Publication Date


The Indigenous First Steps: Students, Family, Culture, Community (IFS-SFCC) three-year qualitative research is grounded in Indigenizing Early Childhood Education through a community-based research model (CBPR) to design and evaluate an online 12-credit undergraduate/graduate Early Childhood Professional Development Certificate focused on Indigenous Ways of Knowing. Indigenous knowledge frameworks (epistemologies) are “always people and place-specific” (Tuck & Yang, 2019, p. xi; Smith 1999) and “need to be tailored to that context to match community needs and understandings of knowledge and knowing” (p. ix). The project acknowledges that the work we do is located on the traditional homelands of the Multnomah, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Tumwater, Watlala bands of the Chinook, the Tualatin Kalapuya, and many other indigenous nations of the Columbia River. We acknowledge the ancestors of this place and understand that we are here because of the sacrifices forced upon them. By recognizing these communities, our work seeks to honor their legacy, their lives, and their descendants.

The project seeks to “unsettle taken-for-granted ways of seeing and noticing connections to settler colonialisms and make visible the colonial resonances and flows of power that circulate through everyday life” (Nxumalo, 2016, p. 650). Historically, there is a lack of understanding and reverence for Indigenous ways of knowing in educational structures (Flewitt & Ang, 2020). The vision for this work is indigenizing higher education pathway and early learners programming.

Phase One (2020-2022): The certificate is designed in collaboration with the 10-member Indigenous First Steps Advisory Board and led by an 8-member Early Childhood Education Professional Learning Community of Native ECE Faculty members of elders, knowledge keepers, family advocates, and early learning experts. The content design emerged from indigenous researchers coding and reflecting on the stories and experiences shared by 30 individuals from tribal communities, including elders, knowledge keepers, families, childcare staff, and teachers. Through an iterative process of reflection and consensus, the researchers identified a learning strands framework to guide and embed coursework with cultural competencies and culturally responsive practices, indigenous resources, and materials. 

Phase Two (2022-present): Development of a Professional Learning Community (PLC) with graduate students, faculty, and mentors to design and implementation of the 12-credit Certificate that integrates Native languages, cultures, histories, and oral stories and is culturally sustaining is critical since a large body of evidence exists to demonstrate that Native staff and teachers can promote a readiness to learn by helping instill a sense of self-esteem and confidence. 

Phase Three (2023): Collaborative evaluation of the pilot certificate process with the PLC and IFS Advisory Board with the overarching aim of the Indigenous First Steps: Students, Family, Culture, Community (IFS-SFCC) project is to prepare and retain Indigenous early childhood educators in Oregon.

*This study is ongoing or in progress. For the most recent results, see their website or contact the study contact listed below.

Contact info

Ingrid Anderson