2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 3:40 PM


RIGGS, Eric M., Department of Geological Sciences, San Diego State Univ, San Diego, CA 92182-1020, eriggs@geology.sdsu.edu

Native American reservation communities nationwide exercise sovereign control over natural resources and land-use within reservation boundaries. With the recent rapid economic growth of many of these communities, development pressures and infrastructure issues have become a foremost concern. Despite the clear need for geoscience professionals on reservations and the deep cultural connection many American Indian cultures have with the Earth, Native American students remain very poorly represented in the earth sciences. This has led to a lack of geoscientific expertise on reservations, which has led to understaffing of tribal environmental offices or staffing by non-natives without direct cultural and community ties. The Indigenous Earth Sciences Project is an effort based at SDSU designed to address this problem systemically in Southern California by providing local, culturally-responsive avenues for success for college-bound American Indian students in the geosciences. Over the last 8 years, the IESP has developed professional education programs with tribal environmental managers who often lack geoscientific expertise, and we conduct a portion of the Young Native Scholars residential summer college bridge program for area high school students. The IESP also reaches younger children through the Explorers Club outdoor education program. Funding from the NSF GeoDiversity program has allowed us to formally unite these efforts with collaborations with high schools serving reservations locally, and has allowed us to construct a school to work internship program in tribal environmental offices for Native high school and college students. While seemingly ambitious in scope, this far-reaching project provides the minimum level of support to create a truly integrated pathway for Native American students to gain geoscience degrees. Native-focused programs must have full community participation at all levels to succeed, and must provide authentic work experience to make the earth sciences relevant for students. Involvement of Native educators and elders is also critical to ensure cultural connection and continuity. This presentation will outline the entire IESP program, strategies for replication elsewhere, and highlight research opportunities in cross-cultural science education.