Silence as shields for Native American youth

In a three-year study, Tim San Pedro showed that Native American students in a predominantly white school in Arizona were repeatedly discouraged in history class from voicing ideas that countered dominant white settler history.

They responded with silence, which some research literature argues is a Native American trait — being hesitant to speak in classrooms.

San Pedro built humanizing relationships with the students in a Native American literature course. As the students told their stories, they came to understand that their silence acted as a shield against dominant, monocultural beliefs with which they did not agree.

When encouraged, the students then moved from self-defeating resistance toward resilience and transformation.

Research by Timothy J. San Pedro
Assistant professor
Multicultural and Equity Studies in Education