Graduate minor in Indigenous Ways of Knowing (IWOK)

An Indigenous Ways of Knowing (IWOK) Graduate Minor counseling endorsement will provide students in the helping professions with a greater understanding of the epistemological constructs of interconnectedness inherent in Indigenous/Tribal cultures. Students from Indigenous/Tribal orientations will have an opportunity to integrate their understanding of mainstream counseling theory with their own earth-based philosophies for reaching optimal states of self-actualization and self-determination. Students who are not part of Indigenous/Tribal groups will have the privilege of learning about the Indigenous Tribal wisdoms of numerous Tribal traditions in addition to experiencing, dialoging, and thoroughly examining the therapeutic functions of Indigenous/Tribal practices with respect to their value in their own lives, and in their professional work with clients from all backgrounds.

Cultural Integrity It is important to note that an Indigenous counseling endorsement does NOT in anyway seek to replicate Tribal/traditional practices for use in Western counseling settings, or by practitioners who are themselves not representative of the respective Tribal/traditional practice being experienced. The primary impetus underlying the promotion of IWOK as counseling praxis is intended to promote a depth of thought to our current understanding of health and well-being that promotes sustainability in multiple dimensions of ones personal life, as well as to inform their professional practice.

Goals and Objectives In an essay on principled and ethical perspectives and research with North American Indian communities, Trimble (2008) postulated that before anyone can begin to apply conventional psychological principles and theories to an ethno cultural group, they must first understand its unique life ways and thought ways. Therefore, students who complete the minor will be better prepared to:

  • Affirm and activate the holistic paradigm of Indigenous knowledge into their work as practitioners in the helping professions to reveal the wealth and richness of Indigenous languages, worldviews, teachings and experiences (Battiste, 2002);
  • Address the current socio-political colonial power dimensions toward a more equitable outcome for people groups whose worldview is different then the that of the Western world (Denzin, et al., 2008);
  • Advocate for more culturally competent social service techniques and methodologies including the promotion of Native American “traditional healing methods” where applicable, in their work with clients whose world view is determined to be based in Indigenous/Tribal tradition (La Fromboise, Trimble, & Mohatt, 1990);
  • Promote self-actualization/empowerment/healing based on constructs of Indigenous philosophy and epistemology. Including the operationalization of theory into practice such as in liberation psychology where three critical tasks are engaged in the decolonization of groups of people whose cultural capital is of utmost importance including: 1) the recovery of historical memory [understanding the authenticity of ones cultural heritage prior to colonial rule]; 2) de-ideologizing everyday experience and social reality [Social Justice in Practice]; and 3) utilizing the virtues of the people [Tribal/traditional knowledge for healing/helping] (Martín-Baró, 1987);
  • Engage in academic scholarship that lays the groundwork for an Indigenous research agenda to address issues of justice and equality in the helping professions. Linda Tuhiwai Smith (1999), in her book Decolonizing Methodologies; Research and Indigenous Peoples, acknowledges the conditions that Indigenous communities live through: survival, recovery, acclimation, and self determination. Students will engage scholarship that promotes an Indigenous [Native Tribal traditional] worldview.

IWOK Defined Numerous academic disciplines have recognized Indigenous Ways of Knowing (IWOK) as having profound implications for adding practical as well as philosophical knowledge to their curricular schemata. IWOK encompasses a paradigm that recognizes the interconnectedness of all things. IWOK has been defined as a multidimensional body of lived experiences that informs and sustains people who make their homes in a local area and always takes into account the current socio-political colonial power dimensions of the Western world (Denzin, et al., 2008). The following definition was offered in the Counseling Journal for Social Action:

Indigenous Ways of Knowing is a praxis that naturally promotes peace, justice, and respect for all life on the planet. IWOK are the collective epistemologies and ontologies of Indigenous people from specific locals that have worked to promote harmony and balance in all directions of their environments: the North, South, East, West, above, below and all around. IWOK is grounded in multi-logical reasoning, therefore, naturally considers all things, in all directions, in order to make decisions about how to live on the planet with one another and in promotion of love, beauty and peace for generations to come. IWOK essentially equates to the raising of consciousness from a level of cognitive behavior to one that encompasses actions upon the world to sustain it (Grayshield & Mihcobey, 2011).

Program of Study

Students accepted into the graduate minor are required to complete nine credit hours including the core course, CEP 529–Indigenous Counseling Theory and Practice, and two more of the selections below:

  1. CEP 529–Indigenous Counseling Theory and Practice–REQUIRED, (3 credits). This course will address modes of counseling and therapy that are theoretically consonant with Native traditions. Students will learn about the current use of Indigenous modes of treatments [healing] intended to alleviate physical, cognitive, emotional and spiritual suffering. They will read literature by prolific Indigenous /Native scholars, and examine the integration of “traditional healing methods” with these modes of psychotherapy to ensure a progressive reconstruction of the counseling endeavor to include an indigenous epistemology in their work with clients.
  2. CEP 549–Indigenous Research Methods, (Seminar) 3 credits. In this course, students will gain an understanding of ethically and respectful research practices from an Indigenous/culturally appropriate vantage. They will thoroughly examine the works of Native/Tribal and Indigenous scholarship such as “Decolonizing Methodologies; Research and Indigenous Peoples”, by Linda Tuhiwai Smith (1999), and; “Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies” by Denzin, Lincoln and Smith, (2008). Additionally, safeguards for ethical research practices with Native populations will be thoroughly examined with regard to intent, practice and integration of outcome. In maintaining high ethical standards and cultural sensitivity with research and Indigenous people, proposed project activities will be conducted in relationships and partnerships with and between “cultural authorities, ceremonial leaders, treatment providers, program participants and outside researchers” (Gone, 2010).
  3. CEP 559­–Healing Historical and Intergenerational Trauma, 3 credits. Students will explore the constructs of trauma as it relates to “normal” human functioning and the ability to heal. They will examine the literature on trauma identification, diagnosis and treatments from numerous vantages, including that which occurs from sudden impact as in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); long-term on-going stressors resulting from unmet developmental milestones over ones lifespan such as is the case with physical and emotional abuses, especially in early childhood, and; that which is a result of historical and intergenerational social political constructs of oppression. Finally, as a primary goal of this course, students will engage their own journey of healing traumas impact on the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual dimensions of ones life towards self-actualization.

The following courses will also meet the requirements of the minor:

  1. ANTH 543–Indigenous Ways of Knowing (3 credits). This course examines Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing as a means to gain an appreciation of an epistemology and ontology that may be outside the boundaries of Eurocentric theory, concepts and principles. Knowledge development through mythology and storytelling is viewed from the nature of difference rather than comparative analysis. This course was developed and is currently taught by Indigenous professor Dr. Donald Pepion, an Associate professor in the Anthropology department.
  2. ANTH 541, Decolonizing Methodologies in Native American Studies (3 credits). This course utilizes decolonizing methodologies and praxis to gain insight into the complex effets of oppression and colonization. Critical and indigenous concepts are used to identify and analyze hegemonic, ethnocentric, historic and contemporary human rights and social justice issues of indigenous people. Research theory and methodology such as community participatory action research that is collaborative, inclusive, and pragmatic to ethics, intellectual property, and cultural boundaries of indigenous people is emphasized. This course was developed and is currently taught by Indigenous professor Dr. Donald Pepion, an Associate professor in the Anthropology department.
  3. NEW COURSE: Indigenous Counseling Internship/Practicum (6/3 credits). Students will identify an appropriate internship sight from which to observe, learn and practice with a well-known and respected Indigenous healer or practitioner of alternative healing modality. Internship sites and Internship supervisors must meet minimum requirements established by the student, the supervisor, the students’ primary advisor, and the Indigenous Counseling degree program director, Dr. Lisa Grayshield. Students will be required to maintain a consistent weekly schedule, a journal of their experiences in the internship site; complete a final research analysis including a comprehensive literature search on the functions of the internship experience with respect to its legitimacy as an Indigenous counseling/healing modality. Native/Tribal students may choose to complete their requirements for this internship with agreeable family members who may be “healers” and “medicine doctors”. While this has not been typically done in an academic setting, it is highly encouraged, and students may negotiate any special circumstances that may require the utmost respect with regard to appropriateness and confidentiality. All information gained in this internship will be shared in open discussion format between the students, the Internship supervisor, and the supervising professor only.

Requirements for the Indigenous Counseling practicum course may be completed in collaboration with Internships (as approved by the CEP program) where the clientele serviced is at least 50% Native American and where the supervisor is themselves invested in Native American tradition from a tribal perspective (as opposed to pan-Indian/generic). All arrangements will be made in collaboration with the students primary department advisor and the Indigenous counseling program advisor, Dr. Lisa Grayshield.

Prerequisites for Admission

  • Students interested must apply for admission into the Indigenous Ways of Knowing Graduate Minor must be accepted into an academic program at NMSU in a health related field. They must be in good standing and complete the admission process as outlined below.

Admission Process

To apply for admission, students must submit the following information:

  1. Copy of graduate transcripts (official transcripts are not necessary)
  2. Letter of interest (2 page limit): summarize your background and describe your interest in this particular area of study; indicate personal and professional experiences with Native American/Tribal people and or your specific interest in pursuing an Indigenous Counseling minor and/or specialty degree.
  3. Resume (2 page limit): describe internships, special training you received, work experience, and involvement in Indigenous Native cultural programming or events you have been involved in; language preservations/revitalization endeavors; and hobbies such as dancing, music or other art form that is reflective of your interests.
  4. Recommendation Letter: must be from the designated faculty advisor in the student’s home department, stating that the student has discussed their interest in the IWOK minor and has gained approval to enroll in the program.