COMMUNITIES as RESEARCHERS: Indigenous Early Learning Collaborative Receives Grant to Fund Research by Indigenous Communities

First Light Education Project Starting with What WorksThe Indigenous Early Learning Collaborative (IELC), led by First Light Education Project (Denver, CO) and the Brazelton Touchpoints Center (BTC) (Boston, MA), announces a grant of $573,000 from the Foundation for Child Development for a two-year project starting in March 2022, titled, Indigenous ECD Community-Based Inquiry Project to Strengthen Research to Practice Partnerships, to strengthen the early learning workforce in the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) in Michigan.

The IELC is partnering with the Wiikwedong Early Childhood Development Collaborative, a team of KBIC early childhood teachers, center directors, and providers. These practitioners are the primary researchers on this inquiry project, investigating ways to strengthen the work of current educators in the community, building new pathways to the profession for prospective early childhood educators, and sharing knowledge about practice—in particular, home visitation and engaging families—across community systems. This project is unique in that the community members are the researchers—designing their own research questions and conducting their own inquiry—making the results of the research relevant to the needs of the community, a critical and often missing aspect of research conducted in Native communities.

“This is Community-Based Inquiry (CBI) in its purest form. Community members are the researchers: they know the questions that need to be studied and generate critical ideas on how to implement solutions in practice,” says Dr. Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz, Founder and Principal Consultant of First Light Education Project and Director of the IELC. “CBI is especially important for Native communities, who are often the subjects of research but rarely the beneficiaries.”

The IELC is a national initiative designed for Indigenous communities to strengthen early childhood education by developing their own critical questions and constructing local, relevant, and sustainable solutions.

“For more than 20 years, BTC has served as a partner for tribal nations and Native communities. For Indigenous communities, the goal is self-determination and sovereignty—in culture, language, education. This project is one big step toward self-determination and sovereignty in research and knowledge generation,” says Dr. Joshua Sparrow, Executive Director of BTC.

To learn more about the IELC or this funded project, or to schedule an interview with Drs. Yazzie-Mintz or Sparrow, contact BTC’s Director of Resource Development, Michael Accardi.