Indigenous Early Learning Collaborative

Advancing community-based inquiry and equitable early learning opportunities for Native children & families

The Indigenous Early Learning Collaborative (IELC) is envisioned as a national center that will become an intellectual home for Indigenous communities, partners, and sites to access material and intellectual resources to inform their community-based inquiry, program design, evaluation, and strategy for sustaining high quality early learning opportunities for Native children and families. Indigenous Early Learning Collaborative relies on Indigenous research and knowledge generation as a foundational component toward achieving racial equity in early learning and care systems.

The center seeks to address systemic barriers that impede Native/Indigenous communities from designing high-quality, culture- and language-rich, early childhood development programming for Native children, families, and communities. The center relies on Indigenous research and knowledge generation as a foundational component toward achieving racial equity in early learning and care systems.

To create phases of development and systems approach on a continuum starting with pre-natal through adolescence. To steward significant support (financial and data knowledge resources) to address gaps and silos in the work of Native/Indigenous early childhood development at a national level.

Build systems so that the work of Native early childhood professionals/communities will contribute to national and policy – using local, regional, and national data knowledge, to tell their powerful stories, toward stronger advocacy with children, parents, and communities.

Theory of Change

  • Community-designed collaboratives leading to stronger early learning interventions
  • Advance family and community engagement in designing culturally-grounded early childhood development systems, interventions, and knowledge
  • Expanded systems for a healthy start and increased quality learning opportunities for children and families experiencing limited access to resources, training, opportunity
  • Achieve equity and access to resources across Native communities – towards national dialogue on Native ECE and Community-based inquiry and transformation

Indigenous Early Learning Collaborative Partners

Wiikwedong Early Childhood Development Collaborative focuses on early childhood workforce development, implementing an Ojibwe Learning Series, increasing professional networks, and supporting home visiting in their community.

Wicoie Nandagikendan Immersion Program focuses on aspects of space – both physical for their educational environment and creating space for healing and wellness within their program families, staff, board, and community partners.

Daybreak Star Preschool focuses on developing a land-based curriculum for early learning within urban and Indigenous contexts, which included implementing an outdoor classroom.

Keiki Steps, part of The Institute for Native Pacific Education & Culture, focuses on developing an Indigenous Early Learning Framework for Hawaiian culture to be implemented with the families throughout their programs.

Components of Indigenous Early Learning Collaborative Programming

Indigenous Early Learning Collaborative Program Cycle

Lessons Learned

  • Indigenous Early Learning Collaborative: Serves as an intellectual and cultural space, fostering locally defined questions, approaches, and systems to document actions and knowledge assets
  • Equitable practices must be purposeful and intentional in the process of developing relationships with local tribal partners.
  • Tribal partners have a vision for achieving high-quality early learning and care for children and family engagement – they are learning how to strategically implement inquiry to documenting lessons and visionary ideas
  • Each site has a team that requires support in healing – supporting practices that help coordinating teams imagine and reach wellness is a key contributing factor to successful transformation
  • Access to resources – intellectual, material, and financial – continues to be a critical process
  • Access to Indigenous professionals, scholars, thinkers and doers is a key asset in our work. The community practitioners are the researchers.
  • Partner sites are prepared to contribute to change, share lessons, and publish findings, local to national outlets