Harvard Educational Review
  1. First Person, First Peoples

    Native American College Graduates Tell Their Life Stories

    By Andrew Garrod and Colleen Larimore

    Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997. 248 pp. $15.95 (paper)

    In First Person, First Peoples, Andrew Garrod and Colleen Larimore successfully and respectfully present the personal narratives of thirteen Native American students who graduated from Dartmouth College. The students featured in this book represent various tribes, including Navajo, Sioux, Tlingit, Yup'ik, and Native Hawaiian. Interestingly, there has always been a strong and unique Native presence in this elite Ivy League institution. These thirteen Native students share their stories of personal, academic, emotional, cultural, and sociopolitical struggles. They set their narratives in the context of the Native American Program at Dartmouth. Through honest reflection, they discuss the school's commitment to Native studies and issues, its influence on academic success, and its significant impact on their lives beyond the institution.

    These courageous narratives directly address issues of internal racism, stereotypes, institutional support, politics of identity, and cultural preservation. As a result, we see evidence of a Native presence in academe as well as the students' obvious contributions not only to their home communities, but also to mainstream America. The narratives fuel academic, political, cultural, and social discussions and debates around such questions as: What does it mean to be educated? What does it mean for Native students to leave home to attend an Ivy League college? What does it mean, despite the challenges of academic survival, to be forced to confront fears, such as loss of cultural and tribal identity and belonging? Despite the mismatch between culture and schooling, it is rare that we see Native individuals transforming a historical discussion about failures into a powerful discussion about resistance, preservation, and cultural survival. While educational researchers have largely focused their inquiries on why Native students fail, Garrod and Larimore have taken a different approach--one that for many in academe is not considered "academic" per se--that consciously creates a forum in which these exceptional individuals can openly share testimonies of their struggle and ultimate success without appearing self-glorifying. Through the students' written reflections, readers can fully appreciate the real experiences, real emotions, and real concerns at the forefront of their experience. No doubt, these narratives will evoke a continuum of emotions: anger, sadness, joy, and warmth. While these stories are placed specifically within the context of Dartmouth College, these individuals' experiences may mirror those of many Native college students across the United States.

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