Addressing historic and systemic racial inequities: Coeur d’Alene land-based STEM education

August 1st, 2022 - July 31st, 2026 | PROJECT

Improving diversity in STEM fields is key to addressing the critical and complex issues faced by society in the 21st century. Research shows that only 17% of American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) students continue their education after high school versus 60% of the U.S. population. AIAN communities experience some of the greatest educational disparities of any racial/ethnic group in STEM subjects and overall academic achievement in both K12 and post-secondary education. Despite natural resources and environmental careers? important to tribes, less than 20% of Native Americans graduating from college do so with STEM degrees, with numbers decreasing in the past five years The Coeur d?Alene Tribe faces daunting environmental challenges that threaten its ability to maintain and restore its culture, language and landscape. Tribal members who are proficient in Coeur d?Alene and Western STEM are needed to advance racial equity and address systemic racism in STEM education for Indigenous youth. Increasingly, research is demonstrating how critical the inclusion of Native history and ways of knowing is to attract and retain Native students. Developing interest, and a sense of belonging in the STEM fields must begin before students enter college; this is especially important for Indigenous youth. In alignment with this goal, this project will address systemic racism by integrating historical and present-day events with culturally relevant. The project will advance racial equity through experiential teaching to provide a template for tribal and underrepresented communities wishing to develop a STEM workforce.

This project centers on an Indigenous Scholars program, immersing students in land-based learning to deepen a relationship with their homeland while understanding how legal and political conflicts impact environmental and community health. Students will explore ways of knowing in language, mathematics, science, arts, and society and culture, through sessions led by scholars versed in Indigenous methodologies. Inter-generational mentoring will focus on academic coaching supporting students to see themselves as change agents through their educational achievement. Through a summer youth internship and the production of multi-media documentaries, students will demonstrate knowledge about their aboriginal territory, the impact of external policies and actions on the Tribe, and how STEM fields support self-determination. These components will support students? understanding of their community?s history and core values and strengthen their sense of agency in protecting resources for future generations. This Tribally-led project will inform researchers how participation in a summer internship designed using critical Indigenous pedagogies of place impacts youth identities as Native STEM learners, and is demonstrated in multimedia documentary products; 2) how intergenerational mentoring and exposure to Indigenous research and scholarship impacts critical consciousness.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Team Members

Chris Meyer, Principal Investigator, Coeur d'Alene Tribe
Dale Chess, Co-Principal Investigator, University of Montana
Laura Laumatia, Co-Principal Investigator, Coeur d'Alene Tribe


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST); Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL); Discover Research K-12
Award Number: 2200838
Funding Amount: $2,795,365.00


Access and Inclusion: Indigenous and Tribal Communities
Audience: Elementary School Children (6-10) | Middle School Children (11-13) | Undergraduate | Graduate Students | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Art | music | theater | Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Mathematics
Resource Type: Project Descriptions | Projects
Environment Type: Higher Education Programs | K-12 Programs