Graduation Date


Document Type

Master's Thesis


Master of Science



Program Director

Jennifer Lucko, PhD

First Reader

Katherine Lewis, PhD

Second Reader

Kathleen Ferrando, Med


The research problem this qualitative study addresses is how Native American history, and European settler colonialism, can be critically taught in a developmentally appropriate manner, avoiding eurocentrism and whitewashing. Most research on Ethnic Studies and teacher preparation is focused on the high school level. Traditional elementary education tends to both romanticize and decontextualize Native American history, focusing on Native Americans as people who only lived in the distant past. Colonialism is often sanitized in Social Studies curriculum, with the perspectives of European settlers as the dominant frame of reference, where Native Americans are seen as secondary actors (Styres, 2019; Valdez, 2019). The purpose of this qualitative study is to examine how elementary teachers prepare to teach topics of settler colonialism and Native American history in a developmentally appropriate manner. Five elementary and middle school teachers from one Northern California school district completed a survey and then participated in follow-up semi-structured interviews. Through the interview and survey process, issues such as how Native Americans are currently represented in the curriculum (including standards, teaching materials, etc.), teacher philosophy, and teacher attitudes and perceptions about their preparedness for teaching these topics, were explored. The findings show that most teachers were unsatisfied with the teaching materials they relied on for teaching U.S. colonial history and Native American topics. Teacher participants generally believed that teaching resources should be easily obtainable and of higher quality to adequately teach these subjects. All teacher participants felt that more support is necessary, especially when addressing these topics in the younger grades.

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