What can łį́į́’ teach us about decolonizing education?

Date of Award

May 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Cultural Foundations of Education


Gretchen E. Lopez


Decolonization, Education, Horse, Indigenous Methodologies, Navajo, Settler Colonial Studies

Subject Categories



This dissertation chronicles a narrative of Diné horses as knowers and decolonizers. Given the violent history of education in the Diné community, decolonizing research and education means centering Diné knowledge as academic knowledge. I do this by focusing on the Diné horse. I center Navajo traditional and community knowledge about horses and build upon work from Indigenous and decolonial studies while also joining decolonial work within my Diné community. I connect Diné horse knowledge to the existing Diné philosophy of education at a Tribal University through interviews, course observations, talking circles, and photo elicitation. I make these connections for the purpose of building a stronger Diné-centered curriculum, research, and community outreach at Diné University. The research findings outline four major epistemological interventions for Indigenous and decolonizing education. First, the connection between land, livestock, and research in a Diné worldview and the violent disconnection of all these in the network of settler colonialism. Second, the importance of centering horses to decolonize Diné gender and critique heteropatriarchy for the purpose of decolonizing education and research. Third, I raise questions about epistemology by positioning horses as knowers. Finally, the foundation and the outlook for Diné people, horses, land, and research is positive, renewing, and ongoing, making this desire based research (Tuck & Yang, 2014).


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