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Abstract

This study examines an urban Title VII education program in mid-Michigan, seeking to understand how it facilitates the cultivation of distinct and the seemingly alternative, social worlds and social projects that affect both the positive and problematic distribution of educational and cultural outcomes for Indigenous stakeholders. As a federally-assisted supplemental education program, Title VII was primarily designed to address both the educational achievement and the “culturally-related academic needs” of American Indian students attending non-tribal public schools. This dissertation, therefore, works to approach these programs and their students as complex entities who deserve to be understood in their diversity and multiplicity of layers. By using varied, multi-stage anthropological methods, this study notes the everyday processes and interactions that occur, both on-site and off-site, ,while keeping broader temporal and spatial, discursive and material, contexts in mind. Rather than pre-judge certain actions as important and others as less so, I have used two years of extended time in the field and the variety of my data gathering activities (active participation and observation, interviews with multiple levels of stakeholders, existing data, and documents/archival information) to build a more comprehensive representation of stakeholder experiences and the environment that initiates, mitigates, or otherwise affects those experiences. This work may be particularly revealing of the uneven landscapes of both alternative and normative social projects in urban Indigenous life because the field site is an American Indian education program in a small city without a nearby reservation, which means that the most direct links to the places, families, cultures, politics, and economics that are often discursively associated with historical and contemporary American Indians are least apparent and most complex. It is my intent, therefore, that this work advance Anthropology's - and, indeed, humanity's - understandings of what processes and practices, and combinations thereof, cultivate and contest alternative possibilities for educational programs within the world, especially for those who are culturally, ethnoracially, politically, and/or economically marginalized, whether historically and/or in the complex present. With that in mind, the chapters in the text include: 1) Introduction; 2) Geographic & Historical Context; 3) Program Development & Structure; 4) Academics; 5) Culture & Identity; 6) Theorizing the Program & Its Liminalities; 7) Conclusion.

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