Equitable access to cooperative extension services for Indigenous communities

Hartmann, Katherine Ann, author
Basile, Vincent, advisor
Archibeque-Engle, Shannon, committee member
Birmingham, Daniel, committee member
Ginsberg, Ricki, committee member
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Cooperative Extension, the United States Department of Agriculture's educational outreach program, is found in nearly 100% of US counties, but can only be found in a tiny percentage, less than 10%, of Indigenous communities (Brewer, Hiller, Burke, & Teegerstrom, 2016; NCAI, 2010). Control over agricultural systems and alienation from traditional foodways was used during colonization to overpower and disenfranchise Indigenous communities (Dunbar- Ortiz, 2015; Harris, 2004; Knobloch, 1996) and the reverberations of this history are still present in Indigenous communities today. Given the mission of equity and access that Land Grant Institutions (LGIs) ascribe to (Sorber & Geiger, 2014) and the history of Indigenous land dispossession that created LGIs (Stein, 2017), Cooperative Extension has a responsibility to Indigenous communities to provide equitable access to the benefits of this system. Traditional Extension programs at 1862 LGIs can collaborate with the Indigenous communities in their state in order to equitably provide educational resources and agricultural support. Through a Critical Race Theory and decolonizing lens, I investigated to what extent Extension educators at 1862 LGIs in the Western Region of Extension are collaborating with Indigenous communities, what makes Extension educators that do form these collaborations successful, the common barriers to successful collaborations, and what systemic supports are missing for successful collaborations to exist. In order to do this, I used a transformative convergent mixed methods approach that included a survey to gain a quantitative overview of the collaborations in the region and qualitative interviews to more deeply understand specific examples of collaborations through educators' lived experiences. During the research process, I included participant voices and feedback during all stages. The major findings from this work are grouped into four sections. First, I provided an overview of the kinds of programs that Extension educators are facilitating in the region, including many programs that address traditional Extension topics as well as programs that lie further outside of Extension's traditional reach. Next, I explored the characteristics of successful education programs and successful educators. Successful programs centered the goals of the communities in their planning and implementation, they enjoyed collaborative support from an Insider to the community, and were culturally relevant. The participants also identified characteristics that make educators successful, including making a long-term commitment and getting involved with the community, building trusting relationships, developing an academic understanding of the historical, cultural, and educational context, being willing to learn, and developing allyship. The last section of the Findings explored the barriers that educators identified to successful collaborations, including a lack of funding, the logistics of doing research, issues associated with rural communities, their time being spread too thin, community distrust of the government and universities, and the racism that they and their communities face. From the findings of this study, my participants and I co-constructed recommendations and implications. Suggestions for what Extension could be doing to better serve Indigenous communities emerged, including how they might support people, education, and culture within their organization. These included encouraging engagement and collaboration, creating culturally relevant programs, allowing Extension educators freedoms in their work, giving value to this work in employee evaluations, and providing support, education, and mentoring to Extension educators. Lastly, I discuss next steps for Extension administration, educators, and future research including how they can create systemic change through supporting collaborations with Indigenous communities and the work that still needs to be done.
2021 Spring.
Includes bibliographical references.
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land grant universities
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