Date of Award

Spring 8-25-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Terence Keeney

Second Advisor

Frank Trocco

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Jones


This qualitative inquiry uses the narrative methodology of portraiture to explore how the experiences of three successful Native educators and community leaders can contribute to the adult learning and development literature. In portraiture study the researcher uses diverse methods of gathering data, including interviews, observations of participants, and participant artifacts to co-construct a story of each participant’s life. Participants’ portraits were analyzed using well-established adult learning theories including Erickson’s developmental lifespan concept of generativity, Lave and Wenger’s concept of situated learning and communities of practice; Wlodkowski’s concepts of motivation and culture; Belenky and her colleagues’ conceptions of voice as development; and various concepts related to leadership. Newer, less well-established adult learning theories were also used in the analysis: those of indigenous meaning making, spirituality, and narrative learning or “storying.” Cultural sustainability, done in ways particular to each participant, is the overarching theme common to their portraits. The participants, two Tlingits from Southeast Alaska, and one originally from Taos, New Mexico but married to a Tlingit man and adapted into the tribe, work to sustain Tlingit culture through practices of Chilkat weaving, Tlingit language teaching, and performing Tlingit ceremony with younger generations. Their practices as educators and leaders are anchored in a value system that is grounded in relationships, and in an indigenous cosmology that understands interconnectedness of all life. This study may benefit others by making the connection between personal renewal and cultural restoration explicit, by showing how a grounding in culture can foster not only belonging and connectedness, but also personal identity; by showing how adversity and intergenerational grief can be overcome with social support and opportunities to cultivate social-emotional assets; and by providing a genuine encounter with authentic voices of the three participants.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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