Introducing the Nipwaayoni Acquisition and Assessment Team (NAAT)

Aya eeweemilaani, kiišikohkwa weenswiaani. ‘Hello my relatives, my name is Haley Shea.’ I am an enrolled Tribal member and also work doing research at the Myaamia Center. As a child, I attended the Eewansaapita camp (in the very first year!) and have continued engaging with tribal programming ever since. I feel honored to continue to give back to my Tribal community in any way that I can; the Nipwaayoni Acquisition and Assessment Team (NAAT) is a way for me to combine my intellectual pursuits with my tribal heritage. Because of my involvement in tribal programming since my youth, I have situated myself as an individual with both personal and academic expertise to lend to these research efforts. Much of the work of NAAT has historically been conducted behind the scenes, but it is my hope to increase transparency around the formation, goals, and future of NAAT and how our work benefits the tribal community.

Formation

After the start of the Eemamwiciki ‘awakening’ of the Myaamia language and culture, community leaders observed and anecdotally reported positive changes within the community at large. In particular, they noticed that participation and engagement by Myaamia citizens at tribal events was booming. In fact, Julie Olds mentioned,

…it’s amazing the things that have come back, that have been revitalized and renewed…in the sense of community and relations.  Prior to the return of language there were maybe 35-40 people at an annual meeting, and now an annual meeting has 150 members who bring their families. We can have 300-350 people in the room, I personally believe because of the return of the language.

Julie Olds, personal communication with Daryl Baldwin, 2000

These observations grew into a general question about how the language and cultural revitalization process was impacting the tribal community. Thus, a team of researchers was selected to respond to this question. Dr. Susan Mosley-Howard was the Dean of Students at Miami University at the time and a strong ally of the tribal community, with research interests in the success of Myaamia students and more broadly in the success of the Miami Tribe (among other diverse populations). Together with Daryl Baldwin, George Ironstrack, and Drs. Kate Rousmaniere, Joe Shroer, and Tracy Hirata-Edds, Dr. Mosley-Howard began the investigation with the development of a series of specific research questions. 

Haley Shea, Susan Mosley-Howard, and Kate Rousmaniere (left to right) at the 2016 Myaamiaki Conference.
Haley Shea, Susan Mosley-Howard, and Kate Rousmaniere (left to right) at the 2016 Myaamiaki Conference.

NAAT was officially formed in 2012 while I was an undergraduate student at Miami University, studying Psychology. As I advanced through my degree, I began to contemplate my future career and knew that giving back to the tribe in some way was my ultimate goal. Daryl and George encouraged me to pursue graduate studies, also not knowing what form my future contributions would take, but hoping that some sort of support for the Myaamia Center would manifest. I subsequently applied to and interviewed for doctoral programs and was admitted to Iowa State University’s Counseling Psychology program. My training has equipped me with skills in providing therapy, conducting rigorous empirical research, as well as teaching collegiate level psychology courses. While in my doctoral program, I began contributing to the work of the NAAT’s research activities. Since graduating, I have taken a position at Miami University as a Research Associate at the Myaamia Center, and now serve as co-chair of the team with Dr. Mosley-Howard. 

Goals

The work of NAAT centers around three populations within the Myaamia community including:

  1. Myaamia students attending Miami University as part of the Heritage Award Program
  2. Youth who attend the Eemamwiciki Summer Programs (Eewansaapita and Saakaciweeta)
  3. Myaamia community members
Myaamia Heritage Students posing with moccasins they made at a workshop.
Myaamia Heritage Students posing with moccasins they made at a workshop.

Our research process involves observing community events for significant events/changes, surveys of community members’ experiences, and interviews with community members. We ultimately collect information on how language and cultural revitalization impact (1) academic attainment, (2) living well, (3) community engagement and (4) national growth and continuance for each of the aforementioned groups. 

Our goal with collecting this data is first and foremost to provide a better experience for the tribal community in connecting to and engaging with their heritage language and culture. The information we collect serves as a feedback loop that helps the program coordinators to be able to continually improve. We also hope that our work can provide feedback to tribal leadership in order to explain the benefits of the programming and to continue strengthening and growing the educational endeavors the Tribe decides to undertake. Finally, we also hope to share our findings more broadly with the academic community so that other tribal communities can build, shape, and grow their own language and cultural programming. 

To date, we have collected data on all four of the outcomes and have identified positive impacts of language and cultural revitalization on each. More information on specific findings can be found in the research briefs and publications on the NAAT website. 

Future

We are currently working on many projects in order to continue to grow as a research team and build support for long-term work. We are working on a model of living well to define this concept for Myaamiaki. It is our hope that the narrative surrounding this construct is built by tribal members themselves and will serve to improve living well for all Myaamiaki. 

In addition, we are currently working with Computer Science and Software Engineering and Health Information Technology students at Miami University on building a database that is unique to the data that we collect. This will enable us to be much more efficient with our data collection, storage, maintenance, and reporting of any data we collect. 

In order to build the physical infrastructure and theoretical background for the NAAT work as well as support future exponential growth as a team, we are also partnering with multiple departments at Miami University. These partnerships include the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness to bolster the data collected regarding our Heritage Students on campus and the Center for Analytics and Data Science to support our analysis of that data. We are also beginning to engage with faculty from the Public Health program at Miami in order to increase our interdisciplinary team as well as to expand our theoretical perspective of Myaamia health. Ultimately, it is our hope that these partnerships will continue to grow and will give us the capacity to be able to meet the growing needs of the Myaamia community. 

To summarize, the NAAT was developed as a means to assess the impact that language and cultural revitalization within the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma is having on the community as a whole. This work is continually growing with emerging conceptualizations of health for Myaamiaki, new methods of data collection, and new partnerships for added structural support. The NAAT hopes that our work can be a voice for the Myaamia community, so if you have any feedback or questions, feel free to reach out to us via email at naat@miamioh.edu

Šaaye,

Haley


[1] An outline of these research questions as well as past NAAT publications can be found in the on the NAAT webpage https://www.miamioh.edu/myaamia-center/research/naat/index.html.

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