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Transborder Indigenous Education: Kumeyaay/Kumiay Educational Sovereignty on the U.S/Mexico border

Forthcoming 2024


The U.S./Mexico border is a site of increased state polices for surveillances, hyper-militarization, and state sanctioned violence on Native Americans and Indigenous peoples living on the border. Similarly, public schooling in the U.S. and Mexico is damaging to Native and Indigenous students (Lomawaima & McCarty 2006). Sate surveillance and criminalization on the border and in schools attempt to rupture Indigenous relationships and curtail Indigenous sovereignty across colonial borders—specially tribes separated by colonial borders.

This seven-year multi-site community-based, historical, and critical ethnographic study reveal how tribal nations separated by the U.S./Mexico border practice traditions, defend Indigenous existence and lands, and are (re)connecting and strengthening transborder bonds. Drawing from decolonial theory, Native Feminisms, and Chicana feminists, the border is a site of analysis to examine how overlapped multi-settler colonialisms, state surveillance, hyper-militarization, state policies on the U.S./Mexico border attempt to rupture Indigenous forms of education. Further, this study interrogates how Latinidad subsumes Indigenous peoples and erases Indigenous migrations and Indigenous sovereignty on the U.S/Mexico border. This study reveals how transborder Indigenous migrations, Indigenous knowledge systems, language revitalization, and intertribal and intergenerational bonds are not rupturing, but in fact, strengthening, (re)connecting, and defending Indigenous existence and lands as a form of Indigenous sovereignty on the border and in schools.

Trans-Mission Hauntings and Ama de Llaves Apparitions in Contemporary California Schooling

Submitted and accepted

Book Chapter

Critical Missions Studies

Mission haunting-- cyclical ghosts present in modern forms of Indigenous dispossessions and land theft—operate in today’s schooling on the U.S./Mexico border. This seven-year tribally lead project reveals how public schooling policing and “safety” measures are grounded in mission haunting logics. In juxtaposing primary sources of the historical figure of the Ama de Llaves, Mexican (mixed-race) women mission key keepers, and critical ethnography, at an East San Diego County high school located close to the U.S./México border, uncover how key stakeholders in public schools, such as administrators and teachers, distribute and withhold resources, stoke historical racial tensions between Native and students of color reminiscent of mission haunting logics is damaging to Native students. For example, administrators and teachers operate as mission keepers by surveilling private spaces, in some instances promoting racial and gendered divisions between students, and execute punitive disciplinary actions to expel rebellious behavior for birthing laborers into the nation-state.


Native youth and community members—parents, tribal leaders, and advocates--are carving out private spaces on campus to assert, (re)connect, (re)ignite, and strengthen bonds with each other and their communities to reduce the high school pushout rate (dropout). By centering Native youth voices, and tracing student engagement in a student-run organization, this chapter demonstrates how youth, when given the opportunity, students will burn down mission legacy in their schools. This chapter will emphasize how one tribal community incorporated requirements for school districts on how to better serve their children and how to use and distribute Title VII funding.

The Illegality of Crossing(s) and Racialization of Indigenous Peoples on the U.S-México Border in Alta and Baja California

Forthcoming 2023

Book Chapter

Critical Latinx Indigeneities

“The Illegality of Crossing(s) and Racialization of Indigenous Peoples on the U.S-Mexico Border in Alta and Baja California,” uncover how the effects of the border on Indigenous peoples as “Mexican,” reproduces ongoing erasures and eventual gendered dispossession of Native peoples from their land. The “Mexican” racial category is an anti-Indigenous taxonomy in the San Diego borderlands history which disappears Indigenous peoples under “Latinidad.

Five Cycles of Education:
Kumeyaay/Kumiai Experience of Assimilation, Isolation, Resistance and Negotiation

Published 2014

Master's Thesis


This study tracks Kumeyaay educational experience from past to present, focusing on state-run educational institutions. This study will further analyze the organization of knowledge by exploring all types of education: formal, informal, and nonformal. There are five educational phases for the Kumeyaay, beginning with indigenous education, subsequently followed by the introduction of formal education: Spanish (1769-1833), Mexican (1833-1848), American (1848-current) and Indigenous and American/Mexican education (current) time periods.

After years of resistance, forced assimilation, and isolation the Kumeyaay are re-taking their education. The Kumeyaay are using educational institutions as tools to “educate” or “re-educate” their youth.[1] If they do not reclaim their education, it will be lost to formal schooling. Thus, this study shows how the Kumeyaay are reclaiming their culture by the appropriation of educational institutions for the continuation of Kumeyaay traditions, memory, and language. These educational institutions range from language revitalization programs, museums, and other forms of education that originate in the household. The fifth phase of education for the Kumeyaay is a period of practicing sovereignty and the restoration of their traditional knowledge.


[1]. Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies.

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