Identifying and understanding Indigenous cultural and spiritual strengths in the higher education experience of Indigenous women utilizing a culturally intrinsic research paradigm model
Native students have the highest drop out rate of any racial or ethnic group in the United States, exceeding 65% nationally (Hill, 1991, cited in Bowker, 1992). American Indian females have the highest drop out rate for all groups in the United States, male or female (Bowker, 1992). Of those American Indian students who do graduate and enroll in college, between 75% and 93% will leave college without completing (Hill, 1991, cited in Bowker, 1992).;Researchers have investigated causes for the continuing high dropout rates, the relationship between home environment and education, and socioeconomic factors affecting Indian students in their educational experience. Much of this research has been conducted by non-Natives within a non-culturally intrinsic view. In addition, no research has been conducted on how and why Indigenous people who have completed a higher education experience persisted and achieved their goals. In addition, very little research has been conducted about Indigenous girls and women relative to educational experience, and none relative to higher education.;This research, conducted by an Indigenous researcher, investigated the cultural and spiritual strengths within Indigenous worldviews and value systems that enabled Native women to persist and complete a higher education experience. As a vehicle for this research, a Culturally Intrinsic Research Paradigm Model was created, developed, and implemented. It is a conceptual framework based on tribe-specific ideologies, value systems, and ways of being in the world. It does not rely on Western thought of either quantitative or qualitative paradigms.;Findings from this study lead to the conclusion that the Native women participating in this research relied on traditional Indigenous sources of strength as contexutalized by tribe specific affinity. These sources of strength focus on (1) experiencing all facets of life, including higher education, as a spiritual journey, (2) drawing strength from Indigenous stories, metaphors, images, and historical traditions, and (3) identification and attachment to the traditional Indigenous roles of women within their Nations. Utilization of these cultural and spiritual strengths in individual and unique ways was the means whereby the Indigenous women in this study achieved their higher education goals.