What Can the Navajo Horse Teach Us about Decolonizing Education?
Kelsey John

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Syracuse University

Primary Discipline

My dissertation aims to connect Diné and scholarly knowledge at the nexus point of Tribal College and University Institutions (TCUs). To do this, I use Indigenous and decolonizing methodologies to center the Navajo horse as an point of connection, knowledge, and healing in the Diné community. The goal of my dissertation research is to document how the Navajo horse is related to the Diné philosophy of education at existing Navajo Tribal Colleges and Universities, and how Diné might continue learning from horses. For Navajo, centering the horse means centering land, language, culture, relationships, and healing—all of which are foundational to decolonizing educational institutions. By connecting community and traditional knowledge about the horse to Navajo TCUs, this research will help foster stronger curriculum, research, and community outreach at Navajo TCUs. In the future development and dissemination of this research, I hope to build toward an established Diné research methodology for future Diné students, faculty, and communities to use for Diné-centered research that directly informs policy, education, and service on Navajo Nation.
About Kelsey John
Kelsey John (Diné) is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Cultural Foundations of Education at Syracuse University and a former National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. She is Diné and her clans are tł ááshchi’i báshíshchíín, and bit’ahnii dashinálí. Kelsey grew up with a passion for land, horses, and education and pursues the health, healing, and connection of all of these in her service and research. In her research, she uses Indigenous methodologies to center the interconnected relationships of American Indian land, animals, and people for decolonizing settler colonial institutions. Currently, she lives in Farmington, NM and works with a Navajo Tribal University for her dissertation research. When she’s not working, she runs with her dog June bug, spends time riding horses, and hangs out with her family. Alongside her research, she is learning her language—Diné Bizaad (the Navajo language). Her research interests include: Indigenous feminism, Diné studies, settler colonial studies, Indigenous methodologies, and Tribal Colleges and Universities. She is committed to maintaining an active scholarly and service agenda through her volunteer work as a sexual assault advocate at Sexual Assault Services of North West New Mexico and her work as an adjunct faculty for the Diné Studies department at Navajo Technical University.

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