Journal of American Indian Education
Volume 34 Number 1
Mary E. Romero
This particular project is important in many different ways. One of them certainly is the opportunity being provided to us in terms of our developing criteria that makes for a totally different definition of what is considered to be gifted and talented characteristics of individuals ... the outcome is going to provide opportunities that have not really been provided for Indian children. The project gives people from our respective communities an opportunity to give the type of input in terms of what people value. What value you place on the characteristics of gifted and talented individuals is different from what has been found in the past and which has excluded our Indian children (Pecos, 1990, p. 5).
As explained above by Regis Pecos from Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico State Director for Indian Affairs, American Indian underrepresentation in gifted and talented programs results from a number of interrelated factors which may or may not be, in nature and degree, similar to factors that characterize other underrepresented populations. Among the New Mexican Pueblo population, more fundamental than the issues of underrepresentation and identification is the concept of giftedness itself. For this culturally diverse population, giftedness reaches far beyond a definition, a screening process, or an identification procedure; it reaches into the historic values, traditions, languages, and lifestyles of a culturally diverse group of people who are unlike the middle class American population in many respects.
Fundamental values, cognitive and social developmental experiences, and other aspects of the Keresan Pueblo culture create cultural notions of giftedness notably different from the mainstream notions of giftedness. This difference between the Keresan Pueblo and mainstream notions of giftedness is a reflection of the values and goals of the respective societies and contributes to the underrepresentation of Native Pueblo learners in New Mexico's gifted programs. Consequently, the approach utilized in this study to investigate giftedness among the Keresan Pueblo population required a close examination of not only the nature and background of the Pueblo learner, but also a recognition and an understanding of the nature and needs of their tribal communities because it is in these Native contexts that the educational process truly begins. It is here that the Pueblo child begins to formalize and conceptualize fundamental Native life principles and values; begins the physical, mental, and spiritual developmental process called "growth"; and, begins to internalize the outer world, which includes formal education.
As a means of addressing the question of underrepresentation of New Mexico's gifted American Indian learners, Santa Fe Indian School (SFIS), an alternative tribally-operated academic and residential school serving 560 secondary American Indian students primarily from the Pueblo communities, initiated the twoyear qualitative study to investigate the Keresan Pueblo communities' perceptions of giftedness within their own cultural context "The Keres Study", investigated the Pueblo perceptions of giftedness and identified gifted traits and characteristics of Keresan people from a Native perspective as means of better comprehending the dynamics and interrelationship between the Pueblo learner, the Native communities, and the mainstream tenets of gifted education.
A secondary goal of the research study was to provide opportunities for American Indians to gain experience and training in educational research through direct involvement in the research process. This process allowed American Indians to become involved in and to conduct research for the Indian population.
Aside from geographic proximity to one another, the nineteen New Mexico Pueblos, share common elements of Native lifestyle, life philosophies, and certain customs, traditions, and ceremonial aspects. Located in regions where the Spanish explorers first encountered them in 1539 (Dozier, 1970), they range in size from less than 175 in Picuris Pueblo to close to 9,000 in Zuni Pueblo. The New Mexico Office of Indian Affairs 1991 figures report a total Pueblo population of 43,333 tribal members.
Although many general characteristics are shared among the New Mexican Pueblos, distinct differences exist. One considerable difference is language. There are three distinct language families among the Pueblos: Keresan, Tanoan and Zunian. This study focused on the seven Keresan-speaking communities of New Mexico whose total population is documented as 13,200 (U. S. Bureau of the Census, 1990). They included the Pueblos of Acoma, Cochiti, Laguna, San Felipe, Santa Ana, Santo Domingo, and Zia. Forty-three percent of the total student population at Santa Fe Indian School are from Keresan-speaking communities.
The Keres Study focused on understanding a Native people's perspective of giftedness through the Native language. It is unique in that it is the first of its kind within the nation, but more importantly, the first of its kind within the Keresan Pueblo communities of New Mexico. This fact, combined with a skepticism towards research among Pueblo people, the seclusive nature of the Pueblo communities, and the nature of the research project made the involvement throughout the study of individuals from the Keresan communities or individuals familiar with and sensitive to the Keresan Pueblo culture critical. The involvement of Keresan community members allowed for the emergence of reliable and salient data. Their expertise and insights were utilized beginning with the designing of an appropriate and sensitive research design to the conducting and analysis of interview data. Without this approach, the outcomes might not have emerged.
Just as important as the involvement of Native community members in this study was the maintenance of sensitivity to the Keresan people and adherence to proper protocol. Consequently, due to a powerful oral tradition among them, interviewing was chosen as the most appropriate method for gathering information. Interviewing was also the most appropriate research method for eliciting rich and extensive data regarding gifted as it pertains to the Keresan people. Adherence to proper protocol is especially vital within New Mexican Pueblo communities due to their seclusive nature. Therefore, before any step was taken to initiate the research study, important elements of the Pueblo societies had to be considered, one being an awareness of the attitude among Pueblo people towards research. Pueblo people have become extremely skeptical of research in general as a result of innumerable experiences with outside research which have had a consistent pattern of little or no direct benefit to the Pueblo communities. As protection from exploitation and for cultural preservation, Pueblo society requires that any transactions between community and outside agencies or people, including endeavors such as this research study, receive prior approval of the respective Pueblo Governor, and in some cases, of the tribal council. Fully informing each Pueblo Governor about the study and its purpose was essential not only to obtain their support and approval for conducting interviews within their respective Pueblo communities, but essential as means of demonstrating a sensitivity and a respect of Pueblo protocol.
The research question below guided the Keres Study:
What characteristics do the respective Keresan Pueblo communities identify as indicative of giftedness from a traditional community perspective?
Twenty-two open-ended interviews were conducted in two phases in the seven Keresan communities as means of understanding gifted from a traditional Keresan Pueblo perspective. In Phase One, 14 Keresan tribal members, a male and a female from each of the Keresan communities, were identified for interviewing by their respective tribal Governor, his representatives, or both. These individuals were selected on three criteria: 1) the possession of in-depth cultural knowledge, 2) active participation in Native community functions, and 3) knowledge of fellow tribal members. The fourteen Phase One tribal members were individually interviewed by the American Indian Co-Principal Investigator to 1) obtain their perceptions, thoughts, and opinions of giftedness; 2) to identify characteristics and/or traits of traditionally gifted Keresan community members; 3) to identify specific individuals within their Pueblo communities who reflect these Native gifted characteristics and/or traits; and, 4) to solicit Keresan expressions and terms for gifted. The Phase One interviewees ranged from 25 to 55 years of age.
In Phase Two, eight interviews were conducted by the American Indian Co-Principal Investigator for the purpose of furthering the examination of the Keresan notions of giftedness and for the expansion and validation of the characteristics, traits, and talents of the Native concept of giftedness identified by the Phase One interviewees. A preliminary interview approach and areas of focus for the Phase Two interviews was outlined by the Keres Study's Advisory Committee (see below). Of the 41 individuals identified by the Phase One interviewees as reflecting the Native definition of gifted, seven (one from each of the seven Pueblos [see Note 2]) were randomly selected to interview for case histories. An additional male, highly recommended by his respective Governor, was also interviewed; thus, making a total of eight (three female and five male) Phase Two case history interviews. Interviewees ranged from 19 to 67 years of age. Phase Two case history interviews ranged from 3 to 4 1/2 hours and were conducted in the homes of the individuals or the tribal community building.
The interviews were conducted in an open format and focused on the traits and characteristics of the gifted individuals, the emergence and nurturance of these traits and characteristics, and the life experiences of the gifted individual, including significant people and events. In consideration of the Keresan Pueblo socio-cultural restriction associated with the highlighting or differentiating of fellow tribal members, the Phase Two case history interview approach focused solely on the life experiences and the talents, characteristics, and traits of the gifted Keresan individual and did not introduce the conventional nor traditional Pueblo notions of giftedness.
Due to the diverse Keresan language dialects and varying tenninology among the seven Keresan Pueblos, the fourteen Phase One and eight Phase Two interviews were conducted primarily in English, with the exception of the Keresan terminology utilized in the descriptions of the traits, characteristics, and talents of Keresans who reflected the Native concept of giftedness. All 22 interviews were reviewed by four selected readers, two American Indian readers, the cultural consultant and the Keresan language specialist, and two Non-American Indian readers, the gifted education consultant and an ethnographic researcher/ university professor. Each reader utilized analysis forms to note patterns and themes as well as salient and interesting points emerging from each interview. In addition to the thematic analysis of each interview, an across-analysis of all fourteen interviews was conducted.
Further thematic analysis of the 22 interviews was conducted by the Advisory Committee which was composed of the project's two co-principal investigators and the four selected readers mentioned above. Advisory members summarized their analysis findings, examined further any conflicting data, discussed concepts of giftedness within Keresan societies, examined in depth the identified characteristics and traits of gifted Keresan people, and developed categorizations for these characteristics and traits based on Keresan terminology. Further validation of findings was conducted at the May 1994 Keres Study Symposium, which included participants from the seven Keresan Pueblo communities. The symposium also served as a means for ensuring that research was "brought back to the people".
1. Giftedness is viewed as a global human quality encompassed by all individuals and manifested through one's contribution to the well-being of the community. In Keresan Pueblo society, community contribution or "giving back" is described as an inner desire to contribute to the well-being of one's people and to the perpetuation and preservation of the Native way of life, its culture, values, traditions, and language. This fundamental life principle extends beyond individual actions and spans into a realm of human existence linked to the tribal community to intimately bind a Pueblo community together. "Giving back" is an integral element of a Keresan Pueblo perspective of giftedness.
2. Although no Keresan term exists for giftedness, present in the Keresan language are descriptive terms referring to the possession of unique and special cultural abilities, traits, and talents in specific areas which retain their significance only in the Pueblo value system.
3. In a traditional Native context, these unique and special cultural abilities, traits, and talents are recognized as unique abilities, traits, and talents only and are not utilized as a basis for distinction or highlighting one individual over another.
4. The concept of possessing unique and special abilities or talents in specific areas is meaningful only as they are applied and utilized in a way which benefits others.
5. Forms of giftedness are intrinsically linked with the cultural values and activities of the Keresan Pueblo society. The emerging, special talents, areas, traits, and characteristics were categorized into four interrelated cultural domains which were based on elicited Keresan terminology (see Note 3):
Domain One: A' dzii ayama' guunu, the humanistic or affective domain, literally refers to the heart or giving from the heart. More specifically, it is a reflection of one's conviction in the inherent, fundamental Keresan life principles (discussed above in Finding One) which permeate all aspects of Keresan life (i.e., language, values, traditions, ceremony [see Note 4), etc.). This domain surfaced strongly as an essential trait of traditionally gifted Pueblo people and is manifested in such humanistic qualities as compassion, the willingness to give of one's self, sacrificing for others, empathy, and generosity.
Domain Two: Weeka' dza, the linguistic domain, refers to the possession of special linguistic abilities. The majority of Keresan Pueblos have no written language. For centuries, these societies have incorporated a sophisticated oral tradition embodying an archaic linguistic system with intricate language structures, unique terminology, and specific forms and patterns of language operations.
Domain Three: Dzii guutuni, the knowledge domain, a reflection of ingenuity, means that one has abundant cultural knowledge and knows how and when to appropriately apply this knowledge. An oral tradition within Pueblo societies requires members to rely on visual and verbal long and short-term memory and the recall of information pertaining to Native activities, events, and customs in the application of high level cognitive abilities such as comprehension, concept formation, reasoning, etc., in both a Native and mainstream context.
Domain Four: Kaam 'asruni, the domain of creativity associated with psychomotor abilities, literally refers to the notable ability to create with the hands. This ability is reflected as the actual process of creating or in the products one creates, i.e., traditional art forms. Keen perceptual organization, spatial reasoning and visualization, and visual-motor coordination are components of this ability.
6. The emerging specific talents, traits, and characteristics of the four cultural domains are interrelated within a domain (intra-domain) and across domains (inter-domain).
Gifted from a Keresan Pueblo Perspective
The interrelated elements outlined above create a concept of giftedness intricately associated with fundamental principles of Keresan Pueblo life. Of prime importance in the traditional Keresan Pueblo concept of giftedness is the fundamental belief that "giftedness" is a global human quality encompassed by all individuals. This inherent life principle is a reflection of the highest purpose (harmony) and values (relationships) of Keresan Pueblo society. Gifted is described as an inner desire to contribute to the well-being of one's community (or others) and to the perpetuation and preservation of the Native way of life, its culture, values, traditions, and languagea responsibility of all community members. This concept of gifted extends far beyond one individual in a way that intimately binds the Keresan people together and creates a society in which each individual is viewed as having inherent worth and value and who possesses an ability or a "gift" with which to contribute to the well-being of the community. This life principle creates a society in which relationships and cooperation rather than individualism and competition are emphasized and valued; where community contribution and helping others rather than self-promotion and self-interest are encouraged; and, where all individuals are equally valued rather than differentiated and separated.
. . . we are all treated on an equal basis and we are all expected to operate on an equal basis . . . the word I am trying to [say] is "in harmony". In fact that is the whole purpose of any of our activities. One has to be in harmony with not only nature, but with everything else and everyone else that is a participant in any activity. And the culmination of that or the fruit of it is looked at as being something that is for everyone, not just for an individual (Laguna Pueblo Phase One Interview: M2, 1991, p. 4).
In a traditional Native context, no merit is given to distinguishing or highlighting of individuals in terms of value and worth. Thus, the conventional concept of gifted which connotes the possession of superior abilities in comparison to others, is an alien and foreign concept in the traditional Keresan society. In fact, no Keresan term exists for gifted. Instead, one finds descriptive terms which refer to the possession of unique and special cultural abilities and/or talents in specific areas which retain their significance only in the Pueblo value system. The possession of one or more of these abilities is not equated with superiority over others or utilized as a basis for exclusive status. To do so would violate Keresan Pueblo socio-cultural norms. The reluctance to distinguish or "gauge" individuals in terms of their abilities or talents emerged very distinctly from the interviews in which a number of interviewees resisted naming or singling out others because this violated norms about being special and standing out from the rest. An acknowledgement of superiority over others as a result of the possession of specific abilities or talents was not made in any of the various Keresan explanations of giftedness. Quite the opposite, the identified individuals who possessed specific unique abilities or talents were viewed as integral tribal members, along with all others, who constitute the essence of the community.
A lot of it, I feel, is based on the fact that within our traditional lives one is not . . . noted for being, I guess in a sense, being recognized for something, being blessed, or being more perceptive of or receptive of the activities that we have. Basically, [the way] we look at it when we do our activities is that everyone is on an equal basis and no one sits there and looks at the young people or even the elders as to see how much more they know of this or how much quicker they can pick up this or that within the culture aspect. . . . Mainstream, Anglo society, really deals with how much better you can do this than the next guy (Laguna Phase One Interview: M2, 1990, p. 2).
Despite the socio-cultural restriction of individual highlighting and the absence of a Keresan term for gifted, a working definition of gifted from a traditional Pueblo perspective was articulated through the explanations of the various concepts or forms of giftedness explored in discussions and through the examination of Keresan terminology. Descriptive examples were provided of Keresan Pueblo individuals who seemed gifted in the sense that they had mastered knowledge and skills associated with specific traditional Native activities such as fanning, hunting, piki bread (see Note 5) etc. Some of the descriptive Keresan terms shared referred to an individual with foresight, an individual who understands or learns well, an individual who achieved a satisfying spiritual, material, or healthy life, or an individual who was blessed with special or unique abilities or talents such as Native song composition, articulation of the Native language, and the recollection of traditions.
The concept of possessing unique and special abilities or talents in specific areas was connected with the ability to apply and utilize these in a way that "gave back" or contributed positively to community. One way of "giving back" or contributing to the community is by sharing one's gifts with others, or teaching. Teaching and sharing were identified as one and the same and are essential qualities of a traditionally gifted individual. In a traditional Keresan Pueblo context, talented people have special skills or abilities, while gifted people possess these same kinds of special skills or abilities and teach or share these talents with others. For example, an award-winning potter who is not willing to teach or share the pottery making process with other tribal members would not be considered gifted; however, a potter who willingly and unselfishly teaches or shares the knowledge of the pottery making process with fellow tribal members would be. Ultimately, in this example, the sharing of one's giftsthe pottery making processensures the continuation of this traditional Native art process and, ultimately, contributes to the preservation and perpetuation of one aspect of Pueblo life.
. . . being able to share his knowledge is another thing . . . he is willing to share his knowledge, what he has gained from his efforts rather than keeping it to himself and in the long run his knowledge will live on forever (Santo Domingo Phase One Interview: F, 1991, p. 16).
Descriptions of giftedness, Keresan terminology, and the emerging talents, areas, and characteristics allowed for the articulation of a definition of giftedness from a traditional Keresan Pueblo perspective. The emerging talents, areas, and characteristics were clustered into the four interconnected cultural domains (see Figure 1) which were based on the elicited Keresan terminology.
A community member who possessed characteristics, traits, and/or talents from all four domains was identified as representing the ideal or ultimate traditional Keresan concept of giftedness. This "ideal Pueblo citizen" exemplifies the Native culture and values through his/her convictions and behavior.
I think all those put together, all of those things we talked about . . . especially (him], gifted in the language, gifted in the knowledge, of history and background of the community and gifted in some kind of an art and crafts, and then, of course, was a participant of the community . . . you may not excel in one area, but you have elements of each of those things to truly be, what you're going to define, a fully gifted person, a whole person who has elements of all these to be a truly gifted person in the community (Santa Ana Phase One Interview: F, 1991, p. 21).
A number of examples of this ideal Pueblo citizen were shared in the first interview phase and constituted the pool of Keresan Pueblo members identified for the second phase of interviews. For example, the Zia woman identified as being uniquely talented or "traditionally gifted" reflected elements of all four domains: 1) she possessed the required cultural knowledge of Native food preparation and ceremony (including song or prayer) and skillfully and appropriately applied this knowledge in the Native context (knowledge-ingenuity domain); 2) she was articulate and fluent in her Native language (linguistic domain); 3) she had mastered piki bread making and was a noted seamstress (creativity-psychomotor domain); and, 4) gave freely of her time, knowledge, effort, and energy as exemplified by her consistent participation in various tribal activities or functions, her sharing of knowledge, and teaching (sharing) her talents to others (affective-heart domain).
An inherent element of all four domains is "intellect." The notion that one can measure intellect such as on an intelligence instrument is of no value in a Native context since distinguishing or "gauging" human abilities in such a manner is alien. Although the concept of intellect in relation to the four domains constitutes an in-depth investigation of its own, a primary finding of the Keresan concept of giftedness is that the special or unique talents, abilities, traits, and characteristics are reflections of a complex society which views the physical universe quite differently from mainstream society. Consequently, the conceptualization and reflections of gifted are determined by the Pueblo societies' various cultural structures and functions.
In the descriptions of the characteristics, traits, and talents of the respective domains that follow, it is important to keep in mind that these initial domains and categories are to be refined and expanded upon in future studies.
Domain One: A' dzii ayama' guunu
A. Endurance, perseverance, inner strength, self-discipline
A' dzii ayama' guunu, the affective domain, literally refers to the heart or giving from the heart. This domain is a reflection of fundamental principles and values of Pueblo society and the human qualities such as compassion, the willingness to "give of one's self," sacrificing for others, empathy, and generosityall intrinsically related with the Keresan life concepts of community, sharing, and harmony. "Giving from the heart" is manifested as an inner desire to participate in Native activities of one's people.
You will have to want to be a part of this, then that's when your heart, your mind is pure for whatever blessing that you're gonna ask for because for every event, the way that we know, it is not just intended for the public. It's intended for the world (San Felipe Phase Two Interview: M, 1992, p. 18).
The traditionally gifted people will demonstrate strong convictions in Native culture through observable actions or modeling.
. . . But you have to give advice and do it too. Do it in a good way . . . you say a prayer in your own Indian way. You dance. That's praying in our Indian way, see. And then, um, those people that go all the time they're doing in action. They're dancing too instead of just telling you. So I think that's good in them. They don't just tell you, they go. They're the ones that are there (Cochiti Phase One Interview: F, 199 1, p. 2).
Other human qualities included in this domain are endurance, perseverance, and inner strength. Individuals who willingly and consistently participate in the traditional functions of the community are viewed as generous in their efforts, time, and knowledge, self-initiating, and self-disciplined.
. . . but there are some that really get into the tradition and culture where they go out of their way to do different things, say like prepare the paint, gather things that will be needed for the dance, staying up late and being able to get up early. Some of the activities that happen within the Pueblo . . . require four days of preparation. . . . These individuals have the fortitude of just continuing, putting body and soul into the activity . . . some individuals will do that and again [it] goes back to not waiting for anybody to tell you what the next step is or what to do. They just kind of know what needs to done and they just get into all that (Zia Phase One Interview: M, 1991, p. 11).
But I think, traditionally speaking, the true sense of the work ethic with our ancestors was to have a good life too. . . It takes a lot of guts even to live that good life because it is hard, say, to get up early in the morning to throw your cornmeal. That's a lot of self-discipline and I think Indian people . . . look at giftedness as being that. Having a lot of self-discipline is a gift (Santa Ana Phase One Interview: F, 1991, p. 3).
Domain Two: Weeka' dza
Special Linguistic Abilities
Weeka' dza, the linguistic domain (see Table 2), refers to the possession of special linguistic abilities, such as in speech and song. The majority of Keresan Pueblos have no written language. For centuries, these societies have incorporated a sophisticated oral tradition embodying an intricate language system with special terminology, norms, patterns, and forms of speech interconnected with song, dance, and prayer, all of which are integral, interrelated elements of Pueblo life and religion. The different language forms are 1) conversational or every day, casual language, 2) oratory or formal public speaking, and 3) ceremonial or specialized, spiritual prayer. Special linguistic abilities in speech are reflected as fluency in the language, knowledge and appropriate use of language sequences and levels in a traditional Native speech, notable articulation and use of archaic and special words, special ability in syntax. Auditory memory, recall, concentration, and motivation were identified as factors attributing to special linguistic abilities. Collectively, all of these factors constitute a special ability to communicate meaning and significance in the various linguistic forms of Keresan Pueblo society.
. . . that person is very, um, very fluent in the language. . . . I know some people, some guys that have a very good command even of the old language that our grandfathers . . . our people spoke. . . . Some big words that we hardly use anymore. They are able to stand up in front and come up with those kind of words to express what they're feeling. You know, very articulate in their Native language. . . . They have this understanding of the language. . . . (San Felipe Phase One Interview: M, 1991, p. 5).
Song composition, another linguistic area in which a specialized or unique talent or ability can be reflected, is analogous to the speech area described above. Like speech making, song composition involves cultural elements which include special language forms, pattern, sequence, and rhythm. Individuals with this special ability are able to compose songs that communicate a message effectively and aesthetically, possess a facility to learn songs, and reflect a notable ability to remember or recall past and recent songs.
. . . each May 1st during the corn dance or whenever there's new songs that get created and seems to me that people can identify without knowing who sang that song . . . in a way that it's sung or the way that it's carried. . . . Like somebody that's an outsider, they might feel that all the songs are the same. But, to a person from the community, all songs are different. . . . There was a man . . . he would always sing beautiful songs . . . you can almost tell . . . that's his song . . . having a gift also reflects in being able to sing songs . . . that are relevant to the community . . . real touching songs. Real songs that make you actually visualize something while you are singing it. You actually have a mental picture of the way the song is. . . . It's almost like a videotape recorder or whatever (San Felipe Phase One Interview: M, 1991, p. 6).
In addition to the two areas described above, the area of traditional advising, the advisement in the traditions of the Keresan culture as well as the counseling and guidance of others, was identified as a unique linguistic area. Traditional advisors reflect in-depth cultural knowledge and language, possess the humanistic qualities of generosity (willing to share knowledge, time and effort), empathy, and conviction in personal and cultural beliefs.
That he has good word for everyone that comes to him for advice or what ever they need. . . . And what he gives to the people, they are all good, good words, good example . . . he's telling them, giving them words . . . like planting into their minds. That's how it's said in Indian (Cochiti Phase One Interview, 199 1, pp. 2 and 16).
Domain Three: Dzii guutuni
Dzii guutuni, the knowledge domain (see Table 3), when literally translated means "one has abundant knowledge". It refers to the possession and effective and appropriate utilization of knowledge in a traditional Native context. Specific knowledge areas pertain to traditions, language, history, and ceremony. An oral tradition within Pueblo societies requires members to rely on visual and verbal long and short-term memory in the recall of information pertaining to Native activities, events, and customs in the application of high level thinking abilities such as comprehension, concept formation, reasoning, etc. These individuals reflect a keen interest in teaming the Pueblo culture and language as well as an intense interest in teaming per se. Other contributing factors include an inner desire to team, self-discipline, self-initiation, and conviction in Native beliefs.
Hunting and farming, both integral elements of Pueblo society and lifestyle, were identified as two special cultural areas in which traditionally gifted persons can reflect unique talents and knowledge. Three special cultural areas specifically designated for women were housekeeping, cookingfood preparation, and piki bread making. Housekeeping and cooking/food preparation, often regarded as menial tasks in the non-Native society, were identified as specialized cultural areas highly valued in Native contexts which emphasize community or group activities and efforts. Thus, more valued than the talent itself was its application or use of the talent in a way which reflects the essence of community and contributes to the preservation of cultural knowledge. The specific areas designated for women, were identified as areas essential to the Keresan way of life.
. . . knowing how to do those domestic types of things for a woman is highly reflected in our community work when we gather together as women and when you're assigned to delegate women what to do. . . . You know, you're assigned and you tell people well, this is how, this is what I'd like to have. . . . Um, giftedness I think also means the way you bring up your family, how you keep up your house . . . not so much decor, but the upkeep (Santa Ana Phase Two Interview: F, 1991, p. 2).
In traditional Pueblo cooking, neither a recipe book, measurement tools, nor temperature gauges are used to produce meals that serve sometimes eighty or more people. Important skills in traditional cooking are knowledge of Native ingredients and cooking processes, management, and organization. For example, the "head cook" at a traditional function manages up to thirty or more women for up to two weeks of daily Native cooking. An example of Native cooking is the making of "oven bread". Pueblo bread is made in large, outdoor earth ovens called hornos. Wood is burned inside the horno until it reaches the appropriate temperature to bake twenty-five to sixty loaves of bread at one time. The bread maker must rely on intuition, memory, knowledge, and experience to complete the process. Affective aspects associated with this domain are self-initiation, self-discipline, and endurance. A Zia woman, identified as a traditionally gifted cook, described how she learned the Native food preparation process.
. . . Learned it from my mom. She gave me directions about how to go about fixing the traditional food. Other than that you know fixing hamburger patties, that's nothing. But with traditional food, you always need somebody to direct you or to show you what ingredient goes into that . . . the White man's food . . . that's easy to learn. You can do that easily. But with the traditional food because if you were called upon to be a head cook somewhere, those are the things that you have to prepare [and] fix for the community, traditional food. And you have to have the knowledge how to go about fixing that for them (Zia Phase Two Interview: F, 1992, p. 13).
Although a form of cooking, piki bread making was identified as a single highly valued category in which women can reflect a special talent. A major factor in the mastery of this special area is the acquisition of specific knowledge of the piki bread making process through experience. A keen desire to learn this art was also identified as a key factor.
. . . but as far as ladies, I would probably have to say . . . traditional kinds of things such as making paper bread or that kind of thing. Because there's just a small percentage of the ladies that do that. . . . Like during our feast day or functions, it is these ladies that they will go to ask [to make piki bread]. So that would be also something I guess, just the willingness to take the risk, to try it (San Felipe Phase One Interview: M, 1991, p. 3).
Skill wise when [it] comes to, like for example, piki. Being able to work with a hot grill. Because I too know how they do it. I've tried it and I really burned myself. . . . So just a lot of talent and effort. And then mixing it, you have to sift flour two, three times over . . . if you use too much of the dough itself, the corn meal part, it sort of cracks up or it has that rough texture rather than smooth part. But I am really curious about this myself. But it does take a lot of know-how in order to do that (Santo Domingo Phase One Interview: F, 1991, p. 17).
Domain Four: Kaam 'asruni
Creativity associated with special psycho-motor abilities
A. The creation of traditional art forms
Kaam 'asruni, Domain Four, refers to creativity associated with a special ability to create with the hands and is reflected in the creation or the process of creating. Psychomotor, perceptual organization, visual-motor coordination, spatial visualization, visual memory, and spatial reasoning are factors associated with this domain. Possession of this ability is interrelated with various aspects of the other three domains. As explained earlier, in Keresan Pueblo society, song, dance, and prayer constitute the essence of life itself, and although identified as specific special talents, are intricately interrelated with other categories within the same domain (intra-domain) and are related to all other domains (inter-domain). For example, "dancing" is defined first and foremost as a spiritual activity or a form of prayer, the blessings of which are intended for all people, followed in importance by its definition as a psychomotor activity accompanied by music (a combination of song and drum) and requiring physical coordination, rhythm, and concentration. A Laguna man, identified as reflecting a special talent in language and singing, explained the significance of dancing and its interrelationship with song and prayer.
. . . it all boils down to, again, our relation, our close relationship with the spirit world, with the spiritual needs . . . that's why I thank them for giving me the ability . . . that's the reason why I not only enjoy composing songs, but I feel that's the way to pay back so that the dancers can dance and hopefully the people will be blessed from that. . . . In turn I share my talents with them because I'm told that, they say, when Indians dance they don'ta lot of people don't realize thiswe don't just dance just to dance. It's always a form of prayer . . . and the drum is the one that sends the message . . . that's why we always have a drum, singing. The songs are similar to hymns. Through the drum beat you send your message (Laguna Phase Two Interview: M, 1992, p. 5).
This interrelatedness is, again, reflected in the description of what constitutes a talented drummer and a talented dancer.
See, I think this goes about how much you learn, how good you comprehend the song, the singing. That's how you keep the tune. . . . When you get the rhythm. [If] the drumming is just right, you can really go on. It's not too slow, its not too fast. So a person gots that talent to learn that song, how to keep the rhythm. So that's a gift itself (Cochiti Phase One Interview: M, 1991, p. 18).
. . . that they just know how to dance. It's kind of hard to explain. They like for corn dances or some of the traditional dances you see little kids out there and they can dance to the beat of the drum, every pause . . . when to do that and it takes a lot of concentration on their part. They are able to do that, to just focus everything out and be able to follow along with the song. Just listen. Because we know that kids get distracted real easy . . . it goes back to this thing about the ability to remember or to listen or to recall the songs. Because every May 1st there's new songs that they compose and they have to sing songs that they never heard before. We have kids that can hear it one or two times and they can follow the song (San Felipe Phase One Interview: M, 1991, p. 6).
The framing of additional categories is needed for areas that do not suit the four domains such as humor, physical quickness, and charisma. Humor, although not identified by any of the interviewees as being an area of traditional giftedness, was identified by the Keresan Advisory Committee members/readers. Humor in Pueblo societies is a highly valued trait and a person who possesses this trait is perceived in a very delightful way. A literal translation of the shared Keresan term means one who is full of fun making. It is possible that the serious nature of the interview approach hindered the emergence of this area. A second area mentioned was physical quickness. Although physical quickness is associated with competitiveness, a concept not highly valued in Pueblo society, it is acceptable within certain arenas such as foot races, horseback riding, and Native sports or games.
"Gifted": The Ideal Citizen
Major Contrasting Elements of Mainstream and Native Concepts of Giftedness
The conventional "exclusive" gifted concept often promulgated in formal educational institutions reflects the values, needs and goals of the competitive mainstream American society. Thus, the majority of gifted programs in schools focus on individualism and differentiation as means of meeting the needs of the "cream of the crop". In contrast to the mainstream concept of gifted which focuses on individualism, the Keresan Pueblo concept of giftedness focuses on the community or "inclusion" (see Note 6). The special and/or unique characteristics, traits, and talents of a traditionally gifted Keresan individual are intricately linked to the well-being of the community and function as the strength for binding the Pueblo community members together. Figure 2 illustrates the two contrasting relationships between a gifted individual and his/her community or society.
Although the conventional concept of giftedness may be adequate for the society from which it originates, it is a problematic concept for a Pueblo society which promotes homogeneity or "togetherness" in its life principles and environment and values each individual as an integral element of community. In the context of the traditional Keresan Pueblo world of relationships and interdependency, a world which does not highly value competition or the highlighting of one individual over others, inclusion rather than exclusion is a fundamental principle. The inclusive view that each individual, from the time of birth, is a vital element of community, encourages the nurturing of individual strengths and the pursuit of personal interests in relation to others though the promotion of positive contribution or "giving back" to one's community. "Giving back" or sharing extends beyond individual actions and spans into a realm of human existence linked to the tribal community by an inner desire to contribute to the well-being of the people and to the preservation and perpetuation of the Native culture and lifestyle. Community contribution or the inner desire to contribute to others was explained by one of the Pueblo religious leaders who was identified as a traditionally gifted adult.
. . . I want to be a part of the event. . . . Because I think as an Indian, you're already taught the specifics of those events . . . so it's up to the individual wanting to be a part of it. If you don't want to be, then if somebody forces you to go over there, your heart and your mind is not gonna be pure . . . you got to have that genuine feeling, not only for yourself . . . you're there for the people and for the world . . . (San Felipe Phase Two Interview: M, 1992, p. 19).
Vital in the comprehension of giftedness from a culturally different or a traditional Keresan Pueblo perspective is a understanding of the Native learner in the Pueblo context. It is the values and learning attributes from this Native realm that the Keresan learner brings to the school environment, and of which educators must be more sensitive and aware of. Thus, in the search for answers to understand giftedness from a Native perspective in relation to formal education, both Native learner and the Pueblo context must be examined.
In the context of the traditional Keresan Pueblo, an oral tradition and historic cultural norms and values have fostered certain learning characteristics or traits and excluded others. However different the two contexts and gifted concepts may be, similar characteristics or traits associated with the conventional definition of giftedness are exemplified by the Keresan people. For example, the academic literature is replete with descriptions of characteristics/traits of gifted individuals who reflect the conventional concept of giftedness such as keen observation, strong memory, high verbal proficiency, high abstract thinking, notable breadth of information, extreme creativity, high power of concentration, diverse interests and abilities, etc. These same characteristics and traits were exemplified in the explanations of giftedness or examples of traditionally gifted Native people in a Keresan Pueblo context. For instance, high cognitive abilities and the possession of rich and abundant knowledge were demonstrated in the possession and application of geographic knowledge about the tribal environment, a skill used in hunting, cultural history and storytelling. The possession of high synthesis and analysis abilities were reflected in the various steps of pottery making, from the beginning clay refinement process to the design application process during which envisioning is used to determine the most appropriate design pattern to fit a pot. Verbal proficiency, high abstract thinking, visual reasoning, and extreme creativity are reflected in Native speech, traditional advisement, and song composition. The role of memory in the Native context is demonstrated in remembering songs, speeches, traditions, choreography, people, legends, etc.
As highlighted earlier, Keresan people share the same gifted attributes as other people, however, in the context of the traditional Keresan Pueblo, the special talents or "gifts" are understood within the context of the Native community. The community perspective which guides the lifestyles and beliefs of the Keresan people is also reflected in the learning process occurring in Native homes. In Keresan homes and community environments, learning occurs through group or cooperative experiences, mentorships, modeling, trial and error, and private practice. Keen observation, attentiveness, and focused listening are important methods of learning; while questioning, skepticism, and, in some instances, curiosity are not promoted. Cooperative or group learning happens frequently, in traditional Native community activities, in the extended family activities, and in ceremony. Highly evident in Keresan Pueblo learning is modeling; modeling between generations, between grandparent and child and same-sex role modeling (e.g., male adult and young boy, adult female and adolescent female, etc.). The concept of trial and error is also evident in Keresan Pueblo learning. An example of this was the bread making process learned by a woman who had been identified as being traditionally gifted, or highly talented, in cooking. This woman, at an early age, observed the oven bread making process during a community function and afterwards went home and tried making bread on her own several times before perfecting the process. Practicing in private and the encouragement to persist without pressure are also important in Pueblo learning. When the bread maker attempted to make bread at home and when Pueblo children practice Native dances in the home environment, they are practicing in private. Due to the emphasis on observation, attention, and focused listening in the early learning years of one's life, Pueblo children learn to internalize their experiences. To the naive educator, this type of learning may be interpreted as reticence, nonparticipation, or "slow". This image may be augmented in Pueblo children whose primary language is their Native language and whose exposure to the English language has been limited and who may, therefore, be hesitant to speak, need additional time to formulate English verbal responses, or may not speak fluently and articulately in English.
Although Keresan Pueblo learners employ learning processes similar to non-Native children, these processes may not be as apparent or may not be perceived as effective learning characteristics in the school environment, an environment which is often alien and unreceptive to culturally diverse learners. In addition, cultural norms and values may influence Pueblo students' performance in the academic environment. One example of this is related to the issue of labeling or differentiating individuals, which is regarded among Pueblo people as a violation of cultural norms and is an issue that emerged very distinctly from the interviews. A Native learner may be resistant to being labeled "gifted", separated from his/her peers, and provided with special services not available to others. A second example of cultural influence on academic performance is associated with questioning. Although a highly valued trait in the academic setting and considered a common mainstream trait of giftedness, direct or frequent questioning is not recognized as a highly valued learning skill in traditional Pueblo settings; rather, attentiveness and observation are preferred. One example of this from the interviews is that of the moccasin maker from Laguna Pueblo who created his moccasins by observation and by what his father passed on to him. Important learning skills in this process were listening, observation, and memory, being able to repeat what had been learned. These types of learning skills are not dependent on literacy and are drastically different from the learning skills highlighted as indications of giftedness in the mainstream society.
In the academic environment where competitiveness and self-promotion are accented, cooperation, reticence, and modesty, the characteristics of a successful Pueblo child, are not often recognized as positive learning attributes. The bright and reserved Pueblo child who reflects signs of being gifted from a traditional Native perspective may be overlooked in a formal school setting or he/she may not excel. Chances that the traditionally gifted Pueblo child would be recognized in the school setting become slim. Often times, these highly talented or gifted individuals who do not do well in school often do quite well in the community and are the traditionally gifted people in the Pueblos who play a vital role in the maintenance of the Native culture. Examples of this pattern of traditionally gifted Pueblo learners going unrecognized in the educational environment while excelling in their Native communities were evident in a number of cases in which young war chiefs or young Pueblo people holding traditional tribal positions were mentioned.
For the majority of American Indians, successful and comfortable participation in both Native and mainstream societies is achieved through the attainment of proficient competencies in both societies. The question for all is how to accomplish this? In the past, the answer was an either-or choice to achieve success in the mainstream society (to excel in education), a Pueblo or Native child would have to forego the Native way of lifethe language, the culture, and the Native people. Today, because of the increasing influences of the non-Pueblo world, it becomes vital that a Pueblo person or a "traditionalist" be able to function simultaneously and proficiently in the Pueblo and non-Pueblo worlds. An example of this need was shared by one of the Keresan Pueblo Governors who stated that due to a limited ability to read and write, his abilities to satisfactorily perform the duties and responsibilities of a traditionally appointed secular officer responsible for the care of the entire tribe, were greatly hindered. Although capable of carrying out his traditional responsibilities, he was limited in performing the "outside" transactions due to his illiteracy.
The challenge today is the establishment of a balance between the two societies. For educators, this means the initiation of school change through the inclusion of Native people in the formal education process, specifically in the creation of educational programs (including gifted and talented programs) which genuinely value and incorporate aspects of the American Indian realities and culturethe learning processes, the values, the principles, and the needs. This begins by re-examining current beliefs and tenets of education and becoming aware of and acknowledging the importance of the nature and needs of Native learners and their communities. It becomes vital that the information about Pueblo children and their Native environment, as it relates to their educational performance, be shared with educators as a means for creating a more global understanding of learning and giftedness. This will, in turn, assist in the identification of gifted, or highly capable and talented, American Indian children.
The question for schools is how to create education programs, or a formal learning process, which is more compatible with Native learning and values. One way is for educators and the community to work together to find ways to embrace Native forms of education within schools in order to meet the expectations of both the Pueblo and mainstream worlds. An increasing number of current national educational research findings (Emerick, 1992; Spicker, 1992) highlight the need to integrate the learners' culture and community into the learning experience. Inclusion of culture and community is a two-way exchange process that extends far beyond an inclusion of culturally relevant content and materials in the learning experience. It requires educators to learn about the culturally different childtheir cultural backgrounds, experiences, values, needs, and their communitiesas a means of understanding who and how they are teaching. Although the total inclusion of the Native culture, learning processes, and values may not be totally feasible due to the unique nature of the Pueblo communities, it may be more realistic for schools to begin to examine and incorporate cooperative learning and holistic practices into their programs and eventually move away from absolute competitiveness and self-promotion. The importance of making the Pueblo learning process an integral part of education in order to meet the needs of Pueblo children was discussed by Dr. Joseph Suina from Cochiti Pueblo, a multicultural education professor at the University of New Mexico.
. . . it's not what you teach, but how you teach . . . that's probably one of the clearest, one of the most significant breakthroughs in Indian schools or schools of any type that are different from the mainstream schools because up until now, sometimes we think as long as we include a little bit of Indian history, a little bit of Indian literature, it will suffice. That's still just a subject and it's taught in the same old process (Suina, 1991).
Suina further explained the community-inclusion concept and the transformation process needed to initiate school change which will reflect the Native values and needs by utilizing a continuum on which the Pueblo communities and educational institutions are on opposite ends. On this continuum Pueblo children will have to be moved along to a point of academic proficiency if they expect to be in law and medical schools. However, schools, too, must move. They must move closer to the Native communities to meet the children and bring them to a point of academic proficiency without the children having to abandon their traditions and cultural ways. It is important in this process that educational institutions be alert to and understand what they are communicating to the children. For example, schools often communicate to Pueblo children that speaking their Native language is a hindrance to their academic progress. Quite the contrary, being bilingual, able to speak one's Native language in addition to another language, should be viewed as a strength. In addition to Pueblo community educators learning about the Pueblo children and their tribal communities, Native people must be willing to become an integral part of the formal educational process. The balance on this continuum between the Pueblo communities and the schools will play an important role in achieving a positive change in direction for schools responsible for educating Pueblo children.
Particularly for gifted education, meeting the educational needs of Pueblo children and addressing the underrepresentation of American Indian children in gifted programs first requires an acceptance of the importance of Native principles, values, and traditions which may not always coincide with those of the mainstream society, but play a vital role in the lives and educational performance of Pueblo children. Through the case histories shared by the Keresan Pueblo people involved in this study, a view of the Keresan Pueblo culture, lifestyle, values, and needs, including a special look at the learning processes employed by these people was provided. This information, combined with the Keresan perceptions of giftedness, can assist in the nationwide effort to advance gifted education theory and practice in relation to culturally different populations. But, more importantly, it will provide a different perspective of learning and culture, language, and community. Both Native and mainstream gifted concepts can contribute to the conceptual framework needed to design a challenging education program that provides opportunities for all childrenour gifts.
The Keresan Pueblo and conventional concept of gifted contrasts significantly from one another and are reflections of each respective society's values, needs, and goals. In contrast to the mainstream concept of gifted which focuses on individualism, the Keresan Pueblo concept of gifted focuses on the community. The special and/or unique characteristics, traits, and talents of a traditionally gifted Keresan Pueblo individual are intricately linked to the well-being of the community and function as the strength which binds Pueblo community members together and ensures the perpetuation and preservation of the Native way of life, its values, its traditions, and languages. It is from the realm of Keresan Pueblo life, the traditional Native foundation, that gifted was investigated and the significance of the study's findings can best be understood. In this study, the gifts, the values, the traditions, and the language of the Keresan Pueblo people, were shared with others in hope of perpetuating a way of life which has survived for centuries; a way of life which values the uniqueness of each person as a vital being of a whole community; a way of life which respects all people as integral elements of the universe; and with the hope that the messages so openly shared by the tribal people will expand beyond the seven Keresan Pueblos of New Mexico and beyond the domain of gifted education.
The study highlighted the learning processes that Pueblo people employ in the traditional Native environment and related them to the school environment. The feasibility of changing schools so that learning experiences are more closely associated with the home-community environment needs to be examined more extensively. This includes a comprehensive examination of the integrity of the current conventional concept of giftedness in relation to the nature and needs of the Pueblo communities and the goals of schools.
The interviewing of traditional leaders and members of the seven Keresan Pueblo communities provided an insight into the perceptions, thoughts, and opinions of giftedness from a traditional Pueblo perspective. In addition, emerging from these interviews were descriptions, characteristics, and traits of traditionally gifted Pueblo persons which need further confirmation, validation, and expansion. The emerging Keresan terminology can provide a framework from which to work; the framework being the categorization of the identified gifts or talents such as humor, singing, food preparation, etc. The literal interpretation of the shared Kersan words used to describe traditionally gifted Pueblo people and their talents is critical for understanding the Pueblo perspective of giftedness.
A skepticism towards research and Pueblo cultural norms have limited the breath and kind of information obtained in many previous research endeavors in Native communities. In this community-based research study, the direct involvement of Keresan community members in every aspect of the study assured cultural sensitivity to Pueblo people and recognition and adherence to proper Native protocol which assisted in the attainment of rich and vital data and yielded new and culturally appropriate research methodology in the Keresan Pueblos. Although sensitivity to Pueblo protocol and etiquette required extensive time investment, valuable data was produced, but more importantly, a trust of research in general was established within the seclusive Keresan Pueblo communities.
This study was funded under the Educational Research Grant Program-Field Initiated Studies Program, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U. S. Department of Education. Co-principal Investigators were Mary Romero (author) and Holger Schultz, Assistant Superintendent of Santa Fe Indian School.
Santa Fe Indian School is an academic and residential educational institution. It is a grant school with an all American Indian school board appointed by the nineteen Pueblo Governors of New Mexico. It is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and the New Mexico Department of Education. SFIS attracts 560 middle and high school students primarily from the Pueblo tribes, but also from the Navajo, Apache, Ute, Hopi, Sioux, and other tribes from across the nation.
Gratitude for the contributions and assistance is extended to the New Mexico Pueblo Governors and tribal members, and the Santa Fe Indian School Board, Superintendent Joseph Abeyta, students, parents, and staff. Special acknowledgments are extended to Dr. Rebecca Benjamin, Dr. Joseph Suina, Christine Sims, Regis Pecos, Dr. Susan Carter, Dr. Linda Lippitt, Dr. Eloy Gonzales, Dr. Allan Peshkin, and Dr. Elizabeth Nielsen. The greatest appreciation is extended to the tribal members who spent hours sharing their thoughts and life histories.