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Date of Award

Summer 2023

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Department or Program Affiliation

Environmental Studies

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Abel, Troy D.

Second Advisor

Miller, James (Professor of comparative indigenous studies)

Third Advisor

Montgomery, Michelle, 1972-


My thesis is an exploratory case study into epistemologies (or worldviews) supported by organizations and agencies that develop outdoor conservation and education programs for Native youth called Native Youth Stewardship Programs (NYSPs). This subject relies on the content developed by Medin and Bang (2014) who state that an under-representation of Indigenous peoples in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields is largely the result of epistemological conflicts between educators and Indigenous students. I hypothesize that there is a considerable epistemological difference between the conservation entities developing programs to engage Native youth. These differences may create significant barriers with youth recruitment, retention, and curriculum development that in turn can lead to the possibility of ineffective programming. My thesis begins the work of identifying where conflicts can occur between conservation educators and Native youth demographics through interviews with individuals involved with NYSPs development. In this study, I found evidence suggesting greater convergence in worldviews than believed in my initial hypothesis. Representatives from all three entities agreed that successful NYSPs depend on community-driven approaches. Mistrust and insufficient time investments were also commonly identified as the most significant barrier to successful NYSPs. Finally, conservation entity representatives also agreed that NYSPs are important in fostering relationships. This work helps develop pathways to more relevant and engaging conservation programs for Native youth.




Indigenous, Native, Youth, Conservation, Education, Epistemology


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Indigenous youth; Leadership; Conservation of natural resources--Study and teaching; Knowledge, Theory of




masters theses




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