Date of Award

Spring 5-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Lilia D. Monzó

Second Advisor

Suzanne SooHoo

Third Advisor

Peter McLaren

Fourth Advisor

Charlotte Achieng-Evensen


In wondering “How are decolonizing, place/land-based, and community-grown learning places created and sustained as alternatives to dominant settler-colonial systems, and what stories would they share about their creation and existence?”, I formed relationships with two alternative, autonomous, decolonizing schools through a teacher-guide at each school who served as guides for me to enter their spaces with invitation. In developing these relationships over 2-3 years and spending 2-3 weeks alongside each of them at their school sites, I was able to sustain natural and deep conversation with my teacher-guides, who then served as co-storyers of this research to collectively consider research questions through the lens of their stories and lived realities in their schools. This study was carried out through narrative storywork, Indigenous and culturally responsive methodologies, and critical autoethnography, as my experience of entering these school communities and forming these relationships over time became a supporting contribution to the data. Data is regarded as all the stories, conversations, reflections, observations, intuited moments, and elements of portraiture that were gathered through this process of sustained relationship with my co-storyers and my dedicated time in being within and experiencing each school space. I identified four major themes as emergent from the data: (1) a necessary process, (2) school as communion, (3) a radical existence, and (4) belonging. Dialogue with my co-storyers about the emergent themes suggests that this work of creating decolonizing, community-grown, place-specific alternatives to settler-state educational systems is necessary across many communities; yet, entering this work requires a necessary process of individual and collective work to align to place-appropriate, decolonized, and Indigenous principals of place, community, culture, and work. Data also suggests that creating such schools is radical yet sustainable and that these schools embody a paradigmatic shift from colonizing, individualistic systems toward collective, communal systems aligned with Indigenous and anti-colonial communities. Furthermore, the data and dialogue suggest that within this work of growing such place-specific communal schools, members of the community are often afforded a greater sense of belonging and collective ownership over their educational experience. Both schools in the study also demonstrated a positive impact on the place and land on which their school was situated. Therefore, this study implicates that there is value in seeking and growing schools outside of the dominant system and that communities who seek to grow such place and person-specific schools can experience great benefit for both human and more-than-human members of the community.

Keywords: alternative-autonomous school, communal school, school as communion, decolonizing, anti-colonial, Indigenous-aligned, Indigenous methodology, decolonizing communities, portraiture, critical autoethnography, co-storying research, narrative storywork, belonging, culturally responsive methodologies, place-based, land-based, resisting settler-state, sustainable systems thinking, Hālau Kū Māna, Angeles Workshop School, revolutionary schools, diverse communities, students of color

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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