Date of Award

Fall 2018


© 2018 Derek A. Stewart

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Dorothy Williams

Second Advisor

Andrea Disque

Third Advisor

Chris Fried


Academic achievement concerns are common among reservation schools in North and South Dakota and elicit numerous questions regarding how to address these concerns to improve educational outcomes for Native American students. This study examined the relationship between cultural wellness integration, based on the Medicine Wheel model, and the following academic achievement measures: standardized achievement tests, attendance, graduation rates, and behavioral disciplinary referrals. The specific research questions that guided this study are: 1) Using a Medicine Wheel model, how are schools on Standing Rock Reservation integrating cultural wellness? 2) How do cultural wellness integration practices relate to academic achievement in schools on Standing Rock Reservation? 3) What are common cultural wellness related concerns hindering academic achievement among students on Standing Rock Reservation, and how can school staffs address those concerns?

This study utilized a mixed methods design comparing quantitative with qualitative data to determine how cultural wellness correlates with academic achievement measures. Data consisted of 65 surveys from seven school districts on Standing Rock Reservation with 10 interviews from staff including administrators, teachers, and paraprofessionals. In alignment with Indigenous methodology, this study examined cultural wellness integration by using the four directions/domains of the Medicine Wheel: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. The quantitative survey analysis revealed a significant relationship between mental familiarity and emotional wellness integration. In-School Suspension (ISS) was assessed using survey data analyzing the frequency of emotional wellness responses by including negative emotional wellness questions documenting the frequency teachers reported sending students to ISS. The data indicated mental familiarity (the level of understanding for the following terms): boarding schools, forced assimilation, historical trauma, intergenerational trauma, and Adverse Childhood Experiences corresponded with emotional wellness responses by 17%; meaning, on average, a one-unit increase of emotional wellness increased the value of mental familiarity by 0.33 units. With an increase in mental familiarity, there was a decrease in negative emotional wellness responses (ISS).

The quantitative data aligned with the qualitative data; the themes generated from the qualitative interviews reported the importance of understanding “where the students are coming from” and the importance of building relationships between school staff and students to influence academic achievement and address behavioral concerns for students on Standing Rock Reservation. Other findings from the qualitative data reported Historical Trauma and low self-esteem as common cultural wellness concerns impacting educational outcomes and increasing classroom student behavioral concerns.


Ed.D. Dissertation