Decolonizing youth development: re-imagining youthwork for indigenous youth futures

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Drawing on scientific theories of racial supremacy and efforts by Western nations to develop uncivilized races, preeminent psychologist G. Stanley Hall proposed that the bio-psychological development of children recapitulated the ancient history of mankind. Utilizing Hall’s theory, US youth organizations designed programs for young people to engage corresponding sociological stages. Using archival sources, I document how Hall’s theory, and the “playing Indian” programs established from it, secured settler colonialism by marginalizing Indigenous cultures, governance, laws and ideologies and positioning tribal societies as primitive and childlike relics of the past destined to be replaced by modern man and nation. I then introduce the specter of recapitulation and how these ideas continue to harm Indigenous communities, and exponentially harm Indigenous youth. Finally, using Ermine’s concept of ethical space, I conclude by exploring the space between knowledge systems about youth and presenting possibilities for decolonizing youth development and reimagining youthwork supportive of Indigenous youth futures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)378-386
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • indigenous youth
  • indigenous youth development
  • recapitulation
  • youthwork


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