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Washington State University
College of Education

Mestizo Collaborative Overview

We apply knowledge to serve a need.

We focus on the generation, transmission, and application of knowledge. But we don’t do it just to do it. Fact is, we know a lot about Latino/Mestizo, and Native/Indigenous communities in the Pacific Northwest. We make it a point to use that knowledge to help serve those needs.
To our knowledge, we have created the first Center for Mestizo and Indigenous Research and Engagement in the nation.


Our work has implications for communities both nationally and globally. Consistent with WSU’s land-grant mission, the objective of the center is to generate a strong program of research, service, and engagement. We believe this will help illuminate the social, economic, educational, and political conditions of the communities we serve.

We hope to achieve these goals by:

  • Promoting multidisciplinary research efforts and collaborations.
  • Procuring research funds to support faculty and student projects and education.
  • Implementing university and public service programs.
  • Building upon the mission and previous accomplishments of the Clearinghouse for Native Teaching and Learning. We will continue to identify effective curriculum resources, create high-quality professional development materials and disseminate useful information and products to improve pre-K-12 teaching and learning for Indigenous students, while expanding these activities to include Latino/Mestizo populations including the Latino School Success Project. We are very pleased to partner with the Plateau Center for American Indian Studies to house the materials available through the Clearinghouse.
  • Serving as a connection point for coordination and collaboration among scholars, extension educators, staff, students, and community members and organizations.

The service component of the Center is crucial to integrating the research activities of the Center and the needs of the communities served. That is, the communities provide input to the research agenda of the center and the research conducted at the center will be integral to develop outreach and service programs targeting Mestizo and Indigenous populations, as well as other audiences. We are recognized as a center according to WSU guidelines.

What does it mean to be Indigenous or Mestizo?

Hey, glad you asked! If you haven’t previously known, that’s OK. That’s one reason we’re here: to promote positive change through increasing awareness and knowledge.


Indigenous is a reference to those populations, who, by historical origin, were the original inhabitants of a designated land or nation who include Native American/American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian populations. Being indigenous incorporates the embodiment of an earth-based spirituality-namely, the recognition that all life is interconnected, and that this awareness influences and guides responsible action toward appropriate moral and ethical behavior, and a commitment to the well-being of others (Cervantes, 2008; McNeill & Cervantes, 2008).


Among Latinas/os, ancestral histories are embedded in the Mestiza/o experience– the forging of several different racial and ethnic backgrounds, including Caucasian, African, and Indigenous bloodlines that have contributed to their unique identity.  The Mestiza/o experience and the indigenous backdrop are interrelated, and consequently form an essential basis toward a critical identity for many Latino groups. Ramirez (1998, 2004) refers to the Mestiza/o perspective as a dynamic, synergistic process developed from the amalgamation of peoples, philosophies, and cultures bridging the European continent and the Americas: the intermingling of physical, psychological, cultural, and spiritual ties between the Caucasian and the Indian. Ramirez (1998) further illustrates this perspective in delineating the major differences between European and Mestizo Approaches to the social sciences and helping professions, of which we embody, along with the attributes of a Mestizo Democracy (Burke, 2002).

In addition to shared mixed race, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, Latinos/Mestizos and Indigenous peoples face a number of similar societal issues and problems. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Educational achievement gaps
  • Disproportionate numbers living in poverty
  • Health issues
  • Underutilization of healthcare services
  • Prejudice and discrimination on individual and institutional levels.

The uniqueness of the Center is the mission to address not only the needs of both Latina/o and Native populations but to also attend to the commonalities and intersections of the Mestizo and Indigenous experience and perspective.