Education is highly valued among the Stó:lõ people, and has been for as far back as oral traditions record. Historically education functioned primarily within the family with Elders, parents, uncles and aunties teaching the youth. These traditions continue today, but they have been challenged and disrupted by a system of government imposed education that was directed at assimilating Aboriginal people into mainstream Canadian society and dislocating them from their Indigenous culture and traditions. Expressed most glaringly and oppressively through the Church-run federally-funded residential schools which operated in Stó:lõ territory from 1860 through to 1986, an assimilative curriculum anchored in racist assumptions was also a central feature of the provincial public schools which many Stó:lõ children also attended. Recent studies have documented the abusive and oppressive expressions of the residential school system and the on going racist and assimilative features of the provincial schools and their curriculum. What is less well documented and less well understood is the complex strategies that Aboriginal families used to not only defend and sustain their traditional Indigenous education processes within their homes and communities, but also the tactics (both formal and informal, institutional and personal) that they developed and deployed to challenge the overarching assimilative curricular goals of the government’s education system as well as the day-to-day classroom application of those goals. This research project examines the intergenerational impact of government Aboriginal education policies from the 1930s to the mid 2000s on one family – the author’s. An exploration of the connections between the federal government’s education policies and the personal education stories of the family spanning three generations reveals not only the challenges Aboriginal students faced in general, but the way Indigenous philosophies informed larger strategic and smaller tactical strategies of resistance. Through story work this family not only found strength to resist, but opportunities to try and transform the education system itself. As the intergenerational narratives reveal, the family’s objectives ranged from protecting the traditional and the sacred to developing strategies to improve their chances of succeeding within the government system. Many of actions the family members took were aimed in large part in helping to transform and Indigenize an education system that had been designed to assimilate them – that is, they sought to contribute to a process of what Homi Bhabha (1994) might refer to as educational hybridity.Key recommendations emerging from this research project include ensuring that the history of the colonial federal government’s assimilative and abusive education policies be communicated to, and ultimately understood by, all Canadians. Awareness of this is important for Aboriginal students as well as for non-Native Canadians. Finally, recommended here is the meaningful involvement of Indigenous people in all levels of education decision-making associated with the education system.
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Thesis advisor: Laitsch, Daniel
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