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Forging coalitions in Aboriginal education: exploring Aboriginal-settler relationship building in public school contexts

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Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
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In this dissertation, I examine how educators understand what it means to equitably and respectfully build relationships in Aboriginal education within the K-12 public education system. This study is conducted with an eye to the impacts of colonialism on both intragroup relationship-building strategies amongst Aboriginal educators, and intergroup engagements between Aboriginal and Settler colleagues. Specifically, I am interested in the systemic challenges that underpin Aboriginal peoples’ and Settler Canadians’ intra and intergroup attempts to work together in ways that create positive social change. The research for this dissertation involved speaking with 15 educators, of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal ancestry, regarding how they understood both intra and intergroup relationship building, and their investments in and commitments to Aboriginal education. Semi-structured interviews and one group interview were conducted. These data were analyzed through critical discourse analysis and hyperRESEARCH, a qualitative analysis software program. Interviews were coded and further theorized against a backdrop of coalition politics, Indigenous scholarship, post-structuralism, and standpoint theory.The study builds on the work of scholars that include Susan Dion (2009), Paulette Regan (2010), and Verna St. Denis (2007; 2010), among others, who contend that, in order for change to take place, educators must be willing to question and disrupt how they knowingly and unknowingly contribute to the production of colonial discourses in the various milieus in which they participate. Following Regan (2010), my study is motivated by hope and possibility within education for reimagined relationships between Aboriginal peoples and Settler Canadians, while recognizing the very slow, “drop by drop” nature of change (Armstrong, 2004). The terrain of Aboriginal education is a rough and contested site of struggle. However, the possibility for imagining a better future resides in coming to an understanding of how our identities, investments in and ways of relating to one another have been and continue to be informed by the legacy of colonialism and racism.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Van der Wey, Dolores
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