Author: James, Valarie Angela
Storytelling, oral traditions, land-based legends, and ancient cultural and spiritual teachings enliven the narratives of many Northwest Territories (NWT) Aboriginal Elders, revealing northern story lights for those who choose to experience them, learn and make meaning from them. I chose to follow twelve NWT Elders’ story lights, and took a two-year journey with them to learn about the phenomenon of ‘a capable person’ from their Indigenous perspective. Through a narrative research approach, I articulated my purpose to identify and examine the influences that guide the growth and development of ‘a capable person.’ By drawing from NWT Elders’ personal life-experience narratives of raising children and relationality, four shaping influences emerged that allowed me to develop a re-interpreted lens from which to view contemporary Indigenous pedagogy and practices in order to inform Aboriginal education in the NWT. Through reflective analysis and research ceremony, my conceptual framework arose, revealing the processes of raising children as similar to raising an Indigenous tipi. The four structures of the tipi made up the framework that sought to bring meaning to the overall shaping influences that guide the growth and development of ‘a capable person’ as follows: 1.The circle shows the grounding influences, 2.The triangle (or tripod) raises the relational influences, 3.The spirals reveals the recurring influences, and 4.The “canvas” illustrates the outside influences. Findings from this study were based on the narrative accounts of the NWT Aboriginal Elders, which were presented in two parts: through a story-based approach of restorying with Elders’ biographies and photographs, and through thematic development. By interweaving the Elders’ stories with my own experiences as an Aboriginal educator and leader, and through the emergent story themes, this re-interpreted lens is presented, highlighting the need to reach and engage Aboriginal children, families and communities in contemporary schooling. As such, this study shows that by paying attention to the grounding, relational, recurring and outside influences that guide the growth and development of ‘a capable person,’ these shaping influences can lead to a new approach to pedagogy and practice needed to create the conditions for transformation in this new century of Indigenizing education in the NWT.
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Thesis advisor: Mamchur, Carolyn
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