Indigenous peoples, the fastest growing population in Canada, remain significantly underrepresented in science related post-secondary education fields. This underrepresentation poses challenges for the goals of self-determination and equal participation in a society that is becoming increasingly specialized and technologically advanced. As a Métis-Irish teacher and learner of science, I frequently found myself at intersections of different worlds in my own education. Through this study, with guidance from the trickster Raven, I explored each of those intersections and their impacts on the experiences of other Indigenous science students. This study is best described as multiple layers of theory and practice woven together. In the first half of this dissertation, education research on student retention at post-secondary is woven into education research on school science curriculum. In the second half, the stories of seven Indigenous science students are woven together, along with my own story, weaving a sash of student experience. Informed by Lowan-Trudeau’s (2012) notion of the ‘spirit of métissage’, I examine student stories from the starting point of an assumption of similarity. Employing multiple styles of métissage (mixing or weaving) as the primary methodology of this study, I blend Indigenous storywork and self-study methodologies. The results of this study expose resonances with the literature in student retention and cultural relevance, along with resonances between student stories. Particularly compelling findings include that for many of the students interviewed, participating in Western science involved creating their own space between Indigenous and Western knowledge traditions. The students took great efforts to decolonize their own education, describing their (w)holistic worldviews as a strength rather than a liability, and making efforts to educate misinformed or even racist opinions from classmates and educators. This is evidence of the fact that the university has not yet achieved the decolonizing goal of creating safe educational spaces for Indigenous students. These Indigenous students found themselves tremendously supported by relationships with educators, family members, and Indigenous staff and peers, and repeatedly emphasized the importance of such connections to their success in post-secondary science. This is evidence of the primacy of relationship for many Indigenous students, and provides a starting point for members of the university science community, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to support the success of these learners.
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Thesis advisor: Pidgeon, Michelle
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