This thesis has been written during a time of truth and reconciliation in Canadian history. It is a time when there is a great need to build bridges, metaphorically speaking, especially in the world of education. Not only do we need bridges to connect the territories, countries, and people of Turtle Island, we need bridges to connect and integrate different worldviews, disciplines, and practices as we ponder what might be involved in reconciling mistakes and injustices made in the past. There is a need for the written word to connect to oral traditions of epistemology, a need for the modern academic research-based university to connect to traditional knowledge and wisdom held in local indigenous communities. Similarly, there is a need to connect our local indigenous communities to the academy and ensure that access and equity are enacted accordingly. There is a need for the voices of the Elders to be heard in the pages of theses and journals, just as there is a need for them to understand and interpret the words written about them in books. This thesis is conceived and presented in the service of these needs and the educational agenda they entail. It portrays the lived experiences of its author – a hereditary chief, residential school survivor, daughter, granddaughter, mother, grand- and great-grandmother, teacher, and educational leader in the Lake Babine Nation of Northern British Columbia. I draw from narrative approaches and storytelling to explore and articulate my experiences learning about the traditional ways of the balhats potlatch as a system my people traditionally used to govern themselves. As a hereditary chief, I learned about the balhats from my Elders and our ancestors before them. I use the stories of my own upbringing together with my work as a teacher to reveal how traditional understandings and worldviews were learned and enacted, partly as a testimony and example of what has been written about us by outsiders, partly as a means to help my Elders understand how their wisdom has been portrayed by the academy, and partly as an insider's means of helping my people connect to our past and repair what has become a broken system.
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Thesis advisor: McKinnon, Allan
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