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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Remote and unresearched : a contextualized study of non-Indigenous educational leaders working in Yukon Indigenous communities Blakesley, Simon C.


This study engages in a critical analysis of the lived experiences of non-Indigenous educational leaders working in Indigenous communities in the Yukon Territory, Canada. It sheds light on the epistemic and cross-cultural tensions underpinning much of the literature on educational leadership, and aims to address Walker and Dimmock’s (2000) concern that studies of comparative education have been generally absent from educational leadership and management, thereby limiting the available body of knowledge specific to culture and leadership. The study focuses on five questions: How do non-Indigenous Yukon principals construct their professional identity and their role as educational leaders? How do they construct their notions of educational leadership and practice? Given the Yukon’s distinct governance and policy contexts, how do they construct understandings of ‘indigeneity’ in relation to local Indigenous culture? How do they address the tensions arising at the juncture of policies imported from outside the Yukon and the Yukon Education Act (1990)? A critical ethnographic research approach is used to shed light upon these questions. Extensive semi-structured interviews with two male and two female participants in four Yukon schools are conducted. Detailed observations create unique ‘portraits’ of each school and their principals. Pertinent documents are also examined to provide further information and context. This examination suggests that non-Indigenous Yukon principals are caught at the center of micro (school), meso (community), and macro (government) operational and policy levels that powerfully shape their professional identities and their perceptions of their roles as principals. While referred to as ‘educational leaders’ by the extant body of literature and governments, they do not use this term in their identity constructions. Trapped betwixt and between their schools, communities, and government policies in a fragmented Yukon educational field, instead they refer to themselves in managerial and administrative ways as they juggle educational ends mandated by distinct, and somewhat competing, jurisdictions. This study presents another lens through which to examine educational leadership, and offers insights into the use of ethnographic methods as a powerful research tool. Based on these contributions, this study should be informative to current and future practitioners and scholars of education and educational leadership.

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