UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Keep them coming back for more : urban Aboriginal youth's perceptions and experiences of wholistic education in Vancouver Parent, Amy


The perceptions and experiences of eight Aboriginal youth who participate in Aboriginal youth organizations in Vancouver, British Columbia are explored in this thesis. I begin by examining the literature on Aboriginal youth within the larger context of mainstream society and the urban environment in order to highlight the role that current and historical structural policies have played in their lives. I then trace and critique the positive youth development movement, and examine the various wholistic models of Aboriginal education that have been applied to mainstream and Aboriginal community- based settings. My theoretical approach is a synthesis of Indigenous, critical and Indigenous feminist theories. An Indigenous wholistic framework that incorporates an intergenerational methodology is used to examine the two research questions: (1) How do urban Aboriginal youth articulate, conceptualize and view Indigenous knowledge? (2) What are Aboriginal youths’ experiences of wholistic education provided by urban Aboriginal organizations? Do these organizations meet their needs in terms of a wholistic understanding? From the Aboriginal youth’s perspective, how can urban Aboriginal organizations integrate a more wholistic approach? A sharing circle workshop and open ended interviews with youth and an Elder from the urban Aboriginal community were chosen for the methods. I have also interwoven key teachings that I have learned from Raven (the trickster) who has traveled with me throughout this journey and has significantly shaped this research story. This study confirms the findings in the literature which state that urban Aboriginal youth are finding new ways to explore their Indigeniety and cultural traditions. Four main themes emerged from the first research question: (1) Indigenous Knowledge is Important (2) Indigenous Knowledge is a Process (3) Indigenous Knowledge is Wholistic, and (4) Indigenous Knowledge is Expressed in Multiple Ways. These themes interconnect to form a wholistic representation of Indigenous knowledge. The second research question describes how the organizations are providing wholistic education to meet the youth’s needs and discusses how they can integrate a more wholistic approach. The youth also share their hopes and dreams, and visions for Aboriginal youth organizations by identifying future directions for program planning and development.

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