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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Learning our histories at Kits House - a search for decolonizing place-based pedagogies Henry, Elizabeth


This study investigates a set of decolonizing place-based pedagogies and their potential to facilitate learning among non-Indigenous learners in Kitsilano, Vancouver. I explore using neighbourhood history as a way to open dialogue about the present-day implications of colonization. In this action research project, I facilitated a series of three workshops with seven adults at Kitsilano Neighbourhood House (Kits House). I invited participants to research forgotten Indigenous, immigrant and settler histories and to share photos of what they had learned about the Westside of Vancouver. In the workshops I discussed how Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations lived, sometimes seasonally, in what is now a city park (Vanier Park), and how colonization operated to displace these Nations. As well, participants were invited to envision how to acknowledge forgotten histories in their soon-to-be redeveloped neighbourhood house. Through participant observations at the workshops and subsequent semi-structured interviews, I recorded participants’ views and what they had learned about (de)-colonization, as well as, their suggestions for acknowledging histories in their new neighbourhood house. Research findings highlight the challenges of facilitating decolonizing place-based pedagogies as a non-Indigenous facilitator, with predominately non-Indigenous learners. In the first workshop, the invitation to learn about local histories was too open-ended and allowed participants to research visitor-settler histories without understanding these histories in the context of colonization. In future workshops more attention needs to be paid to the questions posed by the facilitator to re-focus learning on the colonial relationships between Indigenous, immigrant and visitor-settlers. Although sharing stories about the colonization of Snauq / Kits Indian Reserve / Vanier Park did spark dialogue about colonization and reconciliation, these discussions did not lead to an articulated understanding of decolonization among participants. In the action-planning phase of the project, participants offered specific ideas for representing histories at Kits House, but they did not explicitly discuss decolonizing these historical narratives. Although I set out to facilitate decolonizing place-based learning, I facilitated a smaller first step in the participants’ and my own learning journey. Based on my research findings, recommendations for refining decolonizing place-based pedagogies and suggestions for decolonizing histories at Kits House are offered.

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