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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Identity, interculturalism, and the "Imaginary Indian" : Francophone Québécois(es) undergraduate students' understanding of Indigenous experiences in history and the present Boileau, Alana Lise


The relationship between eurodescendant Québécois(es) and Indigenous Peoples is weighted in the layered history of colonization. In an effort to pursue and trouble conversations in the field of education that seek to unsettle the settler mindset, this study attempts to explore the ways in which Francophone Québécois(es) undergraduate students in two different fields of study (history and teacher education) narrate their understandings of the intersections between Québec nationalism, the politics of Indigeneity, and wider questions of belonging in the context of Canada. Drawing on the works of Maori scholar Linda Tuhiwai-Smith (1999) and Plains Cree and Saulteaux scholar, Margaret Kovach (2009), the study also attempts to incorporate decolonizing principles into critical qualitative methods to explore and think through some of the ethical challenges that are elicited by research undertaken with members of a “dominant” population. Through an analysis of transcripts and visual materials, I argue that these Francophone Québécois students have internalized, and are regulated by, the discourses of the ‘two solitudes’ and ‘interculturalism’. I also argue that participants partly embody the practice of what Hutton refers to as the repetition (as cited in Gardner, 2010) of colonial narratives, which denies Indigenous Peoples’ place as the First peoples of Canada, as well as their land claims and demands for sovereignty. Data analysis also points to the ways in which colonial narratives are interrupted, as students display various levels of criticality about their place in Canadian and Québec history and attempt to navigate the matter of theirs and other peoples’ changing identities in the context of a globalizing world. However, such disruptions remain only partial, as students’ accounts of their encounters with Indigeneity appear to have been limited to brushes with an “imaginary Indian” (Francis, 1992), distant in space or vanished in time. It is difficult to say whether the case of Québec is unique. In keeping with scholarship by Québécois Jocelyn Létourneau, and Daniel Salée, this research suggests that the province’s narrative of historical marginalization may be undermining the potential for Québécois to develop an ethical politics of alliance building with Indigenous Peoples in the face of Canadian politics.

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