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Decolonizing the Nunavut school system : stories in a river of time McGregor, Heather Elizabeth


This research explores the recent history of educational change in Nunavut’s public school system, primarily between the years 2000 and 2013. During this time, decision makers mandated that schools deliver programs in accordance with Inuit foundations of knowledge, values and ways of being. I show how new school system initiatives were largely informed by long-term Nunavut educators—Inuit and non-Inuit—as well as Elders and Inuit knowledge holders, whose perspectives reach into the remembered past and towards an imagined future. My inquiry centres in-depth interviews with Cathy McGregor, an educational leader who carries 40 years experience North of 60°, and was responsible for facilitating many recent curriculum, policy, and leadership changes. Cathy is also my mother. Illuminated by her memories and vision, materials developed for the Nunavut school system, and my own research journey, I examine processes of bringing knowledge from and about the past forward in educational change. I describe three sites as demonstrating decolonizing: 1) The role of Inuit Elders in the school system, including full-time Elder Advisors; 2) Processes of curriculum development based on Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit; and, 3) An annual leadership development workshop facilitating history education. Building on these stories of change, I work towards theorizing two concepts, and the relationship between them, in the context of the Nunavut school system: decolonizing and knowing with historical consciousness. I find the sustainability of change in this context is elusive and challenging. Educators are unlikely to reach a stable moment of fulfillment wherein they hold sufficient knowledge of the context, or where the institution of schooling is decolonized. Using the metaphor of a river melting in spring throughout the dissertation, I find it is unsettling to acknowledge that time constantly slips away; that what was done before may no longer be relevant or possible now. However, knowledge from and about the past may serve educators by illustrating that knowing is always conditioned by place, time, identity, and relationships; therefore, knowledge can, and must, be remade. I argue that this warrants practices of continuously and recursively revisiting what is called for in Nunavut schools, to support educational change towards decolonizing.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada