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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Following the song of k’aad ‘aww (Dogfish Mother) : adolescent perspectives on English 10 First Peoples, writing, and identity Davidson, Sara Florence


The purpose of this study was to explore how identity texts and narrative writing could strengthen adolescents’ writing and support adolescents’ identity explorations. The study took place in an English 10 First Peoples class in a small, remote community in northern British Columbia. The context was highly unique; therefore, the study also includes findings regarding the students’ and community’s response to a compulsory course with Indigenous content, the struggles for educators teaching the course, and the perceived strengths of the course. This qualitative case study (Stake, 1995) was guided by the metaphor of the Haida dogfish mother. It drew upon Indigenous storywork principles (Archibald, 2008) to create an ethical framework that extended beyond institutional standards for ethical conduct in research. This merging of methodologies invited improvisation, dialogue, and inner reflection to explore the role of stories, ancestry, history, and lived experiences in this research. Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, teachers, administrators, community members, and a parent were interviewed and observations were conducted in the English 10 First Peoples classroom, and the data were analyzed using the iterations of the k’aad ‘aww dance. The findings from this study indicated that adolescents generally engage more with writing that is based on topics of their choice and personal experiences. The adolescents shared ways that writing transformed their lives and strengthened their relationships. They also appreciated the inclusion of non-writing activities in their English language arts class. In this study, the resistance to English 10 First Peoples as a required course resulted in racially discriminatory conversations. These suggest the need to further explore ways to ensure all students and educators have access to accurate and respectful Indigenous content and history and to ensure that educators are not engaging in a racism of low expectations (Auditor General of British Columbia, 2015). The educators offered suggestions for improved support for courses that are rich in Indigenous content and pedagogical practices; overall they expressed that the strengths of the course far outweighed the struggles. All of the participants in this study emphasized the importance of building strong relationships between students and educators.

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