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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Aboriginal parental engagement in Calgary Catholic schooling Elser, Rhonda


The purpose of this study was to examine educational practices relating to parental engagement from three perspectives: Aboriginal parents, district personnel, and district administration. This research gives voice to the educational concerns of rural and urban First Nation/Metis/Inuit [FNMI] parents of the Calgary Catholic School District. This qualitative study examined the challenges and the successes of Aboriginal parent engagement in the Calgary Catholic School System. As a Cree woman, I chose to frame the research study and methodology around the Cree Mikowahp teachings. The four Cree laws of nature, wicitowin (sharing), kiseywatisowen (caring/ kindness/ generosity), kweyaskatesowin (honesty) and sohkisowin (strength/ determination), form the theoretical base for the research. The literature review provides an overview of promising practices in Aboriginal parental engagement and the barriers that obstruct authentic engagement. I chose to rename and reclaim the stories of Cree history using our own terms: the Dog Days, Coming of the Witigo, Following the path of the Buffalo, and Walking through the Storm. Within each of these sections I uncovered a long history of trauma and oppression that influences parental engagement today. The research findings clearly indicate that Aboriginal parents want to be involved in their children’s education. The participants’ responses were respectfully bundled into four bundles for safekeeping, similar to how the sacred medicine bundles are hung in Cree Mikowahps (shelters). The four bundles represent the following themes: Aboriginal Social Context, Relationship Building, Indigenous Culture and Language, and Reciprocal Responsibility. The development of the Mikowahp Tripod Framework was created from participant responses to highlight three key Mikowahp values that support parental engagement practices and programs: obedience, humility and respect. The Mikowahp Tripod Engagement Tool was developed to facilitate relationship building in schools and communities and to overcome some of the barriers identified by participants: lack of trust, stereotypes and assumptions of Aboriginal people, socioeconomic factors, historical trauma, residential school and gender roles. This research represents a move towards parental engagement as a process of relationship building that honours the Indigenous values of humility, respect, and obedience.

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