UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Creating a sense of belonging for Indigenous students in British Columbia? Larson, Colleen Edith


This dissertation tells the story of partnership between myself, a doctoral student at UBC Okanagan, the Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN) and School District 87 (Stikine). Although the research is a partial fulfillment for my doctoral degree, I have attempted to emphasize the partnership aspects of the process throughout the writing of this document. I have been challenged to find ways to word sentences without using the phrase, my research. This was important to me because the first goal of this research is to decolonize research about Indigenous peoples by partnering with the Indigenous people. With regards to the second goal, Indigenous peoples worldwide and Aboriginal peoples in Canada advocate for changes to education for Indigenous students that will nurture Indigenous identity while preparing students and Indigenous communities for a prosperous future. This research supports initiatives to changes education for Indigenous students by sharing information from Indigenous students, parents, and community members about the ways in which Indigenous culture and language in schools can enhance sense of belonging and achievement. The aim of this research is to bridge the gap between European and Indigenous approaches to education through these two goals. To accomplish this, the research follows a Métis methodology based upon principles from Indigenous methodologies, appreciative inquiry, and grounded theory. The results of our research indicate that the children of TRTFN enjoy school, but have challenges to overcome for attendance in school and for access to secondary education. Students in Atlin have a strong sense of belonging to the land, to ancestors, to family, and to community. Students and their families and teachers believe that learning Tlingit culture and language is important to pass knowledge on to future generations. Students enjoy making choices about what they will learn and having opportunities for leadership. Finally, learning Indigenous culture and knowledge benefits all students. This is, of course, my dissertation. However, the learning that I acquired and the story of the research process are a shared journey with my partners in the research, TRTFN and SD87. It is my research for my dissertation, but our research for the community.

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