UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Mapping the landscape of indigenous students success LaPierre, Jean Irene


Mapping the Landscape of Indigenous Student Success offers Aboriginal students’ voices as they describe the factors that contributed to their academic success in School District No. 83 in British Columbia (BC). For too long, the focus of research has been on blaming Aboriginal students, families, and communities for Aboriginal students’ lack of success. This dissertation challenges the “deficit” model in so much of the academic literature on Aboriginal student success in BC. While the 16 Grade 12 students profiled in the study offered their insights on the meaning of academic success—they went far beyond a simple definition of success. They expanded the idea of success to reflect relational approaches that include well-being and happiness as measures. In keeping with the relational ethics practiced by the students’ communities, the study’s methodology was also heavily relational. Students, their families, and the community were invited to learn about the study before it began. Once the participants were recruited, they shared their stories in one-on-one-interviews, as well as in talking circles, two methods that fit with the model of reciprocity and equality I aimed to generate in my study. I then carefully unpacked the students’ stories within a theoretical framework of decolonization and inclusive educational practices. As a Métis researcher, I found it necessary to build my own identity into the research process in order to acknowledge my complex history with the Canadian educational system. The Métis Sash also guided the data analysis process, serving as a metaphor to understand the dark history of Canada’s colonial education system, which has directly led to challenges facing Aboriginal students today.I offer students’ stories of success as a way to counter the deficit thinking in educational discourse around Aboriginal students in Canada. A family type relationship based on mutual respect and a positive relationship are key to students’ learning. This is evident from the students’ reflections in my research. A teacher’s role in building a supportive, caring relationship is a gateway to success. I hope that these findings will help guide BC schools in becoming more inclusive and engaging for Aboriginal students.

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