UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Weaving Indigenous identity in post-secondary "situations" : supporting students with complex indigenous identities in a university context Fox, Sandra


For Indigenous students, post-secondary institutions are places that offer both opportunities for growth and knowledge, and challenges that cause many of us to struggle on our journey towards a degree. As places of learning they not only afford us the chance to learn new skills, they also give us space to learn about ourselves in ways we may not have had while at home. For many Indigenous students the journey through post-secondary also becomes a journey of identity where we gain new understandings of who we are. However, as they are built on colonial foundations where the education is based in a western worldview, historically these institutions have pressured Indigenous peoples to give up their beliefs and even identities in order to graduate. As a result of the efforts of many Indigenous scholars and community members, this is beginning to change. The university where I both work and attend school has grown and changed much in the past five years. Truth and Reconciliation, decolonization, and Indigenization have become much more recognized, and this shift has created more space for Indigenous students to be/become themselves while on campus. Although these efforts are important steps, Indigenous students still must often leave their home communities to attend, and come to learn in ways they do not relate to. They still face racism, both systemic and interpersonal, and walk in a world they may have little familiarity with. Using the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm spindle whorl as my framework, and the process of gathering, spinning, and weaving as my methodology, I asked four students to share their stories of their identity journey. I have woven their stories together with my own, as well as with the relevant secondary research in order to help show how post-secondary contributes to identity shifts and positive growth, and to highlight what more needs to be done in order to better respect Indigenous peoples.

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