UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Telling the story, together : Indigenous knowledge(s) and decolonizing environmental conservation at Ocean Wise (the Vancouver Aquarium) Phillips, Nancy Kimberley


Located on the unceded homeLands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, skwxwú7mesh, and səlil̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ Nations is the head office of Ocean Wise Conservation Association and the Vancouver Aquarium. This action anthropological research investigates the efforts of Ocean Wise and the Vancouver Aquarium to better include Indigenous voices and knowledges within their organization. The data is drawn primarily from two departments within Ocean Wise: the education department and the Arctic research department. In the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015), many public educational institutions have begun the process of reckoning with decolonization and ‘reconciliation’ practices in their organizations. This research is utilizing Ocean Wise as a case study to examine the practices of decolonization and ‘reconciliation’ writ-large. Chapter 1: Wayfinding, outlines the histories of Ocean Wise (and its entanglement with social justice and environmental conservation), and the Indigenous Lands upon which the organization is located, through storytelling and place-remembering. I also situate myself (the author) and outline the methodologies of participant-observation, interviews, and research. Chapter 2: Current Headway, looks at some of the contemporary projects and perspectives that are currently surfacing in the education and research departments of Ocean Wise, in their attempt to decolonize their organization. Chapter 3: Navigating the Rough Waters, outlines some of the themes and tensions that were raised during the interviewing process about Indigenous knowledge(s) and ‘Western’ science; storytelling; consent and sovereignty; and the capacity of both organizations and Indigenous peoples to do this work. Finally, Chapter 4: Suggestions and Conclusion, offers suggestions for movement through the ‘reconciliation’ and decolonial process by advocating for Indigenous language inclusion, support for Land and Water protectors; and equity, diversity and inclusion practices demonstrating that representation matters. My hope for this thesis and research is that they will act as a call-to-action, and encouragement, for Ocean Wise and other public educational organizations to continue navigating the sometimes murky waters of decolonization and ‘reconciliation’.

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