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Negotiating home : subtitle four children’s experiences in the Mormon Indian Student Placement Program Wright, Darrell Ian

Abstract

This study is an examination of the experiences of four people who, between September of 1967 to June of 1968, were involved in the Mormon Indian Student Placement Program. Two of the participants were First Nations children who, at the ages of eight and ten, were participants in a program that involved leaving their home Haida village on Haida Gwaii-Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia to live in Mormon homes in Alberta for ten months. The other two participants were Mormon children of the families who sponsored the two First Nations children. The primary goal of the study is to understand how these people place the experience of being involved in the Mormon Indian Student Placement Program within their lives. Using primary research gained from interviews with the four subjects of the study, I have created a thesis that explores several topics within the context of their stories. First, I explore an array of relevant secondary literature to identify important gaps that are in need of investigation within the history of childhood, especially as it pertains to First Nations children. I then use the memories of the subjects to describe their experience with the program and to describe how they make sense of that experience thirty-four years later. Finally, I argue that memory is a valid and rich historical source and that the differences in memories between subjects are significant to an understanding of the experience as a whole. I argue that family was the prime mediator of the experience for the First Nations children and that within the Mormon Indian Student Placement Program, regardless of the intentions of the families with whom the children were placed, the structure of power was such that the children were very much powerless. The result was that the children necessarily needed to negotiate their space within the family. I argue that negotiation is a key concept, since the experiences of the children involved in the program were characterized and differentiated by their ability to negotiate their own self-definition within the differing power relationships. These power relationships were based on racial, gendered and religious understandings.

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