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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Science and technology education in a civilizing mission MacIvor, Madeleine


This thesis is a study of science and technology education in the context of an early Aboriginal-missionary interaction at Fort Simpson and Metlakatla, British Columbia between 1857 and 1887. Drawing on a variety of historical sources, the study investigates how science and technology education were used by lay missionary William Duncan to further the dual goals of Christianization and civilization among the Tsimshian. The thesis also investigates the varying responses of the Tsimshian to Duncan’s educational initiatives. The thesis argues that science and technology education at Fort Simpson and Metlakatla was implemented in an attempt to culturally dominate the People. Duncan used science and technology education to promote Christianity, to undermine the People's traditional beliefs about the natural world, to promote literacy over orality, and to inculcate Victorian work values. Furthermore, the technological and domestic training introduced by Duncan facilitated the development of materials and skills necessary for the physical development of the mission village, isolated the People from other labour markets, and encouraged industriousness. Domestic education was intended to give the women the skills necessary to adopt European dress and to prepare them for their roles as mothers in Christian, civilized homes. Science and technology education was also intended to fill the void resulting from the banning of traditional practices. The People, however, were not passive victims of Duncan's educational practices. While many rejected Western schooling, others accommodated schooling for various intellectual, practical, economic, political, cultural, and spiritual reasons. Resistance was always a theme in the history of schooling in Fort Simpson and Metlakatla. Resistance was particularly strong among the Chiefs, and this resistance was a factor in the relocation of the People from Fort Simpson to Metlakatla, B.C., and later to Metlakatla, Alaska. This case study illustrates that Western school science was a site of cultural domination and resistance, and raises questions about appropriate education for Aboriginal people in science and technology. The thesis concludes by locating this case study within the history of Western schooling of Aboriginal people, and calls for the reconstruction of the science curriculum to meet the needs and aspirations of the People.

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