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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Taking control : power and contradiction in First Nations adult education Haig-Brown, Celia


This dissertation is an ethnography. It explores the ways that people within a First Nations adult education centre make sense of taking control of education. Michel Foucault's open-textured analysis of power frames the research. He argues power not only represses but also "forms knowledge and produces discourse." Control and power as used by the "new" sociologists of education, and the National Indian Brotherhood in its policy statement Indian Control of Indian Education further locate the study. Extensive use of the participants' words allows a consideration of meanings inscribed in discourse. The study is based on a year of fieldwork including interviews, observations and the researcher's direct participation as a teacher in the centre. It places expressions of people's understandings of control within a series of contextualizations. The centre exists in contemporary Canadian society. Documentary evidence of British Columbia's First Nations efforts to control formal education and re-presentation of the centre's twenty years of growth and development illuminate an historical context. The study examines the current significance of the building where students find "a safe place to learn." Biographies, furnishing additional context for people's words, situate the study in relation to life history. Their engagement in a variety of the centre's programs provides the immediate context. Students and teachers explore what it is to be First Nations people seeking knowledge which will enable them to make choices about employment and education in First Nations or mainstream locations. References to the document Indian Control of Indian Education reveal its continuing significance for those people who are taking control. Study participants identify as crucial many of the issues raised within the document such as Native values, curriculum, First Nations and non-Native teachers, jurisdiction and facilities. At the same time, their discourse reveals the complex process of refining the original statements as policy translates to practice and people ponder the implications. A final chapter, something of an epilogue, argues that the dialectical contradiction is a useful analytical tool for examining the dissonances which arise in attempts to meet First Nations needs and desires within a predominantly non-Native society.

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