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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Native Youth Project Perkins, Elena Ann


Throughout the history of the discipline, anthropologists have assumed the role of cultural brokers, often taking explicit responsibility as advocates and representatives for dependent populations. Over the years, the role of cultural broker has changed, reflecting the intellectual and political milieu of the times. This perspective has been evident in the organizational culture at the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology (MOA) which has demonstrated a strong public service orientation since the late 1940s. This is a formative evaluation case study of the Native Youth Project, an education programme for First Nations teenagers which was active throughout the 1980s. The purpose of a formative evaluation is to provide information on the operation of a programme so those responsible for it can make improvements. The Native Youth Project (NYP) was initiated in 1979, co-sponsored by MOA and the Native Indian Youth Advisory Society (NIYAS). Conceived as a social intervention programme to improve academic achievement and introduce young people of aboriginal ancestry into productive careers in the mainstream Canadian society, this programme had a strong cultural component, promoting pride in First Nations heritage. The teenagers were trained to make presentations on various aspects of the indigenous culture of the Northwest Coast to museum visitors and community groups. Tracking the development of the programme reveals changing sensibilities among MOA staff toward the role of cultural brokerage. This case study also describes an example of the intersection between aboriginal and public institutional forms of organization and programming. The contributions of the various stakeholders and the context of the project's operation are described using the ethnographic methods of participant observation and interviewing. It is also an exercise in reflexive anthropology, since the author was an active member of the management and instructional team that is the focus of analysis.

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