Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies (PhD)
Collaborative Digital Storytelling
Dr. Ahenakew is a great supervisor because he cares first and foremost about his students as people.
The purpose of this dissertation was to explore the values and traditions embedded in the Indigenous practice of gift giving to understand how this tradition can inform the work of Indigenization in post-secondary education. Seven Gitxsan Chiefs and seven Elders from Vancouver Island University were contributors to this study, sharing their perspectives in relation to how this practice connects to Indigenous epistemology and ontology. The Gitxsan feast system and crest pole framed the theoretical inquiry and methodology for this study. In addition, I drew on Kirkness and Barnhardt’s (1991) 4 R’s of respect, relevance, reciprocity and responsibility as an ethical framework for quality Indigenous education and provided a reinterpretation of the 4 R’s, identifying the 4 A’s of accommodation, acquiescence, affiliation and acceptance, as part of my personal analysis informing this study. I also utilized Kuokkanen’s (2007) concept of gift logic. Numerous findings were identified in this study. Primary among them was the understanding that Indigenous research, grounded in protocol and traditional practices, can be a catalyst for cultural reaffirmation leading to a deeper understanding of Indigenous philosophy. Second, the articulation of a Gitxsan Gift Giving Model identifying the values and principles consistent with Gitxsan philosophy. Third, an Indigenous research paradigm that is uniquely Gitxsan and indicative of a decolonizing approach to doing research. Fourth, the development of a Discursive Tool rooted in Indigenous philosophy as a method of inquiry to explore the distinctions and tensions related to the Indigenization process. Fifth, Goodness Theory: An Ethical Approach to Indigenization that centers Indigenous knowledge and emphasizes balancing a good heart and mind. The approach identifies specific Indigenous characteristics and principles that surround a way of knowing that can be a portal for dialogue in post-secondary education, a site of engagement for speaking our truths informed by our values.