Shirley Anne Swelchalot Shxwha:yathel Hardman
Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Studies (PhD)
One Heart at a Time: Indigenizing the Academy
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.
I had the honour of being able to attend two Sun Dance ceremonies in Southern Alberta, and found them to be transformative. The purpose of this study is to reflect on my identity as a product of colonisation and how participation in Indigenous ceremony, specifically the Sun Dance, impacted me both as an individual and as an educator. The guiding research questions are: why was the ceremony so impactful; how did participation in the Sun Dance help to increase knowledge and understanding of Indigenous cultures; how did participation in ceremony impact my third space identity; and how did my experience strengthen me as a critical ontologist. An autoethnographic methodology was chosen in part because personal stories have impact and can change the way the reader understands and navigates the world. It also gives voice to the marginalised, and can be more accessible to readers from various backgrounds. The data presented comes from self-reflection, reviewing relevant literature, and discussions with Elders. Supporting artifacts are included in the appendix. This autoethnography is grounded in three major philosophical schools: Indigenous ways of knowing and being, critical theory, and decolonial/post-colonial theories. Specifically, I connect myself and my work to two philosophies derived from these schools: Homi Bhabha’s third space, and Joe Kincheloe’s critical ontology. The former focuses on cultural hybridity, which describes my identity, while the latter combines Indigenous and non-Indigenous viewpoints, which describes my praxis. Immersion in ceremony, and self-reflection, provided a deeper understanding of myself and my place in the world, and impacted the ways in which I interpret information and relate to others. I gained a deeper appreciation of Indigenous cultures, and began to see how ceremony is both a powerful healing and teaching tool. I concluded that ethical teaching requires a classroom where everyone’s differences, cultures, and ways of being are respected and brought together to inform daily practice. Participation in cultural practices, including but not limited to ceremony, would help provide a multifaceted perspective by which one could more accurately evaluate their own sociocultural and political values, ethics, and practices both as a person and as an educator.