Exploring the History of Education in the Mackenzie Valley Region, 1940-1996

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Gwich'in Settlement Area

Tags: social sciences, politics, education, cultural relevance, oral history, residential schools, interpersonal relationships, perspective

Principal Investigator: Fraser, Crystal G (4)
Licence Number: 15298
Organization: University of Alberta
Licenced Year(s): 2013
Issued: Jul 30, 2013

Objective(s): To examining the history of education in the Northwest Territories from 1940 to 1996 by: 1) developing a historical narrative explaining the changing nature of education during the time frame; 2) interacting with community members to bring Aboriginal voice and perspective to academic research; and 3) reflect on northern history in regional settings.

Project Description: The researcher is examining the history of education in the Northwest Territories from 1940 to 1996. The objectives of this project are three-fold: 1) developing a historical narrative explaining the changing nature of education during the time frame 2) interacting with community members to bring Aboriginal voice and perspective to academic research 3) reflect on northern history in regional settings. Several different themes are of interest and will follow a loose chronology: the rise of Catholic and Anglican mission schools; why the federal state assumed responsibility for the education in 1955 and how this changed policies, procedures, and the nature of education in classrooms; the increasing number of hostels and federal day schools; the gendered nature of educational practices; the extent of (or lack thereof, to be determined) culturally relevant curriculum and teaching practices; lived experiences of school activities, friendships, and interactions with teachers through memory and oral interviews; how policy further changed when education became the responsibility of the territorial government; and how the broader politics and political activism of the Dene and other Aboriginal communities prompted a change in Aboriginal education and the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The discipline of History requires the analysis of a strong base of archival and written documents. Key sources include Hudson’s Bay Company records at the Provincial Archives of Manitoba; Oblate and Anglican sources at the Roman Catholic Diocesan Archives in Edmonton, Archives Deschâtelets in Ottawa, and the Provincial Archives of Alberta; and pertinent government records are held at Library and Archives Canada. The Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute (GSCI) in Tsiigehtchic house an abundance of fundamental primary and secondary sources, including a wealth of unpublished oral histories. The principal researcher has contacted the GSCI and they have provided professional support for this research. The NWT Archives in Yellowknife and the Yukon Archives in Whitehorse hold municipal and territorial records. Oral histories are among the most valuable of Gwich'in and Inuvialuit sources and will facilitate the construction of historical memory. Interviews will be conducted in a friendly, hospitable environment of the interviewees’ choice. Proper ethical guidelines and respectful interview practices will be embraced by the interviewer. All details and methods will be discussed with the interviewee before the interview date. The interviewee will have the opportunity to review and revise all interview transcripts before the researcher analyzes them.

There will be many opportunities for local involvement and community outreach. This presentation will consist of a short session about the history of education in the Northwest Territories, an explanation of the research questions and interests, and a questions/comments period. The presentation will give the audience some historical background about the topic and provide individuals with a better understanding of academic interests and university-based approaches to local questions. The questions/comments period will be the most valuable aspect; the principal investigator will listen to, interact with, and benefit from local concerns and ideas not only about this project, but also about academic research in the north more generally. After the community presentation, the principal researcher will reflect on the community feedback, concerns, and questions by further consultation and discussion with community members and elders. A critical part of this process will also be consulting the PhD committee and direct supervisors about possible solutions, outcomes, and ethics. Oral interviews will be conducted with willing participants. The principal researcher have already drawn on local and family contacts and have contacted some members of the political and business communities. As a Gwich'in woman and a northerner (and not only as an academic), the principal researcher hopes to strengthen the relationships with community members through the interviewing process. Interviews will be conducted in a friendly, hospitable setting of the interviewees’ choice and the principal investigator will work very hard to have an elder present to ensure a culturally-friendly environment. Once the interviews are complete, the principal researcher will apply this data to the primary research for the dissertation. Completed copies (electronic and printed formats) of the dissertation will be made available to the community for further discussion and reflection. Finally, in 2015, the principal researcher will return to the community and do a presentation that reflects this PhD research and the conclusions of the research. The principal researcher hopes this will prompt further community involvement, conversations, and relationships.

The researcher will give two community presentations: one in 2013 and one upon the completion of this research. Apart from presentations, the community will be consulted on a regular basis through local contact, family members, and interested individuals.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from July 30, 2013 to September 1, 2013.