Aboriginal Youth Stories of Culture, Identity, Community & Place: A Rural/Urban Educational Youth Exchange through Performing Arts & Technology

Regions: Sahtu Settlement Area

Tags: social sciences, aboriginal youth, performing arts

Principal Investigator: Conrad, Diane H (5)
Licence Number: 15769
Organization: University of Alberta
Licenced Year(s): 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013
Issued: Oct 14, 2015
Project Team: Diane Conrad (principal investigator, University of Alberta), Dwayne Donald (co-investigator, University of Alberta), Ramona Big Head (collaborator, Tatsikiisaapo’p Middle School)

Objective(s): To initiate a creative exchange amongst youth in 4 Aboriginal communities (Fort Good Hope, NWT; Pangnirtung, Nunavut; Kainai Reserve, Southern Alberta, amiskwaciy Academy, Edmonton, Alberta) through performing arts, storytelling and technology.

Project Description: The aim of the study is to initiate a creative exchange amongst youth in 4 Aboriginal communities (Fort Good Hope, NWT; Pangnirtung, Nunavut; Kainai Reserve, Southern Alberta, amiskwaciy Academy, Edmonton, Alberta) through performing arts, storytelling and technology. Through consultation with the communities regarding the study's design and objectives, and collaboration between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal interdisciplinary university-based academics and schools/youth groups from the communities, the project will explore promising educational practices (experiential, imaginative, culturally responsive education) and novel strategies (performing arts and technology, youth exchange) for engaging Aboriginal learners.

The research questions are: How do Aboriginal rural/urban youth understand themselves, and their communities? How will they describe themselves and their experiences to youth in other Aboriginal communities? What commonalities and differences might they encounter? How can performing arts/story-telling and technology contribute to creating dialogue amongst Aboriginal youth? What benefits for nurturing youths’ educational success might result from such a creative virtual exchange? What are the implications for future pedagogical practice with Aboriginal learners?

In the first phase of the research project (entitled Addressing Aboriginal education: Conditions, viewpoints and aspirations across four diverse Aboriginal communities), two co-investigators will travel to each community for research relationship building and consultation. Seed funding has been acquired from the University of Alberta Killam Research Fund for this phase. The academic co-investigators each have current connections with one or more of the Aboriginal communities and the communities have indicated interest in partnering for this project. Following an Indigenous research paradigm (Wilson, 2008), attending to the 4 R’s: relationality, respect, reciprocity, and relevance, is fundamental. In this sense, the need for building relationships with communities and community collaborators and eliciting meaningful community input through face-to-face interaction is essential. The seed funding will allow attention to appropriate protocols (physical presence within the community, hosting a community feast, offering gifts to Elders); participant observation in the community, and the convening three focused community-based meetings with relevant groups of: 1) community members (including Elders and parents), 2) administration/staff from schools/youth groups, and 3) youth – to present ideas/objectives for the research collaboration and to gather preliminary insights from them to address the research questions. Travel to the two Northern communities will also include a stopover in the Territorial capitals to meet with Government officials in Yellowknife (Department of Education, Culture & Employment) and Iqaluit (Departments of Education, and Culture & Heritage) to garner their support and insights for the project.

With funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Connections Grant, the co-investigators will host a two-day meeting to bring together academic and community collaborators from each of the 4 communities including: 2 representatives from each school/youth groups; as well as an Elder and a youth from each community, to discuss project goals and design and begin to develop an application for a Social Sciences and Humanities Insight Partnership Development Grant for the proposed project.

If successful, the SSHRC Partnership Development Grant will fund the youth exchange over a period of 3 years. Pending approval of our community partners, the participatory action research (Fals-Borda & Rahman, 1991) project will, with project facilitators in each community, organize youth-focused performances and storytelling initiatives at the community level, engaging youth in schools or community youth groups, through various creative media (traditional story-telling; music; hip hop/rap, remix, spoken word; photography, digital storytelling, drama, video) to develop stories that express their perceptions of culture, identity, community and place, to share via technological applications (video conferencing, blogging, social network sites, isuma.tv) with youth in other communities. The project would culminate in a meeting/exchange bringing all youth together for the purpose of presenting what they have created to one another and to academic and community audiences.

This arts and social sciences research study follows an Indigenous research paradigm using participatory action research methods. In this sense the community participants are integral collaborators in all phases of the research process, the outcomes of which are intended to be of direct benefit to them. The study focuses on Aboriginal education across 4 communities (one in the NWT). The project will benefit the youth who volunteer to participate in the study by giving them opportunities to creatively express their understandings of who they are and their place in the world; for celebrating and sharing expressions of pride in cultural identity as well as giving voice to the challenges they face, which are vital for nurturing success; and for building relationships with youth in other communities. The associated schools/youth groups will benefit by informing their educational practice, and the project will offer an exemplar for working in educational contexts across culturally diverse and geographically isolated communities.

The outcomes of the research - the creative works developed by the youth, will remain the property of the individuals and the community. The community will be free to disseminate these as they see fit. The researchers, in consultation with the community, will also produce academic presentations and publications, which will be shared with the community for dissemination as they see fit.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016.