Graduate Theses & Dissertations

Hoop Dance Project
This dissertation explores a 2017 elementary school Hoop Dance project that was organized by a white music teacher, and taught by an Indigenous artist in Peterborough, Ontario. It aims to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action, numbers 10 and 63, which ask the federal government to sufficiently fund legislation that incorporates the following principles: “… developing culturally appropriate curricula” (p. 2), and “building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect” (p. 7). The dissertation asks the question: In what ways will a seven-week Indigenous Hoop Dance Unit, taught by an Indigenous performing artist and facilitated by a white school teacher, contribute to reconciliation in an elementary school classroom in Ontario? I am the teacher in this study and have worked at this elementary school for five years. Throughout the project, I acted as facilitator, participant, and researcher, while Indigenous dancer and instructor Beany John planned and delivered the Hoop Dance content. Theoretically, the dissertation is organized around the Anishinabek seven grandmother/grandfather teachings, as taught by Ojibwe/Odawa educator and author Pamela Toulouse (2011). I believe that these seven traditional teachings are a meaningful basis upon which to build the project, not only because they inform Indigenous knowledge in the arts, but also because frequent reflection and referral to the teachings help remind me to remain connected to the “higher” purpose of the research throughout the project, which is to further the reconciliation process in Canada, and more broadly, to benefit society. Regarding methodology, I use arts based research (Leavy, 2015) and a constructivist grounded theory analysis, which embraces the subjectivity and positionality of the researcher (Creswell, 2012). The overall conclusion of the dissertation is that although the Hoop Dance project did not significantly address issues of Indigenous sovereignty in education nor our shared inherited legacy of colonial harm, it was a constructive step in the reconciliation project, largely due to the contributions of Beany John, whose teaching gently unsettled conventional educational practice at our school. Author Keywords: Arts Education, Hoop Dance, Indigenous Education, Indigenous Peoples, Settler Colonialism, Truth and Reconciliation
“I will not use the word reconciliation” – Exploring Settler (Un)Certainty, Indigenous Refusal, and Decolonization through a Life History Project with Jean Koning
This thesis centres on a series of intergenerational life history interviews with and about Jean Koning, a 95-year-old white Settler woman who has engaged in different forms of Indigenous-Settler solidarity work for over fifty years—work that is highly regarded by many Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in southwestern and central Ontario. I bring Jean’s stories and perspectives, many of which stand in stark contrast to dominant discourses of “reconciliation,” into conversation with scholars who examine Indigenous refusal and Settler (un)certainty. Through this, I attempt to better understand how colonial knowledge structures and ways of thinking operate in practise, how these might be resisted, and how this resistance relates to land repatriation. I argue that a commitment to unsettling uncertainty and to meaningful listening may be required by Settlers in a stand against various colonial ways of thinking, such as cognitive imperialism. Author Keywords: Cognitive imperialism, Decolonization, Indigenous-Settler relations, Life history, Reconciliation, Settler uncertainty
Sacred Space, Ancestors, and Authority
The Middle Formative Period (1000 – 400 B.C.) has increasing become recognized as a critical locus in the development of Lowland Maya socio-political complexity. This period witnessed the founding of numerous ceremonial centers, substantial material cultural innovation, and the advent of mortuary practices indicating developing social differentiation. Recent excavations at the site of Ka’Kabish in Northern Belize have uncovered evidence significantly strengthening this view. Excavations underlying Plaza D-South at Ka’Kabish have revealed a series of bedrock-hewn pits containing offering caches of thousands of shell beads, forty-seven greenstone objects, and extensive ceramic evidence indicating communal ritual and feasting, which is argued by the author to represent a cosmographic diorama of the cave-riddled Underworld. Significantly, this elaborate cosmographic offering event appears to center on the secondary, bundled bedrock-cist burial of an important personage and/or ancestor who is accompanied by a number of finely crafted jade ornaments representing motifs and forms that have previously been interpreted as symbols of authority, rulership, and divine kingship. Comparable contemporary evidence from Northern Belize and beyond has been interpreted through models foregrounding site-founding, place-making, ancestor veneration, and aggrandizer driven social differentiation. By integrating and contrasting these existing models with new evidence from Ka’Kabish, this thesis argues that the mortuary, caching, and architectural practices evidenced at Middle Formative Ka’Kabish represent a glimpse into the incipience of the ideological complex, the socio-cultural processes, and the material manifestations propagating the development of subsequent Maya socio-political complexity, specifically the institution of divine kingship or ch’uhul ahau. Author Keywords: ancestor veneration, ancient Maya, greenstone cache, Ka’Kabish, Belize, Middle Formative, socio-political complexity
Colonialism, Capitalism, and the Rise of State Schooling in British Columbia, 1849-1900
This dissertation examines the historical relationship between settler colonialism, capitalism, and the rise of state schooling in what is now known as British Columbia between 1849 and 1900. It aims to “unsettle” conventional views of Canadian schooling history by bringing accounts of Indigenous and non-Indigenous education into one analytical frame, and it shows how the state used different forms of schooling for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous children—company, common, public, mission, day, boarding, and industrial schools—to assist colonial-capitalist social formation in the Pacific Northwest. In combining interdisciplinary insights from Indigenous studies, historical materialism, political economy, and critical pedagogy, the dissertation highlights the ways in which state-supported schooling facilitated capitalist accumulation by colonial dispossession. The central argument of the dissertation is that between 1849 and 1900, colonial, provincial, and federal governments strategically took on greater responsibility for schooling as a way of legitimizing the state and supporting the emergence of a capitalist settler society. Author Keywords: Capitalism, Education, Indian Residential Schools, Indigenous Peoples, Settler Colonialism, Violence
Energy Resilience in Northern Communities
This project examines the factors for success of alternative energy initiatives in remote northern Indigenous communities, and the link between northern community energy and resilience. The case study, in the Gwich’in village of Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories, focuses upon a biomass boiler district heating project that provides renewable heat fuelled by local wood chips, and the willow harvesting initiative that supports it. Data was collected by interviews and participant observation in Fort McPherson and Yellowknife, and by analysis of resilience, community energy, and biomass literature. Success factors identified include the importance of aligning energy systems with local cultural identity, traditional values and connection to landscape, values often under-represented in financially-driven energy decisions. Autonomy and self-reliance are shown to be critical factors in northern community energy decisions, related to well-being, pride in place and enhanced resilience. Community resilience is revealed as a key component of northern community energy success. Author Keywords: Energy, Indigenous, Northern, Renewable, Resilience, Sustainable

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