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Title: Exploring the Impact of Ongoing Colonial Violence on Aboriginal Students in the Postsecondary Classroom
Authors: Cote-Meek, Sheila
Issue Date: May-2010
Publisher: University of Toronto
Abstract: Framed within an Anishnaabe method and an anti-colonial discursive framework, this thesis explores how Aboriginal students confront narratives of colonial violence in the postsecondary classroom while at the same time living and experiencing colonial violence on a daily basis. In order to garner an understanding of what pedagogies might be useful in postsecondary classrooms that cover such curricula, I explored these questions by interviewing 8 Aboriginal students and 5 Aboriginal professors who were taking or teaching courses on Aboriginal peoples and colonial history. I also engaged two Aboriginal Elders in conversations on pedagogy because they are recognized as carriers of Aboriginal traditional knowledge. Drawing on the literature I theorize colonization as violent, ongoing and traumatic. Specifically, I trace how education for Aboriginal peoples has always been and continues to be part of the colonial regime—one that is marked by violence, abuse and a regime that has had devastating consequences for Aboriginal peoples. This thesis confirms that despite some changes to the educational system Aboriginal students and professors interviewed in this research still confront significant challenges when they enter sites such as the postsecondary classroom. The most profound finding in this thesis was the extent of racism that Aboriginal students confront and negotiate in postsecondary classrooms. These negotiations are especially profound and painful in mixed classrooms where the narrative of ongoing colonial violence is discussed. Aboriginal iii students also employ a number of strategies to resist ongoing colonialism and racism. The narrative of racism is not new but it does reaffirm that colonialism continues to have devastating effects on Aboriginal peoples. It also reaffirms the pervasiveness of violence in our society despite the fact that many would rather ignore or downplay the level of violence that exists. There is no doubt that the Aboriginal students interviewed in this research describe a significant psychological toll in an environment of ongoing colonialism and is especially difficult when revisiting historical and ongoing accounts of violence of their own colonial history. The thesis offers some suggestions for mitigating this impact in the classroom.
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