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Transformational Sites of Indigenous Education


Volume 28, 2004, Numbers 1/2


The Forests and Oceans for the Future papers in Vol. 28 (#1 & 2) of the Canadian Journal of Native Education are one of the outcomes of a unique collaboration between anthropological researchers from UBC and community members from Gitxaała. From conception through implementation, revision, and reporting back to the whole community, collaboration and respectful research practices were placed as the central and fundamental principle of work. As described in the papers by Lewis, Menzies, and McDonald, implementing this approach was not a simple or straightforward application of rules of conduct, but rather was built upon a conception of research as a long term relationship. As with all such relationships this process required goodwill, commitment, and compromise.


1. Forests for the Future: The View from Gitkxaała. Wuyee Wi Medeek (John Lewis)
Wuyee Wi Medeek (John Lewis) speaks from his vantage point as Gitxaała’s Chief Treaty Negotiator. Wuyee Wi Medeek opens our volume with a reflection on the benefits of collaborative research, the difficulties inherent in such an operation, the community experience of the Forests for the Future project, and a consideration of areas that could be improved for future research projects. His contribution provided the inspiration for the accompanying video, The View from Gitxaała, which documents the research process used.

2.Putting Words into Action: Negotiating Collaborative Research in Gitxaała. Charles R. Menzies.
Menzies writes about the process of negotiating respectful research relationships. This paper describes the actual process of consultation, accommodation, and negotiation important in establishing and growing a respectful research relationship between the University and Gitxaała.

3. Researching Traditional Ecological Knowledge Knowledge for Multiple Uses. Caroline Butler.
Caroline Butler writes from the perspective of a field researcher charged with coordinating the on the ground research in the community. In her paper she examines the ways in which the particular and differing interests of researcher and community members can pull together to produce research results that simultaneously meet the needs of communities and fulfil the expectations of research institutions.

4. Opening Doors to the Future: Applying Local Knowledge in Curriculum Development. Veronica Ignas.
Ignas’ paper lays out the underlying pedagogic and theoretical frameworks that were used to guide the development of the Forests for the Future Curriculum materials In her paper she describes the pedagogical and theoretical models for curriculum design that informed the development of our curriculum materials.

5. Traditional Plant Knowledge of the Tsimshian Curriculum: Keeping Knowledge in the Community. Edosdi / Judith C. Thompson.
Edōsdi documents her experience as a Tahltan educator in developing a Tsimshian plant knowledge lesson plan. Based upon her experience working with the students and elders in Gitga’ata, Edōsdi reflects upon the development of at Tsimshian plant knowledge lesson plan. Central to her discussion is the importance of valuing local indigenous knowledge so that students “would be able to view their own knowledge and the knowledge and wisdom of their elders and community as both valid and valuable in the context of science, and more generally, to all academic work.”

6. Educating About Aboriginal Involvement with Forestry: The Tsimshian Experience—Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Paul Orlowski and Charles Menzies.
Orlowski discusses the development and piloting experience of the unit he designed for the project, Tsimshian Involvement in the Forest Sector. Based upon earlier research his essay highlights the importance for indigenous students of teaching materials that place the experience of their community front and centre. Orlowski piloted the materials in two settings—within the Tsimshian Territories and in a Vancouver school. While the responses were different, Orlowski notes that materials that are relevant to students—i.e., Tsimshian materials for the north coast students and First Nations content for the urban First Nations classes—is more likely to inspire and motivate students and contribute to their success.

7. The Tsimshian Protocols: Locating and Empowering Community-based Research. James Andrew McDonald.
James McDonald, an anthropologist who has worked with the Tsimshian community of Kitsumkalum for nearly three decades, discuss the importance of long term research relationships that respect the local—or in our case Tsimshian- protocols. McDonald’s paper stands both as a summary of the issues and contributions of this group of papers and as a significant contribution on community-based research methodology in its own right. Anthropologists and other social science researchers have often struggled with research ethics and issues of power. McDonald’s paper demonstrates one important path out of this quagmire: “to work with communities and individuals in ways that respect their realities, their needs, and their futures.”