Heather E. McGregor, Department of Curriculum Studies, UBC
My doctoral research attempts to tell a story about the decolonization of a public education system based on the recent history of educational change in Nunavut, reflecting how those involved in the change (including myself) understand it. It explores the complexity and challenge of building a contemporary school system on foundations of Indigenous knowledge, and how that process is mediated by understandings of the past that are unique to Nunavut and include the distance in time, space and relationship to: traditional Inuit society and cultural practices, experiences of being colonized in mid-20th century, and recent processes of self-determination.
My Masters research at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education focused on documenting little-known stories of educational change in the Arctic. This research resulted in the 2010 publication Inuit Education and Schools in the Eastern Arctic with UBC Press. The book takes a broad view of the history of education, beginning with traditional Inuit education and tracking changes through to the present in policy, curriculum, pedagogy, language of instruction, cultural content, and parental involvement. Focusing on the themes of cultural negotiation, decision-making power and the role of tradition in education, the book’s purpose is to identify points in history when approaches to education best reflected Inuit culture, traditions, and their vision of the future.
I was born in the NWT and Iqaluit, Nunavut has been my family’s home for most of my life. Since I was a child I have learned from, been inspired by, and become significantly committed to the distinct ways of knowing, being and doing Inuit are actively protecting and promoting in their homeland. I believe strongly the integration of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit in the public education system is to the benefit of all Northerners. Returning to work and live in Nunavut after studying in Toronto was important to shaping my interest in further research. Coordinating implementation of the 2008 Nunavut Education Act for the Department of Education allowed me to more fully understand the challenges of transitioning vision and policy into changing practice in schools and classrooms.
I am thankful for being able to study and live on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Musqueam First Nation, and I am grateful for the guidance of my supervisors Penney Clark, Peter Seixas and Michael Marker. I would also like to acknowledge the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.