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That’s not my history! Examining the role of personal counter-narratives in decolonizing Canadian history for Mi’kmaw students Open Access


Other title
First Nations Education
Social Studies Education
Aboriginal Education
Nova Scotia
Culturally Responsible Pedagogy
Canadian History
Mi'kmaw Education
Indigenous Research Methods
Curriculum and Instruction
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Tinkham, Jennifer R
Supervisor and department
Richardson, George (Secondary Education)
Peck, Carla (Elementary Education)
Examining committee member and department
Wiltsie, Lynne (Elementary Education)
Peck, Carla (Elementary Education)
Donald, Dwayne (Secondary Education)
Gibson, Sue (Elementary Education)
Richardson, George (Secondary Education)
Department of Elementary Education

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This doctoral research examines personal narratives of current and former Mi’kmaw students to discover how they situate their own understandings and narratives of Canadian history alongside the content and teaching in the current curriculum in Nova Scotia’s band-controlled and provincially-controlled schools. Using a decolonizing framework and methods of conversations and sharing circles, participants were asked how their social studies courses, particularly in Canadian history, connected (or did not connect) with what they had already learned in their homes and communities. After hearing the participants’ candid recollections of connecting their experiences as Mi’kmaw youth to the mostly-Eurocentric curriculum, I analysed the data using the First Nations Holistic Learning Model and Schwab’s four commonplaces. I examined how their school social studies experience affected their mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being as they made connections between the curriculum and topics such as residential schooling, Mi’kmaw treaty rights, and Columbus’ alleged ‘discovery’ of North America. I discovered that, according to the participants, it was the teachers, both Mi’kmaw and non-Mi’kmaw, who made the biggest difference in how the students made connections between their lives outside the classroom and the curriculum that was taught. Teachers who showed interest in the students’ Mi’kmaw identity and added Mi’kmaw content to the prescribed curriculum promoted well-being for their students. The perception and reality of systemic racism detracted from the students’ well-being. Whether or not they were supported by their school environment, students persisted in their efforts to bridge the gap between the curriculum and the lived experiences of Canadian history narrated by members of their community. Listening to the voices of my participants, I now advocate for a reconceptualised curriculum and a culturally responsible pedagogy, which will provide supports for non-Mi’kmaw teachers to create experiences for all students to foster understanding of and respect for Mi’kmaw cultural perspectives. Culturally responsible pedagogy will include promoting holistic social studies education, integrating Western and Indigenous knowledge in social studies, expanding the Mi’kmaq Studies 10 course, increasing access to Mi’kmaw resources, including residential school content, and promoting critical thinking in social studies education.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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