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A cross-cultural comparison of scientific language use: Indigenous and Eurocentric discourse on issues regarding caribou in the North Open Access


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Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Bechtel, Robert E
Supervisor and department
Nocente, Norma (Secondary Education)
Examining committee member and department
Donald, Dwayne (Secondary Education)
Parlee, Brenda (Rural Economy)
Shanahan, Marie-Claire (Elementary Education)
Sutherland, Dawn (Education)
Pimm, David (Secondary Education)
Department of Secondary Education

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This work is an attempt to understand and lessen the borders that exist between Indigenous knowledge and Eurocentric science. I contend that the two groups represent distinct cultures and that it is important to look at the differences and similarities that occur in language use as the two communicate on issues of mutual concern. I argue that discourse can shape knowledge in two very distinct ways within two different modes of thought; a narrative mode that is used primarily by the Aboriginal community and a scientific mode that is utilized primarily by the scientists. The research involves discourse analysis as a means of studying a unique opportunity to compare and contrast two cultures speaking on the topic of preservation of caribou in the Northwest Territories of northern Canada. Although the intention of both the Aboriginal community members and the Eurocentric scientists are the same; to preserve the caribou numbers that exist in the North, the differences in language use can create turbulence between the borders of the two cultures. I argue that this analysis will assist in comprehending and mitigating the borders that have been created that now impact life in the North. In addition, this work represents an autobiographical journey that proposes curriculum theory as a reconceptualization of the current mindset of Eurocentric scientists and science educators. While governments, government agencies, and resource management boards continue to try and bridge the borders between Aboriginal peoples and Eurocentric agents, they may find that they are better served by reconceptualizing how they view and share knowledge. Curriculum theory provides an option to not only imagine a different future but also provides strategies for looking inwards and evaluating one's own method of knowledge sharing. Aboriginal people and Eurocentric scientists both have a vested interest in protecting and maintaining caribou populations in northern Canada, but how they communicate those intentions to each other is critical if collaboration is to be possible and understanding how each other uses language can be a valuable aid in mitigating those borders.
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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File title: Comparisons of Language Use in Western Science and Traditional Knowledge
File author: Robert Bechtel
File language: en-US
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