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The quest of Shiman-chu: Questioning the absolutes of language, culture, and Being Open Access


Other title
Amami islands
language revitalization
language loss
language death
Indigenous research paradigms
Indigenous language
mixed methods
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Nakagawa, Satoru
Supervisor and department
Stewart-Harawira, Makere W. (Educational Policy Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Steinhauer, Evelyn L. (Educational Policy Studies)
den Heyer, Kent (Secondary Education)
da Costa, Jose L. (Educational Policy Studies)
Kachur, Jerrold L. (Educational Policy Studies)
McCarty, Teresa L. (external, Arizona State University, Educational Policy Studies)
Abdi, Ali A. (Chair, Educational Policy Studies)
Department of Educational Policy Studies
Indigenous Peoples Education
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Undertaken on Tokunoshima, an island colonized by Japan in the 17th century, this research speaks to the critical question of the loss of Indigenous languages and the resultant loss of ethnic pluralism. In general, people on Tokunoshima claim that Shima-guchi (language), Shima-culture, and Shiman-chu identity on Tokunoshima are being lost (language, culture, and identity or LCI shift). In order to gauge the accuracy and implications of these claims, LCI shift was investigated using a combination of surveys (N=3509) and interviews (N=40). In keeping with the fact that Tokunoshima people are an Indigenous people within a colonized territory, this mixed methods study was undertaken within and shaped by an Indigenous Tokunoshima research paradigm, one which honours the voices of the participants and elicits particular reciprocities and obligations on the part of the Indigenous researcher, necessitating multiple return trips over a four-year period. Overall, the survey and interview results alike showed a positive correlation between participants’ age and their Shima-guchi fluency, practice, and knowledge of Shima-culture. Interviewees, many of them leaders, seniors, and experienced educators expressed the importance of passing down “Shima no kokoro.” Translated as “the heart of the island,” this refers to island life as expressed in language and culture. This study concludes that while residents of Tokunoshima are losing Shima-guchi and culture, Shiman-chu identity remains strong. Finally, it is clear that the majority of participants in the study want to retain Shima-guchi and Shima-culture for their own and future generations.
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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