A Narrative Inquiry into Aboriginal Youth and Families' Experiences of Belonging as Interwoven with Identity Making

  • Author / Creator
    Chung, Simmee
  • My doctoral research is shaped by my life puzzles, where as a child and youth, I searched to make sense of belonging and who I was, and wanted to be, in multiple landscapes. Research suggests that when youth do not feel a sense of belonging, they may experience disengagement from school, mental health and wellness issues, early school leaving, and other serious or potentially life threatening consequences. There is limited research on children and youths’ experiences of belonging and identity making and these are least understood for youth of Aboriginal heritage (Brendtro, Brokenleg, &Van Bockern, 1990, 2005; Brokenleg, 1998; Canadian Council on Learning, 2007). Set against these gaps, this narrative inquiry explored puzzles around the experiences of Aboriginal youth and their families, both in and out of school. Framed by understandings of identity making in terms of both who youth are, and are becoming, I wondered how youth make sense of belonging while negotiating their identity making. My doctoral research was situated within a larger study, a narrative inquiry into the educational experiences of urban Aboriginal youth and their families at home, in communities, and in schools. Drawing on a conceptualization of narrative inquiry as both phenomenon and methodology (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000), I was positioned as a researcher within a research team in which we lived alongside approximately thirty youth in an after-school arts-based inquiry club for the 2010–2012 school years. As I came to know youth in the after-school arts club, I invited three early adolescent Aboriginal girls to be participants in this doctoral study. Eventually they brought me to their families (two mothers, a grandmother, and kinship caregiver) who also agreed to participate. Attending to dimensions of temporality, sociality, and place (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000), this research with youth and their families was an intergenerational narrative inquiry around participants’ experiences of belonging and identity making. Field texts (data) included identity collages, photography work, artifacts created both in and outside of the club, field notes, and transcripts of 65 conversations co-composed over three years. Three narrative accounts, one for each youth, were co-composed alongside youth and families. In a further analysis I discerned three resonant threads across the narrative accounts: belonging and connectedness to family; belonging and connectedness to place(s) and the place of home; and intergenerational reverberations. The last thread includes institutional and familial narratives, and living up to and learning to try on stories of belonging. I offered personal, practical, theoretical, and social justifications including an understanding of experiences of belonging infused with a “spirit of belonging.” This intergenerational, multi-perspectival narrative inquiry offers potential for those who are open to come alongside to co-create more “educative” (Dewey, 1938) and inclusive communities in relation with Aboriginal youth and families.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Watt, Bonnie (Secondary Education)
    • Caine, Vera (Faculty of Nursing)
    • Glanfield, Florence (Secondary Education)
    • Gomez, Mary Louise (Curriculum & Instruction, University of Wisconsin-Madison)