The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same: The Challenge of Identity for Native Students in Canada

Tracy Friedel


For nearly four decades now, the institutional response to fulfilling the goals of Indigenous cultural revitalization, and addressing the education gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal learners, has relied heavily on a theory of cultural discontinuity. While the enacting of Indigenous culture in educational realms is promoted as a solution to uneven outcomes, and as socially just in general, in-depth examinations of the effects of this emphasis tend to be sparse. This paper elucidates one such analysis, in the process offering a representation of a more or less typical group of urban Native youth; in this case, a group desirous of belonging in an Indigenous sense and highly contemplative about what that has meant for them on an everyday basis. The analysis offered here argues for further consideration of existing solutions in the complicated, complex terrain that is Indigenous education. Rather than proceed along a trajectory whereby Indigenous students are understood as ‘the problem’, resulting in the application of a highly problematic focus on culture, needed at this time is a serious examination of the troublesome realities of cultural fundamentalism and authenticity in Indigenous education, and the manner in which these serve to cover over critical matters concerning race and power. 

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