Stories Indigenous inner-city youth tell about school

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Kuly, Marc
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This research explores the stories that young adults who are part of the Indigenous community in Winnipeg’s inner city tell about their lives during the years they were in school. Much has been written about the alarming and long-standing discrepancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous graduation rates. Likewise, the negative effect of living with poverty on educational success is clear. This research speaks to the existing data by presenting detailed stories of what it means to be an inner-city Indigenous student. The question that guided this research was: What do the stories told by Indigenous inner-city youth about school reveal about their experience there? In pursuing this question special attention was paid to the potential differences between how participants saw themselves in comparison to how they felt their schools saw them. This research was guided by a storytelling methodology which was derived from scholarship in Peace and Conflict Studies, Indigenous Studies, Educational Sociology, and Critical Pedagogy. Data was gathered through a series of in-depth group storytelling circles and individual interviews with each of the eight participants in the research. Findings reveal that while in school, participants navigated three terrains of experience. One was with the system of state institutions that dominate life in the inner city, creating a sense of surveillance and threat. Another terrain was life at home, with families and friends, and in neighbourhood organizations troubled by endemic material and psychological challenges but also characterized by culture, connection, and pride of place. In between these terrains, participants experienced school as a space in between — connected by policy and practice to the system and by vital but rare caring individuals and cultural practices to their family, cultural, and neighbourhood life.
Storytelling, Indigenous education, Settler-colonialism, Peace and conflict studies, Urban education