Perspectives on reconciliation, cultural identity and respect, and intergroup trust among University students in Canada

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Fontaine, Aleah Sheyenne Marie
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The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015) documented the harmful impact of the Indian Residential School system on Indigenous Peoples, their families, and communities across generations, and reconciliation efforts have been underway. Social psychologists have proposed two paths to conflict resolution and reconciliation: socioemotional, which restores identities damaged in the conflict, and instrumental, which alleviates distrust (Nadler & Schnabel, 2008). In a correlational pilot study (72 Indigenous, 90 non-Indigenous students), I examined the relationships among perceptions of reconciliation progress with the public and government, reconciliation attitudes, perceptions of cultural respect, intergroup trust, and well-being. In this thesis, I explored Indigenous and White students’ views toward these topics in greater depth in individual interviews (N = 13) which were guided by constructivist grounded theory methodology. Students’ cultural identity was related to remembering history, connecting to others, and engaging with culture. Indigenous students reported greater growth in cultural identity over their life, whereas White students’ cultural identity was less salient or associated with privilege. In discussing cultural respect, students spoke about themes such as connecting to others in a good way, responding to different views, challenging yourself, and emersion in culture. In influencing trust, students spoke about having a personal connection, support and action, learning to distrust, feeling secure and comfortable, and actively trusting. Students believed reconciliation involved changing relationships, understanding and responding to the past, was personally relevant, and involved making meaningful action. Despite seeing barriers, all students perceived progress toward reconciliation, and believed it would continue to advance.
Reconciliation, Cultural Respect, Intergroup Trust, Canada