Factors contributing to resilience in Aboriginal persons who attended residential schools

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Nichol, Rosemary Ayton
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This thesis examines factors that promoted resilience in Aboriginal people who attended residential schools. The research identifies, from the participants' accounts the factors that helped them to endure the experience and compares risk and protective factors described in the life stories to the factors identified in existing literature. The research is qualitative, based in grounded theory using the oral history method for gathering the data. The findings are intended to expand the knowledge base of resilience research. A small sample of four women and two men who attended residential school between 1939 and 1966 were interviewed. The participants were identified by independent others as successful survivors of the residential school experience. All the participants are members of First Nations from Alberta or Saskatchewan and five of the six attended residential school for a minimum of seven years. Five of the six are now living well; the sixth is experiencing some side effects from the residential school experience. Protective factors common to other resilience research are identified in the participants' stories. These factors include long-term marriages, a lifelong interest in education, high intelligence, and primarily cooperative coping strategies. The participants emphasized the protective nature of a happy and nurturing early childhood and the importance of their spiritual beliefs to their current well being, particularly their belief in their traditional Aboriginal religion. This research suggests that self-image can be enhanced in adulthood and this appears to be a result of spiritual beliefs and an appreciation of Aboriginal history and ancestors.