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Exploring Why Students Stay in School: Inuit Perceptions of Modern Guideposts (Nutaaq Inuksuit) That Will Help Students Stay in High School

ABSTRACT Although the Inuit of Nunavut, Canada gained control of their educational institutions when the territory of Nunavut was formed on April 1, 1999 (Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act, 1993), the high school graduation rates of Inuit students remain very low. Academic deficiencies exist in Nunavut, where from 1999 to 2006 only twentyfive percent of Inuit youths graduated from high school (Nunavut Department of Education, 2006). Inuit who do not remain in school have difficulty obtaining leadership positions in this new territory (Berger, 2006). This research was designed to answer the question: “What modern guideposts (nutaaq inuksuit) do Inuit perceive are needed to help more Inuit students complete high school in Nunavut, Canada?” Qualitative case study methods were used that incorporated Inuit Traditional Knowledge (Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit). Traditionally, Inuit relied on guideposts (inuksuit) to help them navigate their way through unfamiliar territory. Conceptually, this study will suggest guideposts which encourage Inuit students to complete school by combining traditional and modern (nutaaq) knowledge. Living in the Arctic for fourteen years has made the researcher more aware of the importance of using a culturally sensitive methodology. In the fall of 2007, sixty-six interviews of Inuit youth, adults, and elders in the communities of Pangnirtung and Sanikiluaq were conducted. Interviewees identified what they perceived would help more Inuit students to gain the academic and cultural knowledge they need to graduate from high school. The findings from the interviews are grouped into four themes that individuals viewed as significant to this research: Home, School, Community, and Inuit Culture. Interviewees expressed a belief that these findings are no longer acknowledged in the educational system. However, they are still present in everyday Inuit child-rearing practices as cultural norms. The findings and the cultural norms that are associated with them, were organized into a cultural framework using the four identified themes. It is hoped that each community will develop their own unique guidepost using the cultural framework. A summary of the findings as they relate to each the four themes of Home, School, Community and Inuit Culture are presented below, along with the Inuit phrases indicative of the cultural norms. Interviewees expressed that: 1. In the home, they desired a greater readiness for high school, more parent involvement, and closer home-school partnerships than the rudimentary levels that exist now. The Inuktitut phrase is: “Are we prepared and ready to go? (Atii?)” 2. In the school, they desired more funded learning opportunities that value relationships and mentoring with elders and other individuals than the rudimentary levels that exist now. The Inuktitut phrase is: “Remember I care about you and our relationship? (Ain?)” 3. In the community, they desired better communications and networking among government departments, businesses, and local organizations than the rudimentary levels that exist now. The Inuktitut phrase is: “Are we in agreement? (Ii?)” 4. In relation to the Inuit traditions, they desire more traditional skills to be taught. They also desire that Inuit youths learn from the elders and other individuals how to apply cultural values, like Inuit Traditional Knowledge in the modern world. The Inuktitut phrase is: “Can we go outdoors together? (Ittaarlu?)”

Identiferoai:union.ndltd.org:uvm.edu/oai:scholarworks.uvm.edu:graddis-1231
Date03 October 2008
CreatorsTyler, Karen
PublisherScholarWorks @ UVM
Source SetsUniversity of Vermont
Detected LanguageEnglish
Typetext
Formatapplication/pdf
SourceGraduate College Dissertations and Theses

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