Engaging First Nations Youth through Reciprocal Intercommunity Exchange

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Hewitt, Judith M.
First Nations , Photo-Story , Education , Student Exchanges , Sharing Circles , Junior High School , Student Engagement , Ontario
This phenomenological study of a First Nations to First Nations reciprocal student exchange elicited and explored the meanings of a reciprocal intercommunity exchange for grade 7 and 8 students in two First Nations schools. Representative student research participants from one of the schools shared their pictures, stories and memories of their experiences through photo-story (Truchon, 2007; Wang & Burris, 1997) and in a sharing circle (Lavallee, 2007). The students‟ journeys were not only physical and geographical, but also emotional and cultural. I also journeyed to an acceptance of my outsider/insider status growing up in a First Nations community. As a non-Aboriginal researcher, I negotiated a space between the demands of the academic institution and the First Nations community; and chose research methods that were congruent with Indigenous Research Methodology (Wilson, 2008; Kovach, 2009; Smith, 1999). The four themes that emerged from the data: community and relationships; culture and ceremony; connections with place, and confidence building are congruent with AFN‟s vision of “reciprocal inter-community exchanges promoting sharing of culture” (AFN, 2007) and with Cajete‟s (1999) vision of “igniting the sparkle.” These students said that: “learning about another culture made me want to learn more about my own.” Listening to these students share what was gained through this exchange and their dreams for the future revealed their hope and persistence. The example of a practice such as a reciprocal exchange which encouraged and iii engaged these youth could stimulate other First Nations communities to seek out similar educational practices that would benefit their youth.
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