Examining differing notions of a ‘real’ education within Aboriginal communities

  • Dustin William Louie University of Calgary
  • David Scott University of Calgary
Keywords: Aboriginal Education, Indigenous Education, Social Justice, Colonization, Indigenous Knowledge, Residential Schools, Bill C-33, Aboriginal Relations, Hermeneutics


On a recent visit to an on-reserve school in western Canada several students and teachers told the lead author of this paper, who is Aboriginal, that it was ‘not a real school’. Noting that this is not the first time both authors have heard this sentiment expressed by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginals alike, they unpack this conversational fragment to show how it is implicated in some of the most difficult challenges educators and policy makers face in enhancing the lives of Aboriginal peoples and communities in contemporary times. Guided by a hermeneutic sensibility and Indigenous conceptions of time, the authors present three interpretive possibilities of what it might mean for an on-reserve school to be deemed less than real. As part of this process they trace the historically rooted assumptions and conditions that inform these differing perspectives. The authors then draw on the insights of several indigenous scholars to ‘reread’ key themes that emerged from this analysis with the hope that it might offer more productive and relational possibilities for thinking about and discussing educational futures for Aboriginal communities and peoples.

Author Biographies

Dustin William Louie, University of Calgary
From the Nadleh Whut'en and Nee Tahi Buhn First Nations. PhD Candidate in the Werklund School of Education. Research focus includes: Aboriginal women in the sex trade, Aboriginal education and diversity in learning.
David Scott, University of Calgary
PhD Candidate in the Werklund School of Education and SSHRC Scholar