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

Dustin William Louie, David Scott


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.


Aboriginal Education; Indigenous Education; Social Justice; Colonization; Indigenous Knowledge; Residential Schools; Bill C-33; Aboriginal Relations; Hermeneutics

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ISSN 1920-4175 Critical Education