Thursday, May 30, 2019
Pacific D/L (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Introduction: There is growing awareness of the education gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth. Thecollective trauma of colonizationand residential schools continues to impact a communities’ health, social, and economic statuses. While some Indigenous communities are thriving, many experience inequality and face barriers to accessing prevention programs. Strength-based approaches to Indigenous prevention research are needed in order to close the education gap. Traditional values and cultural engagement are viewed as protective factors that support Indigenous youth through wellness challenges (i.e., physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional dimensions of life). Therefore, adopting a “culture as treatment” mindset in the education system may help Indigenous youth thrive. An integral part of Indigenous culture is creative arts. Examples include beading, sewing, singing, drumming, and dancing. While promising research on culturally appropriate prevention programs exists, communities and school districts are not homogeneous and the implementation of such interventions are likely to differ. Method: This research focuses on a two-day visual art workshop in the Kainai Nation of Alberta. Fourteen local Blackfoot artists and a local Cree/Métis artist facilitated various workshops with approximately 120 middle school students. Following the art workshop, 7 school personal agreed to partake in a research conversations. The conversations focused on: students’ experiences during the workshop, benefits of student engagement in traditional and contemporary art, and how pedagogy and curriculum can be transformed to better serve Blackfoot students. Results: Through conversation, several themes emerged. The workshop was believed to foster a supportive environment for students personal and artistic growth. The educators discussed how art connected youth to their culture, their peers and their school. Art was also described as a method for rediscovering voice, empowering students, and developing a positive identity. The students were reportedly able to channel their thoughts and feelings through pictures, songs, photographs and other art mediums. Students harnessed the creative process, which was reported to reduce anxiety and improve their well-being. The findings also suggest that art is a means to decolonize and indigenize education. Conclusions: The findings are intended to support schools’ capacities to respond to Indigenous student wellness and educational needs. Indeed, extant research largely neglects the unique cultural factors that contribute to Indigenous students well-being. The results highlight the process of decolonizing education by recovering student voice through the arts.