The NEC Native Education College (formerly Native Education Center) in Vancouver opened it’s doors in 1967 and is British Columbia’s largest private Aboriginal college. The NEC is governed by the NEC Native Education Society, a non-profit charitable organization that assumed governance of the institution in 1979. NEC provides an avenue for culturally responsive post-secondary education for Aboriginal students grounded in it’s physical setting as well as it’s philosophical underpinnings. in 1988/89, Dr. Celia Haig-Brown, currently faculty of York University, conducted fieldwork towards a critical ethnography of the institution to identify the meanings and processes of First Nations control of First Nations education. The published ethnography, Taking Control: Power and Contradiction in First Nations Adult Education (UBC Press) is a thorough read and I recommend it to any person with an interest in First Nations’ educational issues.
Canadian Aboriginal groups are experiencing rapid demographic change. Presently, approximately 60% of Canada’s Native People reside in urban settings, and 60% of the overall Aboriginal population is under the age of 25 (UNYA, 2011).
These demographic trends pose a distinct opportunity and challenge. Aboriginal youth are in a unique position to steer future directions in cultural preservation and development. My research interest is to determine how urban Native youths, particularly those who reside in Metropolitan Vancouver, have responded to life in a city setting, and to see if this provides any insights as to how Aboriginal identity will evolve in a 21st century landscape that is characterized by rapid technological change.
Specifically, my weblogs focus on the following questions:
- What currently shapes Aboriginal identity? Is Native identity still rooted in references to geography, linguistics, and colonialism or has the notion of identity evolved?
- How are urban Native youths responding to the challenge of defining themselves and being authentic in the realm of two sometimes competing cultures?
- There is now great socioeconomic and cultural diversity in Native communities. Has there been accommodation for this growing heterogeneity in programming for urban Aboriginal youth? Are urban Native youth still being treated as a problem?
- Are Aboriginal educational efforts effective in helping Native youth to preserve cultural knowledge and build a sense of identity? Is technology helping or hindering this process?
Urban Native Youth Association. (2011). A brief history of UNYA. Retrieved from http://www.unya.bc.ca/about-us