Theses Doctoral

Feathers, Beads and False Dichotomies: Indigenizing Urban Aboriginal Child Welfare in Canada

Schiffer, Jeffrey J.

This dissertation explores historical processes and daily practices of indigenization within the context of British Columbia's model for delegating Aboriginal agencies for child and family services. This research draws from historical data, examining the ways in which contemporary indigenization within Aboriginal child welfare is shaped by Canada's colonial past- most notably, the historical relationship between the Indian Residential School System and Aboriginal child welfare in Canada. Grounded in indigenous methodologies, research practice, and critical theory, this dissertation queries indigenization within the Pacific Aboriginal Child Welfare Association (PACWA). This dissertation explores the complexity of the urban setting in which PACWA operates, providing case studies of daily practices of indigenization within the association, considering the roles of Aboriginal Elders and Knowledge Keepers throughout this process, and arguing for the need to reframe urban Aboriginal child welfare in Canada. This dissertation asserts that Indigenization at PACWA is making significant differences in the lives of children and families involved in Aboriginal child welfare and that Aboriginal families continue to have their children removed at alarming rates most often because they are living in the aftermath of colonization, amidst contemporary conditions that continue to marginalize Aboriginal peoples. Indigenization is a process that can and is being achieved within the context of child welfare in British Columbia today. It is a process connected to Aboriginal sovereignty, self-government, identity and mainstream-Aboriginal relations. It is also a process that is making significant impacts in the lives of those connected to Aboriginal child welfare (Aboriginal and otherwise), while simultaneously being challenged by the structural inequalities and political eddies that continue to marginalize urban Aboriginal peoples. This research demonstrates that successful indigenization practice, at the level of large organizations such as PACWA, requires that various levels of Canadian government view them as true partners in a project of decolonization and indigenization. This requires a recognition and honouring of history and diversity of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, validated by means of mutual respect and sharing power.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Anthropology and Education
Thesis Advisors
Varenne, Herve H.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 24, 2014