Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Committee Chair

Mattingly, Carol, 1945-

Author's Keywords

Literacy; First Nations people; Cultural preservation; Native women; Women writers; First Nations; Writing


Indians of North America--British Columbia; Literacy--British Columbia--Case studies


This dissertation examines the literacy practices of a group of First Nations women who live in British Columbia and whose jobs entail the production and dissemination of texts which reflect the local, Carrier, culture. In this qualitative study of eight First Nations women from Western Canada, I investigate the fact that these women produce texts and materials reflective of First Nations culture in an environment with a history of violence against their community and against the very culture about which they write. By outlining the historical, geographic, and material conditions under which my participants produce texts, I demonstrate the complexity of literacy practices conducted amidst the tensions created in the dynamic between the dominant and local cultural collectives and between differing perceptions of local socio-historic and geographic "facts." This dissertation is divided into four chapters. Chapter One introduces my participants and offers a necessary discussion of the ethical dilemmas inherent in the representation of Aboriginal populations--those whose historical relationship to research agendas have been fraught with misrepresentation. After reviewing scholarship which articulates the ethics of representation, particularly that offered by Aboriginal scholars, I discuss my own use of critical ethnography as a means of mitigating those ethical dilemmas. Chapter Two reviews the educational history of the two participants who experienced residential school educations in British Columbia. The educational agendas of residential schools were designed to limit First Nations People's literate abilities; Chapter Two is thus premised on the necessity of understanding my participants' educational history in order to contextualize their contemporary work. Chapters Three and Four utilize cases studies to explore the specific literacy practices of the participants. Chapter Three argues that the complexity of literacy practices in one participant's composing work extends to an understanding of history as bound to a local, particular physical space. The texts, historical accounts of the Nazko First Nations produced by Doreen Patrick, cannot be separated from her community's physical spaces and further must be understood in the context of their, fiercely contested, understanding of land, ownership, and discovery. Chapter Four concludes this dissertation with an overview of the connection between literacy practices and culture. In this chapter, I argue that literacy practices are directly tied to a dynamic and contested understanding of culture and further (and reciprocally) that cultural practices are not definable without discussions of literacy practices--of those material conditions under which the production of "culture" occurs--those texts, jobs, signs, of culture which profess themselves to be directly related to Carrier culture.