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Indigenous peoples’ life stories: Voices of ancient knowledge

Stan Bird


Narrative is a meaning- making tool used broadly across cultures. Individuals use their particular cultural narrative to interpret experiences and construct a personal narrative or life story. This research focused on the life stories of Anishinaabe people, an Indigenous group of the North American Great Lakes region, whose history is characterized by attempts at assimilation into the dominant Western culture. We sought to understand if maintaining traditional Indigenous knowledge affected meaning- making in life stories. Participants included four groups of volunteers: Elders and young adults, with and without traditional Indigenous knowledge. Results showed that the narratives of the two traditional Indigenous knowledge groups evidenced statistically significant greater efficacy and personal resolve than those of the non- traditional groups. Additionally, the Elder traditionalists’ narratives showed significantly greater involvement with existential/spiritual issues than other groups. We concluded that traditional Indigenous knowledge positively shaped participants’ narratives, thus confirming the importance of cultural narratives in the meaning- making process.

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Print ISSN 1177-1801 Online ISSN 1174-1740