Friday, May 31, 2013

"We Are Getting Our Stories Back" She Says

Sandy stands at the microphone in the Governance Centre's inner circle. She has just made a short speech, thanking everyone for their contributions to this year's magazine, Kitoskayiminawak Pikiskwewak Our Young People Speak: The Healing Edition. She downplays her role, but as Lesley Farley and Michelle Hugli Brass have just said, "Sandy is a visionary." In fact, she is the one who has brought us all together.
Sandy has just mentioned a couple more thank you's and then, her voice fails. Sandy pauses. "We are getting our stories back," she says.
A few months ago, I asked Sandy if I could publish excerpts from her thesis on my blog. She graciously said yes.
Sandy is a story keeper. Here is the beginning.
A Thesis
Submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
For the Degree of Master of Education
Educational Administration
University of Regina
Sandra L. Pinay-Schindler
July 2011
Copyright 2011: S.L. Pinay-Schindler

The personal journeys of First Nations Elders and leaders provide insight into
moral and ethical leadership and have implications for First Nations and Western
leadership models. Examining and defining how First Nations leaders find balance and
guidance in challenging situations was the purpose of this leadership study. As the data
was analyzed and synthesized, the findings emerged as a self-reflexive narrative. The
study revealed that Indigenous methods and concepts were vital to this culturally
respectful and significant research journey.
The First Nations experience in Canada is complicated and there are historical
impacts from a colonial presence and oppressive government acts (Episkinew, 2001). The
social and leadership structure of most First Nations communities has been negatively
impacted. Contemporary First Nations leaders appear to strive for a balance between
spiritual, moral, and ethical leadership guided by Elders and Western influences
(Ottmann, 2005). Through a combination of Indigenous and Western research processes,
it was revealed that First Nations leadership relies upon place, values, and relationships to
sustain moral and ethical balance. The Indigenous concept of place was significant. The
leaders situated themselves in the collective and in relation to others, both physically and
metaphysically. Through the Indigenous conversational method (Kovach, 2010) based on
oral tradition, the First Nations leaders revealed that their place in relation to their life
journeys, people, and personal development gave them the guidance to be strong and
humble leaders. A spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional connection to Turtle Island,
our First Nations ancestors, and our place was vital to being a strong leader. Influences
of Elders, family, and connections to others were essential to leadership development and
sustainability. The models of servant leadership and moral and ethical leadership are
increasingly relevant to modern organizations. The roots of this model are found in
historical First Nations leadership tenets, like humility, servitude, connectivity,
balance, and relationships. This is a natural, respectful leadership model that provides
opportunities for reflection, responsiveness, and adaptability.
The importance of Indigenous methods combined with Western research methods
emerged as a strong theme in this study. Culturally respectful protocol, methods, and
data interpretation were vital to the process. The value of established, trusted
relationships between the Indigenous participants and the Indigenous researcher was
significant. The Western epistemologies, data analysis, and grounded theory proved to
be useful tools for framing the initial research and analyzing the data, but the emergence
of Indigenous themes was strong. Indigenous research methods (Wilson, 2008; McLeod,
2007; Kovach, 2009) are proper and respectful of First Nations participants and
researchers to the place of their origin.


Thanking my helpers, both physical and spiritual, at both the beginning and at

the end of my thesis respects the Western and the Indigenous ceremonial protocols. I

wish to thank my co-supervisors, Dr. Linda Goulet and Dr. Larry Steeves, for their

patience, dedication, and time. They were incredibly supportive. Their viewpoints

and feedback on both Indigenous and Western methodologies and worldviews were

valued. My sincere thanks to Dr. Marc Spooner for expanding my synapses in his

introductory research class. He inspired me to explore the creative possibilities of thesis

work. It has been worth the long and winding road.

My thanks to the following organizations for funding and scholarships:

Prairie Valley School Division and the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research for the

Aboriginal Graduate Student Scholarship, the LEADS Award in Educational

Administration, and the U of R Alumni Association Dr. John Archer Scholarship.

To my respected participants, Adlard, Flora, Julia, Grant, and Matthew, I thank

them for their honesty, trust, and generosity. They exemplify all that is grand and

powerful about First Nations leadership and I am humbled and honoured to know them. I

strive to reach the places of truth that they have attained. They are inspiring leaders.


To my first role models: my parents, my sisters, and my brothers.

To my husband Kurt and our precious gifts, Ben and Brendan.

My parents: Emma (Crowe) & Noel Pinay Jr., Mary Immaculate Roman Catholic Church, Peepeekisis First Nation, June 17, 1946

Their hard work, sacrifices, love, and support have allowed me to find my wings and attain the educational goals they held so precious. I thank them for their incredible strength and resiliency; and for showing me that anything is possible.

My brothers and sisters: Ida, Lorraine, Dwight, Donna, Ronald, Lloyd, Debbie, Shane, Bruce, Lester, Paul, & Sandy with cousins and friends, Percival, Sk., circa 1967

I thank them for leading the way and helping me discover the joys of literature, the arts, creativity, and following the heart.

My family: Kurt and our sons

I thank them for tirelessly supporting me in this research journey. Many kilometres were driven to ski trips, appointments, and vacations while I sat in the passenger seat surrounded by books and draft papers. Their love sustains and inspires me.

Excerpt published with permission from the author.

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