Critical and shared: Conceptions of Inuit educational leadership

Joanne Marie Tompkins
Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, University of Toronto
July, 2006


April 1, 1999 marked the creation of Nunavut. It signified the end of formal colonial rule and fulfilled the dream of many Inuit who had worked ardently for over three decades to ensure that Inuktitut and Inuit culture became a more central focus for teaching and learning in schools. While there has been decolonizing work begun in some Aboriginal contexts and within Nunavut to transform curriculum and teaching practices from a Eurocentric to more Inuit-based approach, little research has been done on decolonizing school leadership practices. The issue of leadership has been acknowledged as central to the process of transforming schools yet the mainstream models being lived out in Nunavut are largely based on dominant, decontextualized, colonial and often linear views of leadership. This dissertation explores emerging themes that envision leadership situated in the cultural context of Nunavut in the hopes of beginning to articulate conceptions which are more inclusive and more sensitive to current and historical issues of power and privilege. The research findings are intended to provide a stronger cultural base for leadership practices in Nunavut. A decolonizing methodology frames and guides this dissertation which sees research with Indigenous communities as actively reclaiming and reversing losses incurred/incurring during colonization. Building on exploratory work on Inuit-based leadership this study uses life history methodology to explore more deeply how two long-term Inuit educational leaders come to understand leadership. It aims to uncover how their socialization as Inuit shapes that understanding and how their conceptions of leadership 'unsettle' current models and notions of leadership currently employed in Nunavut schools.