Decolonizing the contact hypothesis: A critical interpretation of settler youths’ experiences of immersion in Indigenous communities in Canada


This case study explores non-Indigenous youths’ experiences of cultural immersion in Indigenous communities in Canada. This research acknowledges and situates itself in the socio-political context of Aboriginal-Settler relations, drawing upon historical and recent impediments to these relations, with an emphasis on continued colonial injustices to Indigenous communities. As such, a critical post-colonial emancipatory paradigm is adopted in understanding the theoretical framework of the contact hypothesis. In this study, two groups of youth composed of undergraduate university students participated in a series of focus groups and interviews, while keeping journals about their experiences in an Indigenous community-immersion program. Participants’ experiences of immersion benefitted their relationship to Indigenous community through the personal connections they formed with the community and the heightened awareness they developed related to diversity among Indigenous communities and the challenges facing their hosts. Findings suggest potential areas of social intervention that could ameliorate relations and foster intercultural understanding, while also highlighting critical considerations for intercontact theory. Furthermore, it is proposed that the contact hypothesis can, ironically enough, be used to decolonize Canadian youth.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i24212113v1i1p64

Keywords: indigenous immersion, contact hypothesis, intercultural contact


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