Marlene Atleo

Marlene’s Story

Tell us more about your (current or previous) position. Describe your role.

Currently, I am a Senior Scholar in retirement from my position at the University of Manitoba, Department of Educational Administration, Foundations and Psychology specializing in Adult and Indigenous Education. I still develop curriculum, teach at the PSE level, conduct workshops, write academic chapters and articles for publication, consult about Indigenous education, adult education and Home Economics Education. I am a member of Ahousaht First Nations so I keep in close touch with community members both on and off reserve.

How does a day at work look like?

I have been teaching and consulting around data development and interpretation on Indigenous research project partnerships between my tribal council and universe. I am affiliated with UVIC as a research affiliate, UFV as a sessional and consultant and the University of Manitoba as a Senior Scholar which is a Senate appointment. The Senior Scholar appointment is my second 3 year appointment. I continue to participate with the life of the faculty around Indigenous issues, participate in activities of the Center for Human Rights Research. So daily I check my emails for information, activities and partnership connections, I review for several journals most notable the Alberta’s Journal for educational Research among others. Currently, I am editing a manuscript on the first Indigenous Canadian lawyer, William I.C. Wuttunee for an edited publication for with the University of Manitoba.

What gives you meaning and fulfillment in your work?

My work is focussed on Indigenous issues. I worked in the salmon fishing industry in the first part of my life. Upon becoming a grandmother I attended university with my partner who went back for a graduate degree because the change in Indigenous education was not happening fast enough to make differences we believed were needed for equity for our children and grand children. The last 30 years of my Canadian and International teaching, research, writing, and committee work has contributed to advancing this area of scholarship and practice from an emic perspective.

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

Ageism in the academy – as an adult learner finding the course work was attuned to early cognitive development rather than based on individual maturation what ever level that was at. As a non-Indigenous ancestry member of a First Nations community, legally and by marriage, facing the stereotypy and discrimination based on the lack of knowledge by both mainstream and Indigenous academics of the on the ground development and political stance I use being recognized as having legitimacy.

Tell us a bit about your path leading to your graduate degree. Why did you decide to pursue graduate studies?

My Masters degree was to dispel the notion that Indigenous people didn’t plan, that planning was a human competency that looked different in different cultures and settings there for delegitimating Justice Addy’s decision against Dunno Za land claims. Recently, that decision was over turned and the land returned. My doctoral work on intergenerational knowledge the oppression of the nation state through social and health program funding in community was based in my work formalizing the Ahousaht Holistic Society and the lack of opportunity to legitimate community aspirations in a valid and authentic manner because the values and cultural activities were no where in the academic record not even in the grad literature. Research was needed in 1990 & in 1996.

How has what you learned in your graduate program informed your work?

My doctoral work allowed me to move beyond the dichotomizing thinking of the two-eyed seeing to put the dialectic that was traditionally in the west coast Indigenous philosophy into a whole sight framework. The articulation of the Phenomenological Orienteering through storywork and the 4R & 4D analytic framework based on adductive/abductive logics used in human ecology has served me very well, feeling my passion to carry on well beyond my retirement.

How does your area of work relate to your dissertation?

My dissertation has allowed me to speak to the gap in Euroheritage knowledge in the academy/literature in the university and post secondary classroom. I have been able to support research and writing in the area of Indigenous learning archetypes based in traditional storywork and the work of Elders of my community in ways that I can share in the Faculty of Education teacher education classroom in Manitoba, British Columbia, Germany and virtually to other invited settings. I continue to publish about my praxis and theorize about the gap between Indigenous and Euroheritage worldviews.

Did your expectations for your career trajectories after graduation align with what really ended up happening? in what ways did they differ?

I had no ambitions to be a university professor but began in community research through instrument development, data capture and report writing. A family business which did research and welfare to work training as a private post secondary institute was the first step beyond the degree. Work on the ground in the community alone and without support convinced me that I needed more academic power and I started work in the academy so that I could speak to graduates and graduating students directly and participate in their development.

What is next for you, or do you know?

I have two book manuscripts that are needing attention: 1)The girl from Rozdzien – Straffed by Allied Fire – about my mother’s life and the international influences on. her Identity and 2) Storywork as Indigenous Life Career Template – understanding the ecological-historical nature of storywork framing the life career of Indigenous families communities and individuals beyond the imposition of the pan-Indian metaphors and philosophy of the nation state.

How did your identity (who you are in terms of gender, race, age, being a parent or not, or citizenship, etc.) shape your career choices?

My family of reproduction shaped my career choices as a way of supporting my value of social justice and access to equity in the face of age, gender, being non-Indigenous by ethnicity but a member of an Indigenous community and family, My Identity is about where I participate and what experiences I have had and participated with rather than my phenotype. My work is grounded in story and experience, in theory and relationships.

What does meaningful contribution mean to you?

Contributions which I can make to my communities in the pursuit of social justice and equities.

Where do issues of inclusion find a place in your life or at work?

My praxis and research are about how diversity needs to ground our lives and work. That it means we need to overcome our own biases for convergence to be able to embrace divergence in our social relations.It allows me to teach and research and partner across cultures without denying cultural integrity not withstanding “métissage”” which I understand as a means to cultural complexity (Fauconnier) rather than a Chaos Theory orientation.

What advice would you give to your past self?

Stay in community – the gap between institutions and minority communities especially the Indigenous community is getting wider as the Institutions are formalizing aspects of Indigenous life and living that there is no Pan Indian consciousness about in communities which are practicing their local traditions.

What advice would you give to someone who seeks to work in your sector?

Know where you stand – understand your biases and be prepared to give an account of yourself in honesty and authenticity.

What advice would you give to someone seeking to transition outside of academia?

Be sure that the organization you are going to be participating with can reflect your values before buying into their agenda.

What advice would you give to EDST students trying to make the most of their time in grad school?

Focus on your studies…and get that dissertation written…don’t drag it out…it isn’t your lifetime work….its a demonstration that you can do the technical stuff…you will have lots to do to demonstrate your skills when you graduate….and the work is NEVER PERFECT.

What advice would you give to someone seeking to expand their networks?

Conference conference conference – network with individuals that you have read and admired because they will be your colleagues and peers…

What motivated you to start your own organization (business, non-profit, foundation)?

Our family developed an Indigenous post secondary private Institute to fill a gap in the early 1990’s between high school drop out and colleges which at that time didn’t not have alternative ways and means for Indigenous access.

Tell us about any international work experience you embarked on during or after your program.

Engagement with UNESCO to understand their role in education and sustainability on the ground in Indigenous contexts; teaching in German university to understand the difference between curriculum (North American) and didactics (German) in post secondary education, sponsoring Brazilian student in early literacy identity work, teaching cross c cultural communication and education in teacher education programs; reviewing and critiquing children’s books written by non-indigenous authors (i.e., no lived experience of context/identity and publishing about same; situating myself and inviting the same of my students and International academics.

How has remote work impacted your job/sector?

I am an early adapter, not a digital native who spearheaded the adoption of hybrid learning in the early to mid 2000 in PSE for adult students who worked full time and needed alternative ways to engage with their adviser, instructor, program management. Last winter my teaching was completely on line via Blackboard and Zoom. I have migrated through several versions of Blackboard over the last 25 years, Jump, Desire to Learn, Moodle, etc. as universities/colleges worked to find a level. Early work (2002-04) at a regional college allowed intranet teaching to remote Indigenous community sites which was of great import to me so I was keen to develop this avenue of education in BC and Manitoba. I enjoy my remote teaching and prep a lot. It has been thoroughly frustrating when colleagues are regressive in their up take around the educational sector.

Are there any career resources that you would like to share with graduate students? (For example, books or websites with information about specific careers or where to look for work in your sector.) PS: Those resources will be compiled on a career resources page, and credit will be given to all contributors.

I am a great believer in subscribing to lists and resources that are delivered weekly or annually and belong to several organizations that support aspects of my research and teaching interests and praxis: most important resource is your university research library!!!!; discipline based conferences e,.g., Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education is mine; Canadian Society for the Study of Education; RAAM – an international research organization about metaphor; American Educational Research Association – Biggest Western Hemisphere Ed org but also local and regional organizations that can serve to further your research agenda…serving in an educational organization provides experience and networking that every new scholar needs to submit themselves to for experience and networking opportunities; review new publications to access new work both for publishers and journals; enroll in international academic job lists to orient yourself to what is happening in the world of scholarship more generally, politically; University World News;;

If you would like to share responses to other career related questions not covered in this list, please take liberty to draft your own questions and respond to them.

How does what you are doing fit into your life career? How does your research and praxis relate to your values and long term life goals and philosophy?