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Navigating the insider-outsider hyphen: A qualitative exploration of the acculturation challenges of Aboriginal athletes pursuing sport in Euro-Canadian contexts

Psychology of Sport and Exercise
DOI: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2014.02.009
  • Cultural Sport Psychology
  • Indigenous Research
  • Decolonizing Methodology
  • Aboriginal
  • Psychology


Abstract Objectives The purpose of this project was to explore the acculturation challenges of Aboriginal athletes (14–26 years) from Canada as they moved off reserves to pursue sport within non-Aboriginal (Euro-Canadian) communities. The project was also aimed at contributing to the acculturation literature in sport psychology through an Indigenous decolonizing methodology. Design University academics partnered with Aboriginal community researchers from one reserve to facilitate an Indigenous decolonizing methodology rooted in practices from the local culture. The project was articulated as a form of cultural sport psychology. Methods Mandala drawings were used to facilitate conversational interviews with 21 Aboriginal athletes about their experiences relocating off reserves and the acculturation challenges they faced as they attempted to pursue sport within Euro-Canadian contexts. A local Indigenous version of an inductive thematic analysis was then conducted. Results The acculturation challenges of Aboriginal athletes coalesced into two major themes: (a) culture shock (which occurred in relation to the host culture), and (b) becoming disconnected from home (which occurred in relation to the home culture). These themes illustrated how the athletes’ sense of identity and place were challenged and changed, as they (re)negotiated meaningful positions for themselves in and between two cultural realities. Conclusion This project centralized a culturally resonant mode of knowledge production embracing local Aboriginal ways of knowing. This approach facilitated deeper insights into athletes’ acculturation challenges, which contextualized the complexity and fluidity of the acculturation process.

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