Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Dr. Shoshana Pollack and Dr. Marth Kuwee Kumsa

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisors


This dissertation examines the connection between Indigenous knowledge and culture-based action, and how this connection facilitates a sense of identity and well-being for Haudenosaunee youth. This study examines the experience of fourteen Haudenosaunee youth and five parents/adults as they ran for four summers (2005-2008) on a youth-led spiritual journey known as the Unity Run. On this journey youth travelled throughout Haudenosaunee traditional territory (Ontario and Quebec, Canada; and New York State, U.S.A.) and beyond (Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee) carrying a message of peace, unity and social justice.

The methodology of this research is framed within Haudenosaunee traditional protocols (visiting and sharing stories) and philosophies such as the Kayanaren’kó:wa (The Great Law of Peace), Tekéni Teyohà:ke Kahswénhtake (Two Row Wampum), and Ohenton Karihwatehkwen (The Words Before All Else) to understand the perspective and position which these Haudenosaunee youth took with the Unity journey. The research questions sought to facilitate understanding of the nature of culture-based activism, youth motivation, and the transformation of identity and well-being through this spiritual journey. The findings from this research suggest that culture-based activism among Native youth is not only a means towards social justice; it re-connects Native youth to the cultural knowledge, skills and pride of their people. This study resulted in an understanding of the importance of Native youth re-uniting with a cultural consciousness by physically running through their traditional land and territories, as well as hearing their authentic Indigenous history. The Unity Run provided participating youth with healing which contributed to the positive transformations in their identity, as well promoted healthy well-being as these youth transitioned into Haudenosaunee young adults.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Included in

Social Work Commons