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Archive for June, 2010

Celebrating Indigenous Knowledges at Trent University, Ontario
Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

This year marks the 10th anniversary for the  Indigenous Studies PhD program at Trent University. In honor of this milestone, the department hosted the Celebrating Indigenous Knowledges: Peoples, Lands, Cultures conference a few weeks ago on Trent’s campus in Peterborough, Ontario. The nearly 300 attendees included alumni, current students, and professors of the program along with scholars and community members from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hawai’i, and elsewhere in the Americas.

In her opening remarks the conference’s honorary chair, Professor Emeritus Marlene Brant Castellano, encapsulated the tone of the conference and the mission of the PhD program: “We are not teaching about Indigenous knowledge, rather we are reaffirming it as a foundation for contemporary knowledge. We aren’t preserving something from the past, but we are expressing that knowledge as a way of being good citizens in our communities and in the world. We are opening an Indigenous route to credentialing in the academy.” Many conference sessions spoke directly to this point, addressing ways to make Indigenous knowledge central to and viable in the Western academic model.

Internationally acclaimed performance artist James Luna at Peterborough's Ode'min Giizis Festival.

Song, performance, ceremony, and story were also common themes throughout this five-day conference, due in part to its coinciding with Peterborough’s annual Ode’min Giizis Indigenous arts festival. The festival featured performance art pieces by James Luna and Tanya Lukin-Linklater, masterful storytelling by Makka Kleist of Greenland, musical performances by cutting edge Aboriginal performers including Lucie Idlout and Tanya Tagaq, and the Compaigni V’ni Dansi’s portrayal of Métis resistance told through traditional and contemporary dance, among many other events. The influence of this creative atmosphere was evident in a number of sessions on song, dance, and literature,  as well as occasional songs and performances being incorporated into the scholarly presentations.

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Q & A: Author Gray Whaley Explores Oregon History’s New Native Narrative
Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

The mainstream narrative of the founding of Oregon has been described as American manifest destiny fulfilled, a saga with few alternatives for the expanding nation or the retreating Native peoples. American Indians may have moved from “obstacles to civilization” to tragic heroes in the popular imagination, but the diversity of Native actions and experiences is, nevertheless, obscured by the nationalist epic. But First Peoples author Gray H. Whaley’s new book Oregon and Collapse of Illahee: U.S. Empire and the Transformation of an Indigenous World, 1792-1859 (University of North Carolina Press, 2010) brings to the fore a new narrative that uses the framework of empire and colony to reveal a complex history in which Indian people recreated Illahee (homeland in Chinook) even as newcomers redefined the region as Oregon. For today’s blog post, Whaley answers our questions about his new book:

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University of Minnesota Editor Jason Weidemann Reflects on NAISA 2010
Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Today our partners at the University of Minnesota posted a reflection from editor Jason Weidemann on last month’s meeting of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) in Tucson, Arizona. He wrote:


“In May I had the opportunity to attend the annual Native American and Indigenous Studies meeting in Tucson, Arizona. Always an energetic and passionate gathering, this year’s was even more so given that the meeting took place against the backdrop of Arizona’s recent passage of a stringent new immigration law and a measure banning ethnic studies courses in public schools….”

Read the complete post

Educators and Scholars Come Together to Examine and Improve Language Preservation
Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Around the world, educators and scholars are coming together throughout the summer at special conferences and institutes to explore new ways to protect, maintain, and transmit Indigenous languages.

Our partner presses publish expert titles in the field of language preservation. "Teaching Oregon Native Languages" from Oregon State University Press

During the past two weeks participants at the American Indian Language Development Institute (AILDI), held in Tucson, Arizona, have been investigating ways to use technology to advance their work. “During AILDI each summer, Indigenous language warriors from all over gather to learn, share, and prepare to fight to keep our Indigenous languages alive,” says AILDI faculty member Stacey Oberly, a member of the Southern Ute tribe working on native language revitalization.

To further this goal, sessions at AILDI are focused squarely on innovative techniques that directly impact the way educators work, and they are taking local examples from global sources. One session for a cohort of practitioners from Indigenous communities in Mexico are learning how to use Microsoft Publisher to develop low cost, but effective, educational materials.

The Tohono O’odham Community College cohort looked across the Pacific Ocean for new frameworks, curriculum, and assessment tools. They sponsored scholar Katarina Edmonds, PhD , to come from New Zealand to AILDI to share her experiences as both a native speaker of Māori, as well as a leading teacher and scholar of the teaching of the language. Together each afternoon for almost two weeks, the group has discussed ways the Māori have worked to get people involved in education and on a path to continue and maintain their language. Edmonds has underscored the importance of constant assessment in the development and implementation of Native language programs. “I cannot stress how important it is to know where your language is,” she said.

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Scott Richard Lyons on Making his Own X-mark
Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

This week we offer a guest post from writer Scott Richard Lyons, excerpted from his new book, X-Marks: Native Signatures of Assent (University of Minnesota Press, 2010). For Lyons the x-mark is more than a historic symbol on a treaty. It is a metaphor for what he calls the “Indian assent of the new.” With the power of a writer and the insights of a scholar, Lyons explores identity, as well as traditionalism, nationalism, and tribalism, and the dangers of essentialist discourses as only he can.

Make Your X-Mark
By Scott Richard Lyons

In my book, I argue for a greater recognition of the actually existing diversity in Native America, and I further posit the suggestion that indige­nous people have the right to move in modern time. That means, first, acknowledging differences that already exist in the Fourth World, and, second, seeing those differences as by-products of modernity, hence nothing to be ashamed of. Native shame is rarely justified. We require a little self-forgiveness for being the people we are, and we should remember that the flip side of forgiveness is a promise. Our ancestors promised that their descendants would be part of the modern world while continuing to maintain that activist sense of community that Jace Weaver has called “communitism.”* Sometimes that means adopting new ways of living, thinking, and being that do not necessarily emanate from a traditional cultural source (or, for that matter, “time immemorial”), and sometimes it means appropriating the new and changing it to feel more like the old. Sometimes change can make the old feel new again. Sometimes a removal can become a migration.

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Conference Notes: International Congress of Ethnobiology
Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Last month, First Peoples attended the 12th International Congress of Ethnobiology, held in Tofino, British Columbia. Amidst the incredible land- and sea-scape of Vancouver Island, members of the International Society of Ethnobiology (ISE) from around the world met to discuss pertinent issues facing Indigenous communities, threats to the world’s diverse ecosystems, and the interrelation between the two. Session topics ranged from building community resilience for coping with climate change to language loss and revitalization – along with many other compelling and timely topics.

The Congress opened with a keynote by Dr. Richard Atleo, a Nuu-chah-nulth hereditary chief and the founder of Vancouver Island University’s First Nations Studies Department, as well as welcome speeches and dances by local Nuu-chah-nulth and Tla-o-qui-aht tribal members. The week-long congress was packed full of activities: multiple sessions and Indigenous forums occupied the majority of the daylight hours while the evenings featured a community exchange event, an Indigenous film festival, several plenary sessions, and a Code of Ethics meeting. The organizers of the Congress encouraged participants to get to know the area by scheduling a day for field trips ranging from guided ethnobotanical and interpretive walks to sea kayaking and whale watching.

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