I am not indigenous. Can I use indigenous pedagogies?

The bodies of water in Lake Ontario. Sept 26, 2019

I have been thinking lots about the critiques on settler adoption fantasies and other “move to innocence” in Tuck and Yang‘s co-authored article “Decolonization is not a metaphor” (see my reflection). Are those really attempting “reconciliation prematurely”? Isn’t it polarizing “settlers” and “indigenous peoples” into a western thinking pattern again? By all means, YES, their arguments are great to stop settlers mindset to dilute the real meaning of decolonization. AND what’s the point of developing settler-colonization theory without making contribution forward to the collaboration of all peoples that is rooted in indigenous worldviews?

Plus, the more I read the Nishnaabewin worldview, the more I realize the way I have been learning and we have been practicing at the ecovillage and in the permaculture movement are almost the same as their indigenous teaching. My almost 5 years living in the ecovillage/permaculture world had seriously transformed my way of living and being in the world (not only thinking!) that it became my embodied reality now. But I am not indigenous. Can/should I continue to facilitate the way I facilitate? Am I contributing to colonial violence by sharing what I had learned from the land, and the plants and all non-human people in the mainstream education system as a non-indigenous person? Plus, I do have an eagle feather and I do carry tobacco and the Cowichan river water with me everywhere I go…

I went to the“Indigenous pedagogies and ways of knowing” workshop yesterday to find out. Lindsay Brant of the Mohawk nation was the facilitator. She shared some best practices to indigenize your curriculum and indigenous ways of knowing (I went, “Holy cow, these are EVERYTHING embedded in OUR ecovillage’ life practice and the way I co-facilitated the Ecovillage Design Education course in the last couple years! ‘everyone’s teacher, everyone’s learner’ is even on there!”) None of the attendees were indigenous. Perfect time to ask my question.

Lindsay said, we are kinda pass the time to stay on decolonizing talk and move onto revitalizing together. We want to encourage people to bring indigenous ways of learning and knowing into the classroom. Acknowledge and honor where you had received your learning before you share it; and if you can invite an Elder and indigenous knowledge keeper in your class to share, do so. Include materials from indigenous artists, scholars etc. There are many ways to do that.

What a relief. As I walked home, I thought about the beauty of having indigenous participants in our Ecovillage Design Education course in the last 2 years, and how beautiful it was for a small group of people of many nations (not only indigenous nations) to come together, in a mutually respectful way as best we can, to learn how to be in reciprocal relationships with each other and with Mother earth. I recalled one of the design project was a wellness regeneration design for Grassy Narrow nation. The design team has 5 people, from France, Denmark, Canada, the US and Grassy Narrow reserve. They came together with different projects that they were interested to create but similar themes. After a 2 weeks process, they decided to put all their hearts and energy into a design based on Grassy Narrow. It wasn’t only a head-based thinking process. In that 2 weeks, they have been through mind, heart and spirit deep connection with one another. They came up with a design that aligns with the Grassy Narrow indigenous teachings that they learned from the team member who grew up there. Their design outcome was based on reciprocal recognition, humility and intentional slowness in proceeding. Is that collaboration itself counts as working together for resurgence?

In the article “Unsettling settler colonialism: the discourse and politics of settlers, and solidarity with Indigenous nations”, co-authors Corey Snelgrove, Rita Kaur Dhamoon, and Jeff Corntassel brought up the ideas of “upsettler” and “temporal and spatial solidarity”. Corey said, using the term “upsettler” isn’t trying to say “I am not like them” or presuming there’s such a think as a “good colonizer”; instead, it is to open up more discussion around responsibilities. He didn’t say very clear what he means, but my take on it is, to stop feeling guilty about the colonial realities but acknowledge what had been done and step up in your ability to response (responsibility)now, in the present tense.

I am so curiously about the idea of “temporal and spatial solidarity”. Jeff explained it means unsettled solidarities that moves across time and space.

I understand that as knowing that our relationship with indigenous people isn’t perfect, and I choose to be with you in a good way. Let’s practice together, if you choose to. Thank you for allowing me to practice with you. I see you, and thank you for seeing me.

Only practice can undo settler-colonialism.