Equity in Information Science and Community Engaged Leadership and Scholarship

Unpacking ‘Beyond Territorial Acknowledgements’

Earlier this year I came across a blog written by âpihtawikosisân titled titled ‘Beyond territorial acknowledgments

[In reading the following text– italics are direct quotes from the blog and intended to lift up âpihtawikosisâ and her words.]

âpihtawikosisân is Métis from the Plains Cree speaking community of Lac Ste. Anne, Alberta. She currently lives in Montreal, Quebec. Her passions are: education, Aboriginal law, the Cree language, and roller derby. She holds a BEd, an LLB and teaches indigenous youth.

And she posed interesting questions.

“First, what is the purpose of these acknowledgments? Both what those making the territorial acknowledgments say they intend, as well as what Indigenous peoples think may be the purpose. Second, what can we learn about the way these acknowledgments are delivered? Are there best practices? Third, in what spaces do these acknowledgements happen and more importantly, where are they not found? Finally, what can exist beyond territorial acknowledgements?”

My goal in revisiting this post is to contextualizing it in terms of my experiences in Information Science and Community Engaged Leadership and Scholarship, in order to invite others to think about what role land acknowledgements can serve for the Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island and what it can offer for other marginalized identities in relation to diversity, equity and inclusion work?

Purpose

“Acknowledging territory shows recognition of and respect for Aboriginal Peoples, which is key to reconciliation.” — CAUT
“It is a statement of respect and a statement that provokes further thought and reflection. It is a way to counteract the ideologies operating in the Doctrine of Discovery by naming that the land was not empty when Europeans first arrived on Turtle Island. It can be an opportunity to acknowledge the spirituality of Indigenous peoples that was not respected by churches and was used to justify colonialism, including the residential schools.” — KAIROS[3]
“In the first two quotes, it is clear that the intended purpose of territorial acknowledgments is recognition as a form of reconciliation. Kairos goes a bit deeper in the intention to also acknowledge the violent relationships between churches who ran residential schools, and Indigenous peoples, so what is being “recognized” is not merely Indigenous presence.”

Practice

“The way in which territorial acknowledgments are delivered must matter. Are they formulaic recitations that barely penetrate the consciousness of the speaker and those listening? Are they something that must be ‘gotten through’ before the meeting or speech can begin? Can we escape dilution through repetition?”

Leaders and educators know the important of the HOW. The HOW matters. When thinking about incorporating, revisiting or reframing land acknowledgements — it is essential to consider the what, why, when and how of the practices.

In the field of Information Science, we center the the information landscape, and as an educator I feel that it is essential to acknowledge the funds of knowledge that people have. Therefore, IF I am approaching both the information equity perspectives positioning my scholarship from a relational standpoint — I must begin with RESPECT and acknowledging the inequities that exist — came from somewhere. Things were not always like this, it began somewhere and it is within my power to name it.

“It should also be emphasized that these territorial acknowledgments flow from the work of Indigenous peoples themselves, who are resisting invisibilization.”

Given the context of colonization and erasure of knowledges, I assert that ANY educational or leadership setting which is aware of, acknowledges and incorporates Indigenous curriculum and Peoples — should be asking themselves when, where, why and how to provide territorial acknowledgement — and to consider the benefits of interrupting the reproduction of erasure that can be particularly present in P-12 education and in leadership spaces.

Spaces

What spaces do you notice take the time and investment to provide territorial acknowledgements? How do they contextualize the purpose and practices? What is included? What is missing? and where is the greatest need of territorial acknowledgements to center and lift up our Indigenous Leaders?

Into the Beyond

“If we think of territorial acknowledgments as sites of potential disruption, they can be transformative acts that to some extent undo Indigenous erasure.”

Moving beyond territorial acknowledgments means asking hard questions about what needs to be done once we’re ‘aware of Indigenous presence’. It requires that we remain uncomfortable, and it means making concrete, disruptive change. How can you be in good relationship with Indigenous peoples, with non-human beings, with the land and water? No ideas? Well, it’s a good thing Indigenous peoples are still here, because our legal orders address all of those questions. So why aren’t you asking us?”

Indigenous Information Research Group (IIRG). IIRG research lies at the intersection of technology, information policy, and Indigenous issues.
UW Information School
Within the information landscape, the conceptual foundations of Native knowledge systems offer enormous potential for the advancement of research, teaching, and practice of library and information science. Information issues such as access, control, dissemination, preservation, curation, and information security are of vital importance to tribal communities because they impact tribal sovereignty. iSchool faculty and students have generated a series of activities, including funded research projects, leadership in national organizations, and community-based work within Native-serving organizations, which have deepened our understanding of Native North American Indigenous Knowledge at practical, conceptual, and theoretical levels.
With our strategic focus on “Native North American Indigenous Knowledge,” we intend to raise and expand the level of discourse concerning the intersection of information, knowledge, technology, and Native American communities within higher education, broadly and at the iSchool in particular. We will designate the UW iSchool as the first information school in the world that honors the treaties of its Indigenous population — treaties that clearly stipulate educational rights — by developing and implementing an information science program that studies and celebrates the intersection of information, technology, and Native communities.
With our strategic focus on “Native North American Indigenous Knowledge,” we intend to raise and expand the level of discourse concerning the intersection of information, knowledge, technology, and Native American communities within higher education, broadly and at the iSchool in particular. We will designate the UW iSchool as the first information school in the world that honors the treaties of its Indigenous population — treaties that clearly stipulate educational rights — by developing and implementing an information science program that studies and celebrates the intersection of information, technology, and Native communities.

For me, in the course of my scholarship as an affiliate member of the Indigenous Information Research Group at the University of Washington’s Information School, I have a responsibility to include land acknowledgements at every opportunity I have to speak in public or teach. And I do so with whatever resources I have at my disposal (in my teaching, research and leadership practices). While this is not, by any means exhaustive, nor fully inclusive, I do what I can to situate, contextualize and name colonization as present in my life, in our lives and in the lives of others. Colonization is the first instance of mass genocide that happened in relation to Turtle Island — therefore — I feel it my responsibility, in doing decolonial scholarship and in being an authentic leader in my community, that I start from where I am, because we are all starting somewhere. Part of my responsibility is acknowledging and naming what has been erased or rendered invisible in our day to day practices. The other part of my responsibility is to not only name and acknowledge but also allow that naming to inform the what comes next.

This is why I approach my scholarship and leadership practices from a trauma informed perspective, not only for social good, but with a harm reduction model in mind.

Matt Ignacio, Doctoral Student from the School of Social Work, first introduced me to the notion of trauma-informed scholarship during our time together in Indigenous Systems of Knowledge taught by Information School Faculty member Dr. Clarita Left-Hand Begay(Winter 2017). Upon further investigation, I found the guidance from Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and could see that this was indeed the approach I was taking in my processes.

SAMHSA — provides the following definition for trauma-informed perspectives.

According to SAMHSA’s concept of a trauma-informed approach, “A program, organization, or system that is trauma-informed:
  1. Realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery;
  2. Recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system;
  3. Responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices; and
  4. Seeks to actively resist re-traumatization.”
A trauma-informed approach reflects adherence to six key principles rather than a prescribed set of practices or procedures. These principles may be generalizable across multiple types of settings, although terminology and application may be setting- or sector-specific:
  1. Safety
  2. Trustworthiness and Transparency
  3. Peer support
  4. Collaboration and mutuality
  5. Empowerment, voice and choice
  6. Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues

In conclusion, Beyond Territorial Acknowledgements is aimed at naming and reclaiming spaces that have been harmful to cultures, people and identities. And it is through this naming that we can each be empowered to act in ways that realize, recognize, respond and resist re-traumatization of Indigenous Peoples.

It is our collective responsibility to do better. And we must. Our future generations are counting on us.

References