Living in Indigenous sovereignty: Relational accountability and the stories of white settler anti-colonial and decolonial activists
Carlson, Elizabeth Christine
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Canadian processes such as the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and Comprehensive Land Claims as well as flashpoint events (Simpson & Ladner, 2010) such as the Kanien’kehaka resistance at Kanehsatà:ke and Kahnawà:ke (the “Oka Crisis”) and more recently, the Idle No More movement, signal to Canadians that something is amiss. What may be less visible to Canadians are the 400 years of colonial oppression experienced and the 400 years of resistance enacted by Indigenous peoples on their lands, which are currently occupied by the state of Canada. It is in the context of historical and ongoing Canadian colonialism: land theft, dispossession, marginalization, and genocide, and in the context of the overwhelming denial of these realities by white settler Canadians that this study occurs. In order to break through settler Canadian denial, and to inspire greater numbers of white settler Canadians to initiate and/or deepen their anti-colonial and/or decolonial understandings and work, this study presents extended life narratives of white settler Canadians who have engaged deeply in anti-colonial and/or decolonial work as a major life focus. In this study, such work is framed as living in Indigenous sovereignty, or living in an awareness that we are on Indigenous lands containing their own protocols, stories, obligations, and opportunities which have been understood and practiced by Indigenous peoples since time immemorial. Inspired by Indigenous and anti-oppressive methodologies, I articulate and utilize an anti-colonial research methodology. I use participatory and narrative methods, which are informed and politicized through words gifted by Indigenous scholars, activists, and Knowledge Keepers. The result is research as a transformative, relational, and decolonizing process. In addition to the extended life narratives, this research yields information regarding connections between social work education, social work practice, and the anti-colonial/decolonial learnings and work of five research subjects who have, or are completing, social work degrees. The dissertation closes with an exploration of what can be learned through the narrative stories, with recommendations for white settler peoples and for social work, and with recommendations for future research.
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