Indigeneity, Language and Authenticity

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Monthly Archives: October 2013

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The Uppsala Library Archives 2013

I saw the ghost of Herman Lundborg
googling our genocide yesterday;
a pale professor ordering a photo of our
abused great grandmothers —
for science.

“naked women captured
by the colonial gaze
speaks to me
on an aesthetic level”, he said,

“the mixing of blood is a crime
that has to be studied
in detail”, he said

“the erasure of names in order to
present pictures of children’s genitalia to the public
is justified”, he said

as he clicked his way through
the generational wounds of our people.

“lest you should ever forget your
prescribed roles
as silenced Others”.

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Gïelebiesie

We are the generation that pulls our ancestors
from the depths to find ourselves again.

The youngest one is six years old;
after the hare escapes the yoiked shot-gun
she tells me that she’s found a pair of reindeer boots
once worn by her father, then hidden away
until the day she started each day with a vuelie.

On the other side of the table, the ten-year-old
writes down every word I say
and repeats it three times, determined to not forget
what has been denied her by the state –
then she excuses herself
– this broken language we barely share,
echoing like gun-shots through the room.

There’s a cold bitterness in the joke
when we try to figure out how much fabric
we’re going to need for 52 skopmehkh –
“let’s begin this day with a re-enactment of our history”
this tape measurer
fastened like a cursed echo of the past
around the skulls of our children.

Being an indigenous scholar: Why do I bother?

As an indigenous scholar, reading aged academic articles about my own people is both frustrating and soul destroying, but at the same time one of the most important tools in the act of challenging current misconceptions about indigeneity. By being able to address inaccuracies through the same medium as the oppressor, by being able to quote, analyse and disprove academics whose opinions have been and continue to be accepted as gospel truth because of said academics’ status within the field, one has a far better chance to fight prejudice that has been touted off as “scientific research” by the Ivory Tower than one would otherwise have.

Academia as a field is intrinsically prejudiced, self-centered and the latest top research within the humanities is far more often characterised by being decades behind current discussions amongst the very peoples academia loves to study. Most people within the humanities know this, but simultaneously the academic status quo has spent a ridiculous amount of resources to silence the Other, in order to not have to accept responsibility for the role it has played in the cultural genocide of indigenous peoples and other minorities around the world. By ignoring research projects originating within an indigenous community that aim to benefit the community itself in order to instead prioritise a continued outsider-perspective on indigeneity, indigenous peoples continue to be coded as research objects lacking agency, rather than as researchers with competence originating from an educational tradition that lies outwith the restrictive confides of Western education.

Linda Tuhiwai Smith once wrote that “research is probably one of the dirtiest words in the indigenous world’s vocabulary” and this to me is one of the main reasons as to why it is so important to me as an indigenous scholar to do my best to decolonise the field in which I work, not only by refuting the amount of ridiculous inaccuracies currently passed off as truths by academics, but also by opening up a closed field to indigenous, non-western methods of knowledge transmission. I want to do anything that works to stop the ongoing contribution by majority academics to the colonialist imperialism of academia; I wish to challenge and change the field from within. I refuse to see more books being written about my people that do not originate from members of my own people, and I live by the creed that anything that has to do with indigeneity has to come from the community itself, be for the community itself and work with the community itself.