As I had shared with Coyote, I struggled with putting together my own worldview. Writing it in a linear way felt wrong and did not seem to encompass all the knowledge I have been gifted. I worried about the fact that I have been displaced due to forced migration and how this has affected my worldview. This is just one of the intergenerational effects of the residential schools that plague my family. Connection to place is an immense part of Indigenous ways of knowing. How can I represent this without being physically connected to my home? How do I present an Indigenous worldview that is culturally relevant yet my own? I think about my relationship with my mentors, Elders and Coyote as well as the researchers I have learned from, and I know that starting respectfully with a story is important (Archibald, 2008; Tuck & Yang, 2014). I have thought about my own journey to understanding my worldview and recognize that (dis)placement, or perhaps it is replacement, is a good place to start. As my Kookum taught me, the beginning, middle and end are always there, but linear learning is not our Indigenous way.
As with any journey, the direct path we plan is not the one we end up taking. My family, much like many Indigenous people from the plains, were displaced from their home territories in the early 1960s (Norris & Clatworthy, 2011). My grandparents’ desire to keep their own children from going to a residential school led to them move around Saskatchewan for many years before they came to the realization that the safest thing for them would be to relocate to another province. This relocation was a choice they made, but it actually resulted from the forced migration of Indigenous peoples of the Plains due to a lack of resources and safety and to keep their children from attending a residential school (Norris & Clatworthy, 2011). My aunt tells me that when they arrived in Vancouver, she remembers my Kookum crying every day. “It’s ugly here. Everything is so different. I miss our people,” were statements they heard her telling Grandfather daily. They all struggled to adjust to living in a city that was so different from their homeland as well as to the loss of culture and connection they were also experiencing. This migration has changed my worldview and changed our own understanding of the world as a family. Our teachings come from oral stories passed down without a physical connection to the land. This is true of many Indigenous people today. I have struggled with this over time, but I eventually have come to understand the power of what I think of as a (dis)placed worldview. It is hard to explain how my own journey through academia has helped me sort my stories or my families’ hiSTORIES to create an understanding of my worldview, but through the stress and turmoil of academia this is what happened.
Being Anishinaabe and Nehiyaw in an urban area where I am a guest is not easy. I grew up with a non-Indigenous (adoptive) mom and was only offered glimpses into my culture during summer vacations and visits from my grandfather, who helped raise me. I was starved for stories of my culture, my homelands and ways of knowing that spoke to my soul. It would not be until I was engaged in my master’s degree work that I realized there were so many Indigenous people that had experienced and were experiencing the same thing. This need to find a cultural identity and sense of belonging is rampant among Indigenous people, especially with those living in urban areas as a result of migration or displacement (Daschuk, 2019). For many, blending into mainstream society or not identifying with their Indigenous roots becomes a way of coping with these feelings. Research and personal experience have taught me that this is not a solution that works long term (Goodwill & McCormack, 2011). It creates a sense of isolation, fear, identity crisis, and even loathing as one tries to find a place in a world that holds no place for you (Goodwill & McCormack, 2011). Living in this space of disconnection leads to the need for healing and rediscovery, and learning our true stories can be used as a tool of healing in this journey. This journey often begins with examining one’s own story, and this can be a difficult journey to navigate alone. Learning to be an Anishinaabe/Nehiyaw woman has been a difficult journey. It competes with a dominant framework and way of knowing that often imposes and makes me forget my traditional ways of knowing. Daniels-Fiss (2008) states that learning to be Nehiyaw (which was once ingrained in her) is difficult and that early education had almost made her question her traditional ways of knowing. I struggle with this knowledge and know that education has damaged and, in some cases, continues to damage the identity and ways of knowing of Indigenous people. Misunderstanding and misusing Indigenous ways of knowing or worldviews also has a history that has inflicted damage on Indigenous peoples, and I have been taught that it must be engaged with in a way that upholds the stories, ways of knowing and Indigenous knowledge that are shared with you (Archibald, 2008; Coombes & Ryder, 2020; Kovach, 2010). My aunt tells me that our worldview is always with us, even when we are (dis)placed and that the need to engage in story is weaved into my DNA.
“My girl, you have listened and told stories since the beginning of time. Long before you were in this dimension, your spirit lived and played in stories. Speak from the heart and listen to the stories of others. What you need is there if you listen with your heart,” she tells me, and I can feel the words come alive within me.
My aunt’s words are important, and they speak to me in a way that reassures me that I will engage in telling this story in a good way. There is a sense of healing that comes from being connected to the stories of those who have walked before me. Wilson (2008) writes that he sees research and writing as ceremony and that while creating a research paradigm he found it difficult to articulate what he knew intuitively. I have struggled with Wilson’s (2008) work in the past, as I struggled to understand the connection of the sacredness of ceremony and the academic world of research and writing, yet I am now able to see that there is a connection. I need to engage in writing with the same care that I would enter a ceremony, and I am not exposing the sacredness of the ceremony but embracing the sacredness of the stories that will be shared with me. I have spent my life trying to be a good listener and will continue to ensure that I listen with an open heart and mind as well as recognize the need for respect, relevance, responsibility and reciprocity when engaging in listening, sharing, telling and learning from story (Archibald, 2008; Botha, 2011; Iseke, 2013). The word ‘weave’ has stayed with me from my aunt telling me that story is weaved into my DNA. Weaving is an important part of who we are as Indigenous people, and while my own nation does not weave, I think about our teaching of ‘All my Relations’. This teaches us that we are all interrelated with each other and the land, animals, plants, air and spirit world around us. Our stories weave together, and through them we learn the importance of being connected (Daniels-Fiss, 2008; Kovach, 2010). I know that my own Indigenous worldview has come from the weaving together of stories from two different nations, from the stories of (dis)placement and loss, and from the stories of strength and resilience. Indigenous worldview is the concept of “All My Relations”, as it reminds us of our responsibilities to each other and how our stories may change, but they are always the same.
I keep thinking about the concept of stories finding their way home, and I wonder what happens to them when they get lost. Where do they go? Where do they live? Do they visit with the ancestors, or do they hibernate like a bear does in the winter? I have a sudden visual of myself as Mary (as in Mary Had a Little Lamb), and I am trying to guide stories instead of sheep as I try to help them return home, and they are all running in different directions. “Stop,” I yell at the stories. “Line up! We need some order here”. We need order, as how else is there to convey a worldview in a way that is coherent and makes sense? The image of my errant stories comes back to me, and again I picture myself trying to wrangle them like sheep. As hard as I try to file them in a straight line, they insist on running around and circling around each other. Perhaps this is a distinct difference between living with an Indigenous worldview and trying to write about one. For Indigenous people, stories have no beginning, middle or end and cannot be organized in a linear way (Fixico, 2003; Iseke, 2013). How does one do this in a way that shows respect to the knowledge passed on as well as the knowledge that has been gained through life experiences. How will I ensure my work is done in a good way and holds up the stories of those who have walked before me? I want to ask my Elders’ opinions, but I know that this can be problematic for a number of reasons. I ask my aunt how to approach those who I want to talk to about their own Indigenous worldview. “Show up and do the work” my aunt tells me when I question her. This is not a new answer, and I have often wondered what this means, but I am beginning to understand that there will never be a perfect time, place or way to learn, but that if I show up and do my work in a good way the stories will follow.
Indigenous methodologies in education and research honour our voices in our ways of knowing that connect us in mind, body, and spirit to knowledge that has existed since time immemorial (Kovach, 2010). These methodologies include the use of story, as it helps us navigate and understand Indigenous worldview. I know this to be true, and I remind myself that I have known since I was nine years old that story is always the most important thing I can learn from. So why do I continue to come back to this feeling of unsettledness? Perhaps it is because I am still struggling to locate myself within my own worldview. I consider what this means and know that I must continue to question my own ways of understanding and how they have been shaped by my own history, family, displacement, and culture and ultimately how they have been shaped or reshaped by euro-centric education (Peltier, 2018). I am aware that I have not escaped from the years of influence that higher education imposes on us. I move cautiously in all that I do to ensure that I am honouring those that have walked before me and that my work will enhance the journey of those that walk after me. I still wonder how to get to the heart of explaining my own worldview. Like in all moments of internal conflict, I call my aunt and hope that she will help guide me and offer some clarity on my current uncertainty. I call her and share that I am struggling with the concepts of Indigenous worldview.
“Tell it to me, your worldview,” my aunt tells me.
“Well, I know everything is interconnected and that doing things in a good way is important”.
“No, no, my girl. Tell me what speaks to you and what guides you,” she tells me and chuckles.
“Well, to me, respect and responsibility guide me, as it reminds me I have to value everything and everyone I am working with and their way of doing things and their way of understanding. I think of all that I have been taught and realize that there are so many aspects to respect that I must weave into my work. Peltier (2018) reminds me that respect means sharing worldviews and finding space for all ways of knowing to be upheld. It means understanding that everyone is in different places and spaces in our life journeys and with this comes different abilities. Most of all, I think that respect means that I must always reflect on what I bring to the table and adapt it to meet the needs of those I work with in regard to both research and teaching. I also know that I need to respect my own learning journey and ways of knowing,” I tell my aunt. I believe that responsibility and reciprocity cannot be separated from respect. I am always accountable to those I am working with, and as I consider how stories will be shared with me through the scope of my research and teaching I realize that I will be responsible to the stories and to those who share them (Archibald & Parent, 2019; Iseke, 2013). I also must reciprocate by sharing myself, my own stories and any knowledge that is shared with me through the work I do (Archibald, 2008; Archibald & Parent, 2019). I believe that to do all of these well, I have to focus on balancing in two worlds and weaving Indigenous ways of knowing with non-Indigenous ways of knowing, as not everyone I work with will embrace the same ways of knowing that I do (Hatcher et al., 2012).
“My girl, you have what you need. Just respect in your own process and speak from the heart. Trust in the knowledge your ancestors have shared with you since the beginning of time and what you do not know yet will come to you when the time is right.” My aunt tells me she believes in me and hangs up.