Excited to attend the #Indigenous History Conference once again today. It has been fantastic so far!
First panel today is #Decolonizing Methodologies: Challenging Colonial Institutions with Lisa King (Delaware), @CLegutko, and Christine Delucia. @Plymouth_400 @BridgeStateU #twitterstorians
King: How can we decolonize methodologies? Why is it important? How are we doing it in our work?
King: Our institutions were never meant for us, they were always and remain colonial in intent and action. Education, museums, libraries, and research are no different.
King: Usually narratives (in museums, etc.) are created and told by colonizers, including archaeologists. At Univ of TN, they are trying to shift the narrative to center Indigenous peoples and voices. There's a mound that is the oldest human-made structure on the campus.
King: Signage in the Native American medicinal garden is in Cherokee and English. This was a step in the right direction but a small one and one that stopped there. Need to continue to adjust the narrative. The museum is beginning to do this work. Museums are #notneutral.
King: They are working on building a sense of Indigenous space across campus. A work in progress and still much more work to be down.
Catlin-Legutko is director of Illinois State Museum, she also spent time at Abbe Museum in what is now know as Maine. Wabanaki peoples were in the area for over 12k years. They don't use the term "pre-history". It's all a part of history, the people's history.
Catlin-Legutko: Abbe committed to disrupting the normative narrative and decolonize the museum. This is about sharing authority and interpretation, centering Indigenous voices, including full measure of truth-telling.
Catlin-Legutko: Describes theory of change. Decolonization is a process not a final goal, will always continue and thus needs a system to support it and systemic change. It has to happen at all levels. They followed the theory of change to map its decolonization process.
Catlin-Legutko: Always in conversation with Wabanaki peoples in every step. A very collaborative process. when they began in 2012, there was academic research and writing on this but not many museums doing much to actually decolonize.
Catlin-Legutko: Decolonizing exhibits is one thing but not the whole thing. Begins with assessment and developing an awareness. Challenging because everyone is starting in various places; have to maintain and improve and give many reminders.
Catlin-Legutko: To be a leader, you must consistently follow a decolonial framework. You have to stick with it. It needs sustained commitment, colonizers must give up power and manage being uncomfortable, because it is anti-racism work.
Catlin-Legutko: IL State Museum is different. Dickson Mounds was a museum built on an open burial ground. After many protests, the museum was closed, but not much happened since. IL State Museum has significant repatriation issues, around 7k ancestors that need to be repatriated.
Catlin-Legutko: Actively working with staff and Native community to repatriate the items. But there is also a lot of work that needs to be done with exhibits, text, etc. Must address the building on top of Dickson Mounds. This is challenging but necessary work.
Catlin-Legutko: Working with colleagues to form a community of practice to ensure the work continues across the Midwest.
Delucia: When people are in charge of our own history, you will get the truth but too often this is not what happens. Libraries, museums, archives all need to actively work to decolonize collections, spaces, etc.
Delucia: Classification systems in these institutions is highly problematic across the continent. Native communities have done a lot to disrupt the normative narratives and take ownership of the histories and narratives told.
Delucia: Kim Toney (Nipmuc) has developed From English to Algonquian: Early New England Translations digital project at American Antiquarian Society. americanantiquarian.org/EnglishtoAlgon…
Delucia: This website is an example of how people can reclaim and tell the whole truth of their histories. Another example: Native Northeast Research Collaborative thenativenortheast.org
Delucia: Example of devising different, decolonial models for sharing and contextualizing documents related to Indigenous experiences. Yale formed relationships with other libraries and archives that had collections but also with Native communities.
Delucia: The items included are primary documents from across the continent. Handwritten docs from the 17th century are difficult to read. This project focused on transcribing the docs to make them more accessible.
Delucia: This project has/is going through growing pains. For instance, Yale hasn't committed funds to support the work, so they are constantly in the fund-finding cycle which takes a lot of time, energy, resources that could be better spent on the actual work.
Delucia: Is your institution in alignment with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) Policy? nps.gov/subjects/nagpr…
Delucia: An example is Mt Holyoke: artmuseum.mtholyoke.edu/collections/co…
Delucia: They were not in compliance with NAGPRA but wanted to be and so consulted with Native communities and did the work to address the letter and spirit of repatriation.
Delucia: Mount Holyoke College Art museum also wanted to develop relationships and foreground contemporary Indigenous makers and knowledge-keepers. Brought people and their work into the gallery spaces.
Delucia: Mt Holyoke College Museum is also rethinking systems of value. They are revisiting Indigenous heritage items in collections and Indigenous makers. Daily items attest to community survival strategies, how they resist land loss and economic marginalization.
Catlin-Legutko: Change motivation is highly situational. How institutions were founded and what their relationships are will determine how people feel about change. Who is in leadership and how/where you start the change makes a huge difference.
Delucia: Many factors affect change motivation. Activism can often set things in motion. On campuses, students are often at the forefront. Engagement with an institution's own history can often be the spark. What peer institutions are doing is a strong motivator for admin.
Delucia: NAGPRA can also be a motivator, legally and ethically. It's the right thing to do and there are also civil penalties to noncompliance.
King: Univ of TN is at the very beginning of the process. Native and non-Native peoples benefit from decolonization. New museum director has made a big difference. Thinking about how to re-do the main exhibits, center Indigenous voices, have Indigenous people at the table.
Delucia: Prioritize Indigenous voices and histories in syllabi, exhibits, texts, spaces. Must push for admin/system to prioritize funding for Indigenous projects, speakers, works, consultants, etc.
Catlin-Legutko: Relationships with Native peoples must be built and maintained in order to do the work of decolonization in museums, universities, libraries, etc. Usually the history of the institution has already done harm to Indigenous people way before you getting there.
Catlin-Legutko: Relationships may be challenging to build and take a long time, but must be done to center Indigenous voices and peoples. Deliberate individual and systemic mind-shift is mandatory if you no longer want to contribute to erasure.
Catlin-Legutko: Must do individual work to examine how we perpetuate oppression. How have I benefitted from a system that intentionally kept others out? Ongoing personal work, active training in anti-bias, anti-racism is necessary.
Catlin-Legutko: Only then can you be a worthy participant in harm reduction. If you skip the steps of personal examination and decolonization, you will stomp over others and become the perpetrator. You will continue to do harm.
Delucia: Relationships with a variety of others (Native, non-Native, students, older, younger, etc.) can help build/sustain communities of practice and sustainable practices.
Catlin-Legutko: Decolonizing work must be hyper-transparent. Must benefit all tribal communities, not just those in your area. Must be something that can be replicated. Set up policy. But when players shift, it is still tenuous.
High Country News did an investigation about land grant universities - Land-Grab Universities - which is an amazing database of info to explore landgrabu.org @highcountrynews
Delucia: There's a lot of misunderstandings about "US" history that taints contemporary life, such as colonialism ending in 1776. Many don't make the connection between colonialism and settler colonialism.
King: It's important to know the history and expand your understanding of truth. To build ongoing reciprocal relationships, you must understand power imbalances. Transforms understanding and heals ongoing trauma.
King: Students are often curious and want to know the truth or get angry when they realize they have been lied to. Admin, not so much; they are usually invested in maintaining existing structures and not invested in change.
Thanks to all for this important panel: Linda Coombs, Joyce Rain Anderson, @CLegutko, Lisa King, Christine Delucia, @Plymouth_400, @BridgeStateU. Back in 30 minutes with the next panel!
Next panel is Standing Our Ground: #Resistance and the Rights of #Indigenous Peoples with Rae Gould (Nipmuc), Michelle Cook (Navajo), and Hartman Deetz (Mashpee Wampanoag). @Plymouth_400
Hartman Deetz: Discusses wampum and beads as well as the importance of the intangible meanings of wampum in land, economy, peacebuilding, and more. Working on a wampum belt representing the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People. un.org/development/de…
Deetz: Indigenous law existed long before colonization but colonists pushed this aside. Still goes on today. Colonies were started as corporations. Supplanted law of balance with idea of unlimited growth on an unlimited planet. So unbalanced, it will collapse.
Deetz: Colonization always had a class system, had to be nobility in order to claim full human existence or move ahead. With capitalism, this is still happening; as some can buy their way out of breaking the law.
Deetz: Indigenous peoples have had to go through legal processes in order to prove their humanity and validity. Had to go through legal processes to keep their land, their children, etc. Must return their land, their rights, their humanity.
Deetz: We must treat the world and one another with reciprocity and respect. It's a familial bond of kinship with each other and the land itself. We are running out of time on this planet. Indigenous people should have right to fish, to economy, etc.
Michelle Cook shows this video of the Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation Confronts Credit Suisse at Shareholder Meeting:
Cook: Founded Divest Invest Protect. Recalls the power of Indigenous women over millennia. "We have a lot to teach our little brothers" who are committing human rights abuses in the name of profit and power.
Cook: Divest from fossil fuels but also invest in Indigenous visions and economies. The extractive industries are on the way out. There's been a shift internationally from fossil fuels; we must reduce carbon emissions or face climate catastrophe. It calls all of us to action rn.
Cook: "Everyone right now is needed" no matter what your positionality or work. We must decolonize because our planetary survival depends on it. Social illnesses are entrenched in colonial institutions.
Cook: Indigenous peoples and human rights defenders are in incredible danger and have been murdered for defending land and environment. Even more have been silenced and repressed for their resistance.
Cook: How do we protect these human rights defenders? How does the climate crisis require all of our disciplines to shift and change our methodologies to respond to the changes? COVID has woken many people up in this way.
Cook: Focused on food independence in order to decolonize and sustain ourselves. This is an invitation to everyone. UN wampum belt project is a way to have emancipatory pedagogy, to teach law in a decolonized way.
Cook: Still fight for human rights in the US because they are being infringed upon every day by extractive industries. This is why going international is so imperative: to make the case in the US alone is not enough.
Cook: #NoDAPL helped to reinvigorate an international movement for corporate responsibility, accountability, divestment, etc. What Suisse Bank does effects all of us and our planet. The divestment movement benefits from Indigenous methodologies and knowledges.
Cook: Use Indigenous perspectives to protect Indigenous and all human rights. Get back to the first law of the land: Indigenous peoples, their legal systems, matrilineal systems, etc.; this is illustrated in the wampum belt.
Rae Gould: Resistance can mean many things in every day lives: wampum, divesting, educating ourselves and others, pushing back against patriarchal forces. Gould's professional work focuses on academics and educating colleagues on Indigenous perspectives and importance.
Gould: How do we in academia center Indigenous peoples and not whiteness? Land acknowledgements can be performative, center whiteness, and make white people too comfortable. Our job as resisters is to make people uncomfortable and make them think.
Gould: There are people in the academy who do the work every day and push back against the colonial structure. But we must support and center Indigenous scholars and activists more and better. We must ensure people in charge are accountable, NAGPRA is part of this.
Gould: Decolonization will take a long time but we keep moving forward. We must maintain momentum, for ourselves and into the next generations.
Deetz: Indigenous people have laws, customs, treaties, and land tenure that predate the Constitution and the idea of the United States. We participate in human-made institutions and give them power: money, laws, race, manifest destiny, doctrine of discovery, etc.
Deetz: Indigenous people have been stuck in the process of proving their existence for hundreds of years. Must go back to Indigenous recognition and sustainability. Use ancient systems of law to roll back colonial systems and laws.
Deetz: The latter has no place here; it's destructive and toxic. Racialization is only as powerful as the power and belief we give it. We are citizen of nations, not racial monoliths. Race is constructed to box us in.
Cook: A lot of work needs to be done and we all have the opportunity to participate. Amplifying Indigenous grassroots struggles, investing in Indigenous projects or legal defenses, you can move your money out of companies that are problematic (Bank of America, Wells Fargo).
Cook: They are profiting from the exploitation and destruction of our land. Move your money to local credit unions instead. Follow @DivestProtect @WECAN_INTL. Reclaim your own power.
Cook: Must control our own food production and water sources. Sever colonial ties and find our own power, esp as women. We each have our legacy and we all have something to give right now. "Love is decolonization. Love is resistance." Love yourself, your body.
Cook: Decolonization is as much psychological as it is structural. "Every day is resistance." We each must work to decolonize ourselves, to re-learn, to resist.
Thanks to all for this great panel: @Plymouth_400, Joyce Rain Anderson, Linda Coombs, Michelle Cook, Hartman Deetz, @BridgeStateU. See you next Sunday!

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More from @karlajstrand

25 Oct
I’ll be there; this has been a fantastic conference.
First is "Wampum Research and Relations" with Marge Bruchac and Paula Peters @SonkWaban. @Plymouth_400
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