I’ve been asked to write about my greatest hope for Indigenous education research. Of course, we do research to understand the past, to have a more meaningful present, and to work toward a more loving, just future.
At least that is my understanding of the purpose of research.
Sometimes research is done with good intentions and yet it does harm. Sometimes the harm is overwhelming, devastating, genocidal. The mass graves at Indian boarding schools are evidence of the murderous outcomes of white supremacist logics, research, policies, and practice of a settler colonial education system that assumed it could do better for our people than we could do for ourselves. The same system of settler colonial violence continues to kill Indigenous men and boys, and murder and disappear Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit relatives. The same system of settler colonial violence stole our lands and in the best of circumstances forced our leaders to sign Treaties intended to eradicate our people, who have always been cast as a “problem” for the settler colonial nation state.
This is the messy, horrifying, troubling context in which Indigenous education research takes place. It’s heavy, hurtful, and bleak. It denies us hope. It denies us the ability to breathe, think, and feel the love and joy of Indigenous futures. That’s the intention and legacy of settler colonialism.
And yet, we’re still here.
No crappy, violent, greedy system can break our spirits and ties to our lands.
Armed with my people’s precious Coyote stories, the fierce love I learned from my Aunties, and an unwavering belief that our peoples have a future ahead of us that is as sweet as a deep purple huckleberry warmed from the sun and savored on a hot summer day—a future as strong as the earthy, nurturing goodness of bitterroot cooked perfectly and served humbly in a sacred broth of water and salmon.
Áwna! (Let’s go!)
My hope for Indigenous education research is that we do work returning us to ourselves, our stories, our ways of knowing and being.
My hope is that we do projects, build programs, transform institutions, develop curricula and policies, train or retrain leaders who can help us to understand and live more deeply into our Indigenous ways of knowing and being.
We already know the truth, strength, power, and importance of the teachings by which we are meant to live. Indigenous education research can help find mechanisms and test technologies to help us get there—to step more powerfully into the beautiful futures our ancestors dreamed for us.
To return to ourselves means we are living lives saturated with the hope, love, and understanding that:
Our strength and healing always come from our lands, communities, and cultures.
Áwna túxsha. (Now let’s go home.)
I drafted this essay for a Spencer Foundation project on Indigenous education research and futures. Please share your feedback with me by commenting below. Thank you!