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  • Sussan Yáñez

Relational Conscientization

Actualizado: 27 de mar de 2020

Immersive Indigenous Methodologies: Relational Land-Based Approaches to Non-Extractive Ways of Learning

Sussan Yáñez

Quest University Canada

DIR 3002/Seminar/IS01 - Immersive Indigenous Law, Protocol and Tradition

Dr. Colin Bates

February 6, 2020


It all started in the womb - the womb of the world, with the grandmothers weaving their caring intentions to their grandchildren.

As I have arrived and have been visiting unceded Cora territories for now almost two months, in politically known Santa Maria del Oro, in the State of Nayarit in Mexico, as well as I have visited reclaimed Wixárika territories, in Mesa del Tirador in Jalisco State; this journey has continuously requested from me that I check within about the next appropriate step. Walking as a visitor that does not live here and neither has a bloodline stemming from the territories of this spiritual and intellectual inquiry is a delicate position to hold. Each new stage has had several implications, specifically addressing and reshaping my intentions to pursue this project, in synchronized dance with the stories heard and told, as well as the others awakened within reminding me of who I am and what my purpose is.


I must first expose the situation I have come to understand on my stay here. Indeed, in the decolonizing purpose of my approach to this minimal risk journalism project, I have had to minimize in the best of my capacities the power dynamics that appear within the relational aspects of racism and socio-economic differences. Just as Margaret Kovach says from her book Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations and Contexts, situating oneself, the culture we are exposing from and for and our own purpose is an absolute necessity for an Indigenous inquiry (p. 109). Since I am of mixed ancestry, or a mestiza as it is said here, my privilege has been apparent and exposing it constantly has been necessary. This has appeared in the aspects of receiving support from the Instituto Nacional de Pueblos Indígenas (INPI, translated as the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples), and from receiving the approval from the traditional Delegate and Governor of the Wixárika Nation in the Indigenous community of Mesa del Tirador, even though I am immensely grateful because otherwise this enterprise would not be possible. I say this because I see how these same authorities take much more time to give support to the ideas of the same peoples they serve.


I need to also make clear that I have wanted to follow Indigenous protocol, though that obtaining the permission from the traditional Delegate and Governor does not expose my purposes and projects to the Nation itself, as for that, there are General Assemblies that last up to eight days, gathering around 3000 peoples, this being most of the Wixárika community. My presence there would also become a delicate situation, as it is meant for the Nation itself and unless I have strong relations with peoples of the community that are ready to defend me and speak for me, it is a self-humiliating proposal. Therefore, after having conversations with elder Don Chabelo, I question whether I am ready to go and speak in such an assembly, even though my project requests it from me, and whether the peoples there are ready to hear what I have to say. This implies not that this is an impossibility, but rather that building the relations necessary for my proposal to be heard and received by an entire nation, much more time is needed, just as I had to move this Independent Study from January to February. Though, being a single mother that has not been financed to pursue this project and having a daughter that also needs to attend school back in the unceded Skwxwu7mesh territory, I can hear my responsibilities back home calling.


Following Indigenous protocol and respecting my position as a visitor, I have explained every time I present myself how I first of all was born in Chile with Mapuche, Spanish, German and English ancestries, that then my parents decided to move to Canada in 2003, that I moved back to Chile in 2013, and that in 2016 I moved back to Canada. I have had to retell how in unceded St’at’imc territory in the summer of 2017, I first attended ceremony under a retreat called “Wheel of Life” and that within that same four-days experience, I first heard from Don Chabelo from some of the participants. Apparently, this elder, a traditional Doctor, said to be a Marakame in Wixárika, was going to visit in November carrying peyote medicine, which today I know is called Hikuri ancestrally. It has been of greater importance to share how immensely grateful I am that this elder travels the world carrying the medicines, teachings and songs that he does, as my heart was greatly healed the first time I sat in ceremony with him and the medicine. I immediately noticed some of the peoples interacting with the fire then, that I had heard ran ceremonies of the medicine too. Though their interaction in ceremony, without being the leader, was not having any respect for all the rest of the participants and neither the Marakame himself. I asked then elder Don Chabelo about what had happened that night in front of the fire and he told me that this person did not have enough knowledge and understanding to run ceremonies for the people.

The researcher-participant dynamic has also been a phenomenon that I have intended to mitigate. Since I have been attending ceremony with the indigenous elder that I came to visit to have a recorded conversation, the previous relation built has had an impact on the development of my quest. Furthermore, the exposed information in conversations is of most importance, since the cultural and intellectual knowledge retold under story-form is the structural richness of Indigenous knowledge. In this manner, the relevance of the epistemological methodology of an Indigenous research, if research is described as an enterprise to learn, Kovach says that “stories spring from a holistic epistemology and are the relational glue in a socially interdependent knowledge system” (p. 108). Thus, the methodology of this inquiry started in 2017 when I as first inspired by the stories that elder Don Chabelo told in ceremony. Moreover, this after implied having first his individual approval, then, arriving to his home, to make myself known by his family to gain their trust and support to pursue with the project. Because there have been too many stories mentioned when people, which they even call friends, have come, with or without an academic purpose, behaving under a colonial mindset of extractive ways that ignores that taking without having a fully embodied consent and without offering anything back is cultural genocide.


Additionally, personally the most exciting aspect of this inquiry is the ceremonial and spiritual one of the Indigenous methodologies, however it is also the most complex one. Because I cannot situate myself within a specific tribal knowledge, since I was not born in a tribal community, but rather in a city, and after several generations of my family’s denial of our Indigenous ancestry, I remain in an ancestral limbo. There is no way that I could on the other side take a pan-Indigenous approach, as the importance of the bloodlines and lineages, with birth rights of passage and heritage are critical to the form of knowledge and approaches taken to learn. Hence my decolonial intentions stem and grow from the experiential and relational background I have had within and around Indigenous communities, but also, from my own subjective and personal life story of dreams and cosmology. In the chapter “Centring Tribal Knowledge”, Kovach speaks of the scholarship of Indigenous science that references to the relation with metaphysics [… which] suggests that energy reveals itself as knowings stored deep within a collective unconscious and surfaces through dreams, prayer, ceremonial ritual and happenings (p. 57). This means that my purpose has emerged from the relationships I have built in ceremony with myself and my surroundings, whether these are human or non-human relations. Even though these remains of the realm of the sacred, and that writing about these deploys a trust that the institution it is exposed to will demonstrate enough responsibility to care of it in a good way, it is as Kovach retells of Graham Smith words, a ‘strategic concession’ (p. 40) that Indigenous scholars can choose to make in order to expand the conscientization against the still in force colonial agenda of institutions and governments.


In this manner, the intellectual work done by a person pertaining to minority cultural group is a political process (p. 91). Therefore, within the political situation that the Wixárika nation is moving now, of asserting its’ sovereignty by retaining functionaries of the Mexican government in Mesa del Tirador in 2018, (Comuneros Wixaritari) requesting answers from the Governor and from the exigency of the destitution of the representant of the INPI in Tepic, Nayatit by the Wixárika nation (Exigen Wixárikas), I can only remain trusting of the prayers and songs of the elders, and most particularly of my teacher Don Chabelo.

This is a loving infiltration and new way of doing things and moving within the system, with the intention to break free the people of the amnesia to their roots and origins, to give back the importance and sacredness of each and every single relation.

References

Comuneros wixaritari retienen a 14 funcionarios, los liberarán hasta que vaya el gobernador. Retrieved from https://regeneracion.mx/comuneros-wixaritari-retienen-a-14-funcionarios-los-liberaran-hasta-que-vaya-el-gobernador/

Exigen Wixárikas destitución de delegado del INPI. Retrieved from https://nnc.mx/articulo/portada/exigen-wixarikas-destitucion-de-delegado-del-inpi/1551997045

Kovach, M. (2010). Indigenous methodologies: Characteristics, conversations, and contexts. University of Toronto Press.





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