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Critical summary of “Re-envisioning resurgence: Indigenous pathways to decolonization and sustainable self-determination” by Jeff Corntassel and “Land as pedagogy: Nishnaabeg intelligence and rebellious transformation” by Leanne Simpson.

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Critical summary of “Re-envisioning resurgence: Indigenous pathways to decolonization and sustainable self-determination” by Jeff Corntassel and “Land as pedagogy: Nishnaabeg intelligence and rebellious transformation” by Leanne Simpson.

Abstract

“Re-envisioning resurgence: Indigenous pathways to decolonization and sustainable self-determination” by Jeff Corntassel and “Land as pedagogy: Nishnaabeg intelligence and rebellious transformation” by Leanne Simpson explore how resurgence can be imagined and realized beyond the colonial state apparatus. Although Corntassel and Simpson see decolonization and resurgence from different lenses— the former from a more economic and political perspective and the latter from a pedagogical outlook—, they both coincide with the need to reconnect to the land and to their community. After providing a brief summary of both articles, I will analyze the most salient points and I will establish links with other examples in the Canadian context.
SUMMER
2015
Critical summary
Viviana Herrera Vargas
Professors Sarah Henzi and Isabelle St-Amand
Université de Montréal
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Re-envisioning resurgence: Indigenous pathways to decolonization and
sustainable self-determination” by Jeff Corntassel and “Land as pedagogy: Nishnaabeg
intelligence and rebellious transformation” by Leanne Simpson explore how resurgence
can be imagined and realized beyond the colonial state apparatus. Although Corntassel
and Simpson see decolonization and resurgence from different lenses the former from
a more economic and political perspective and the latter from a pedagogical outlook,
they both coincide with the need to reconnect to the land and to their community. After
providing a brief summary of both articles, I will analyze the most salient points and I
will establish links with other examples in the Canadian context.
Corntassel’s article examines different strategies of decolonization and
resurgence while pointing out the economic, political and environmental challenges that
Indigenous peoples face to achieve these goals. Corntassel effectively engages the reader
at the beginning of the article with a question posed to the Mohawk delegates while at a
conference in Bolivia: “What makes you Indigenous” (Corntassel 2012, 87)?. An
Indigenous participant at the conference asks this question given the ‘lack’ of connection
to the land expressed by their North American counterparts. According to the author,
“being indigenous today means struggling to reclaim and regenerate one’s relational,
place-based existence by challenging the ongoing, destructive forces of colonization”
(ibid., 88). In order to re-connect to the land, he proposes to “re-envision and to practice
everyday acts of resurgence” (ibid., 89). Re-envisioning entails being able to “imagine
oneself beyond the state” (ibid., 89), on one hand, and practicing acts of resurgence
entails acts that were once or remained to be prohibited by the colonial state (ceremonies,
speaking indigenous languages, etc) (ibid., 88) on the other. To do this, however,
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indigenous peoples need to be aware and fight what Corntassel calls the politics of
distraction. As its names suggests, these harmful politics (rights, reconciliation and
commodification of resources) distract indigenous peoples from carrying out
decolonization and resurgence acts and “push [them] towards a state agenda of co-
optation and assimilation” (ibid., 91). Finally, the author lists Alfred Taiaiake’s five
objectives to indigenous regeneration and Simpson’s four-part strategy to overcome the
politics of distraction. He agrees with Simpson that while these resurgence strategies are
“unglamorous [and] expedient” (ibid., 98), in the sense of being difficult to accomplish,
they are crucial if indigenous peoples are not to be absorbed into the colonial assimilation
project.
Corntassel accomplishes what he sets out to do in his article, namely to identify
effective mechanisms for decolonization and resurgence among Indigenous peoples.
While he does an excellent job in explaining the politics of distraction, at the end of the
article, he chooses to list rather than to discuss Alfred and Simpson’s practices of renewal
and responsibility. In other words, he does not explain the economic and political
challenges that Native people may encounter when trying to apply each of these
strategies. One is therefore compelled to ask how can indigenous peoples “[c]onfront
funding mentality” (ibid., 98), which has been ingrained in their relationship with the
government for more than a century, if they are not given any background and throughout
assessment of the challenges they may face when attempting to consider these strategies?
Moreover, while I see how rights can be an example of a politic of distraction,
should that mean that we need to dismiss completely the rights discourse as a strategy to
assert indigenous rights worldwide? Writing in the Mexican context, anthropologist
Martin Hébert notes that given the dire indigenous rights situation in this country,
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international instruments such as the UNDDRIP represent an important legal tool for
them to challenge state’s policies and to establish alliances of solidarity with other
indigenous peoples of the world (Hebert 2013, 74). While Mexican and Canadian
indigenous peoples have different identities and local experiences, they share similar
experiences of disposition and marginalization in the state (ibid., 62). Therefore, could
international instruments such as declarations (UNDRIP) and/or conventions represent a
valuable alternative for indigenous peoples in Canada to put further pressure on the
government so it addresses neglected issues such as murdered and missing indigenous
women?
Leanne Simpson’s academic article starts with “Kwezens makes a lovely
discovery,” a story which beautifully transcends its literary meaning and offers insight
into what comprehensive learning and meaningful relationships mean within Nishnaabeg
communities. By drawing on the story, Simpson successfully makes a case for land as
pedagogy. In other words, for a pedagogy in which “[we] learn from the land and with the
land” (Simpson 2014, 7) and in which relationships are not coerced by authoritarian
figures nor curriculums. This is because “relationships within Nishnaabewin are based
upon the informed (honest) consent of all beings involved” (ibid., 15).
Nevertheless, the author warns us that in a more activist/ insurgent notion of pedagogy of
land, this educational strategy could entail defending the land. In the current political
context, this could mean settler colonial “surveillance and violence” (ibid., 19).
Another central issue in this article is the role of indigenous knowledge and
intelligence in the Western academia. The author discusses how in the 1990s there was an
honest concern to “ethically and responsibly bring indigenous knowledge into the
academy” (ibid., 21). Nevertheless, her experiences as an indigenous woman working in
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the Western academia are discouraging as she finds that the academic system fails to
recognize indigenous intelligence and knowledge and it favours Western based
credentials. To counter this phenomenon, she calls the academia to “make a conscious
decision to become a decolonizing force by joining [indigenous peoples] in
dismantling settler colonialism and actively protecting the source of [their] knowledge -
Indigenous land”. However, she affirms to “see no evidence” (ibid., 22) of this occurring
at the present time. Therefore, in a similar vein as Corntassel, she boldly proposes not to
work within the colonial status quo, but to “[w]ithdraw[..] [their] considerable collective
efforts to “Indigenize the academy”, in favor of a resurgence of Indigenous intellectual
systems…” (ibid., 22). In this sense, Simpson sees land as pedagogy as a collective and
individual ‘responsibility’, to use Corntassel’s words. This responsibility requires
indigenous peoples to stop focusing on reforming the academia and to actively pursue
strategies that revitalize their language and reinstitute their connection to the land.
Simpson’s article definitely contributes to the burgeoning academic interest in
indigenous resurgence, as she enhances our understanding of how indigenous education
needs to come through the land (ibid., 9). A minor quibble about this article is that while I
find Simpson’s argument convincing, I am not completely sure if we should entirely
dismiss the Western-style education system. Many argue that as a way to assure
aboriginal cultures and “to escape poverty, they must become better educated”—Western
style educated (Richards 2006, 57). In fact, Simpson acknowledges, “Nishnaabewin did
not and does not prepare children for successful career paths in a hyper capitalistic
system” (Simpson 2014, 23). This raises the question: would youth find themselves in a
further disadvantage educational/professional position in the future if they pursue solely
an indigenous education? Should it be a compromise between these two approaches to
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education where indigenous peoples can use Western pedagogy tools, as Simpson does
herself, to contest the academia from within?
Furthermore, I find Simpson’s demand to the academia to ‘decolonize’ as a vital
step towards a more inclusive and just learning environment. I also concur with
Simpson’s assessment of not seeing evidence of this happening at the university level—
except for specific classes such as this one. As a Colombian woman who is doing her
post-secondary studies in a Western university, I have seen throughout the years how the
Western (white) north American system continues to reproduce systems and values that
advance hegemonic systems of knowledge. Therefore, I think that this thought-provoking
article instils important questions among those students who share similar concerns about
Western learning processes and structures.
Definitely, the way Corntassel and Simpson interweave indigenous stories and
anecdotes, with theory and with their personal experience as indigenous peoples working
in a Western educational setting let them build a solid argument. These stimulating and
very readable articles raise pertinent questions of compelling, interest for non-indigenous
peoples interested in how indigenous peoples are actively contesting the colonial project
and most importantly, to indigenous peoples who are concerned with how to revitalize
their cultures and are willing to re-imagine themselves beyond the colonial state, and
even the Western academia.
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Bibliography
Corntassel, Jeff. (2012), Re-envisioning Resurgence : Indigenous pathways to
decolonization and sustainable self-determination”. Decolonization: Indigeneity,
Education & Society, Vol. 1, No.1, p. 86-101.
Hébert, Martin. (2013), « Les droits des peuples autochtones Rapports avec l’État,
mobilisation des instruments transnationaux de reconnaissance etnouvelles
subjectivités politiques au Mexique et au Canada », In Droits et cultures en
mouvements, sous la dir. De Francine Saillant et Karoline Truchon., p. 61-78,
Québec, Université Laval.
Richards, John. (2006), Creating choices: rethinking aboriginal policy, Toronto, C.D
Howe Institute publications.
Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake. (2014), Land as Pedagogy: Nishnaabeg Intelligence
and Rebellious Transformation”. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education &
Society, Vol. 3, No. 3, p. 1-25.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
Full-text available
Amidst ongoing, contemporary colonialism, this article explores Indigenous pathways to decolonization and resurgence with an emphasis on identifying everyday practices of renewal and responsibility within native communities today. How are decolonization and resurgence interrelated in struggles for Indigenous freedom? By drawing on several comparative examples of resurgence from Cherokees in Kituwah, Lekwungen protection of camas, the Nishnaabe-kwewag "Water Walkers" movement, and Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) revitalization of kalo, this article provides some insights into contemporary decolonization movements. The politics of distraction is operationalized here as a potential threat to Indigenous homelands, cultures and communities, and the harmful aspects of the rights discourse, reconciliation, and resource extraction are identified, discussed, and countered with Indigenous approaches centered on responsibilities, resurgence and relationships. Overall, findings from this research offer theoretical and applied understandings for regenerating Indigenous nationhood and restoring sustainable relationships with Indigenous homelands.
« Les droits des peuples autochtones -Rapports avec l'État, mobilisation des instruments transnationaux de reconnaissance etnouvelles subjectivités politiques au Mexique et au Canada », In Droits et cultures en mouvements, sous la dir
  • Martin Hébert
Hébert, Martin. (2013), « Les droits des peuples autochtones -Rapports avec l'État, mobilisation des instruments transnationaux de reconnaissance etnouvelles subjectivités politiques au Mexique et au Canada », In Droits et cultures en mouvements, sous la dir. De Francine Saillant et Karoline Truchon., p. 61-78, Québec, Université Laval.
Land as Pedagogy: Nishnaabeg Intelligence and Rebellious Transformation
  • Leanne Simpson
  • Betasamosake
Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake. (2014), "Land as Pedagogy: Nishnaabeg Intelligence and Rebellious Transformation". Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, Vol. 3, No. 3, p. 1-25.