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Is resistance enough? Reflections of identity, politics, and relations in the “in-between” spaces of Indigeneity and settlerhood

Abstract

This article explores the intersectional identities of Indigenous peoples who may walk the path “in-between” Indigenous and settler nationhood, and the implications that reside in that ethically ambiguous space. Employing the use of personal narrative, poetry, ¹ and decolonizing perspectives, this work positions identity as a politicized construct that continues to surveil Indigenous bodies, marking them as threats to settler advancement. This article asks questions around what it means to be Indigenous in a time of social unrest, when your life is marked by colonial interference but your skin is not; is resisting colonialism enough to create spaces for all Indigenous peoples to thrive?
https://doi.org/10.1177/1177180119878239
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Is existence enough?
When we are defined by your hatred,
Never remembered by what makes us sacred
When our bodies are yours to do as you will
And our waters are yours to bottle and spill
Our wombs never fill
It is our future you kill
I think of the ways that my life has been marred by inter-
sections, of perceptions that are not my own, and experi-
ences that I can touch but not fully hold. I have wandered
the spaces “in-between”, in a dance of belonging and dis-
connect. I am continuously afflicted. Ashamed of my colour
for its likeness to whiteness. Clutching my status card2 as a
badge of authenticity, because blood quantum works so far
as to legitimate your identity. For me, Indigeneity is a
choice, or so I am told. I am able to walk in a way that does
not outwardly mark me as native, and in this there is safety.
My features exoticize me only as a slight deviance from
normality, but not quite enough to mark my heredity.
I wonder what is better said by someone with darker
skin, with longer hair, fancier earrings, or a more impres-
sive bundle. How can I ever be an example of Indigenous
experience when I will never dream in the language of my
Kookum, or live with the river where much of my family
lives? These waterways and lands are teachers I will never
fully know. Understanding my connections to land,
ancestry, and my place within the world has always been a
laboursome endeavour. As a white-passing Anishinaabekwe,
identity is a complex negotiation of culture, race, and privi-
lege. Passing for white in the context of settler colonialism
necessitates a critical engagement with both the conse-
quences and responsibilities of Black and Indigenous sub-
jugation (Perkins, 2004). This is the “in-between” space of
Indigenous and settler nationhood, an ambiguous place of
ethical perplexity in which relationships are layered with
both longing and disdain. It is a politicized territory that is
often overlooked within the binary of colonizer/coloni-
zed, Black/White, Indigenous/settler. This article seeks to
unpack the complexity of mixed Indigenous identity in the
context of solidarity movements seeking to resist settler-
colonialism and understand the spaces of ambiguous
political and personal responsibilities that result from the
in-between spaces this creates. I speak from my experience
as a white-passing Anishinaabekwe in a Canadian urban
context and recognize that I cannot represent anyone but
myself. I do, however, feel there may be similar experi-
ences in other settler-colonial environments and although I
may not have much to offer, I can at least extend a piece of
my heart for you to know you are not alone.
Is resistance enough? Reflections of
identity, politics, and relations in the
“in-between” spaces of indigeneity
and settlerhood
Nicole Ineese-Nash
Abstract
This article explores the intersectional identities of Indigenous peoples who may walk the path “in-between” Indigenous
and settler nationhood, and the implications that reside in that ethically ambiguous space. Employing the use of personal
narrative, poetry,1 and decolonizing perspectives, this work positions identity as a politicized construct that continues
to surveil Indigenous bodies, marking them as threats to settler advancement. This article asks questions around what it
means to be Indigenous in a time of social unrest, when your life is marked by colonial interference but your skin is not;
is resisting colonialism enough to create spaces for all Indigenous peoples to thrive?
Keywords
identity politics, Indigenous studies, Indigenous intersectionality, decolonizing perspectives, Anishinaabe, narrative,
poetry, nationhood
University of Toronto, Canada
Corresponding author:
Nicole Ineese-Nash, University of Toronto, 448 Clinton Street,
Toronto, ON M6G 2Z2, Canada.
Email: nicole.ineesenash@gmail.com
878239ALN0010.1177/1177180119878239AlterNativeIneese-Nash
research-article2019
Article
2 AlterNative 00(0)
Nationhood within settler colonial
states
When your blood is “red,”
But your skin is white
How do you reconcile what you feel inside?
Identity is a complex construct to define in any political
climate, but even moreso in a context where identity and
nationhood have been purposefully attacked through pol-
icy. Indigeneity is often defined as a genealogical connec-
tion to the original inhabitants of place, or to those who
were inhabiting land when colonizers arrived (Alfred &
Corntassel, 2005). Indigenous peoples, however, have dif-
fering definitions of themselves based on place-based his-
tories and cultural membership. Through colonial acts,
Indigeneity has come to be systematically defined by the
colonizer (Alfred & Corntassel, 2005). In Canada, the
Indian Act has had a pivotal role in the construction of
the Indian and the ways we hold relation to the rest of the
Canadian state (Lawrence, 2003). The Indian Act has
defined Indigenous peoples in such ways as to monitor
and control their progression as self-sovereign peoples
(Lawrence, 2004). The Indian status system has been used
as a means to measure Indigenous blood quantum to end
subsequent generations of Indigenous peoples (Palmater,
2011). Indigenous nations were given status to designate
them as a separate citizenship category within the nation
state of Canada, with multiple mechanisms to slowly
remove status Indian as a designation (Wolfe, 2006).
Indigenous women in particular have faced ongoing threats
to their claims to Indigenous membership through Bill
C-31, which would remove women’s status in the instance
of cross-cultural marriage (Lawrence, 2003). Subsequent
generations would, therefore, not have claim to status nor
the provisions promised to Indigenous nations within treaty
agreements. These policies have defined Indigeneity in
terms of blood quantum rather than community member-
ship and relationship to place (Palmater, 2011).
In Canada, The Indian Act documented Indigenous bod-
ies to displace and organize them into societies replicating
imperial structures (Cannon, 2007). In many areas where
early treaties were signed, Canadian commissioners denoted
male authoritarians to represent communities, which dis-
rupted traditional governance structures (Voyageur, 2011).
In many traditional Anishinaabe communities, leaders
emerged through recognition of individual contributions
towards collective wellbeing (Kenny, 2012). That is to say
that no one person was an authority over others, but that
they were respected for the decisions they could make for
the community as a whole. Leadership may have emerged
through the development and sharing of skills that supported
community survival, or gifts that helped community wellbe-
ing (Flocken, 2013). In many cases, a community would
have many different leaders who hold expertise in various
aspects of community life (Rosile, Boje, & Claw, 2018).
Collective decision-making processes allowed for wholistic
interpretations of events and the integration of traditional,
historical, and land-based knowledge (Flocken, 2013). The
Indian Act and resulting Band Council system has largely
erased traditional governance models to appease Canadian
government structures (Crosby & Monaghan, 2012). These
tactics serve as a means to end Indigenous futurity in lands
deemed valuable for colonial progression (Tuck & Yang,
2012).
For many Indigenous peoples, nationhood is less rooted
in upholding colonial politics of recognition and owner-
ship, but rather as a fundamental value system seeped in
cultural perspectives (Corntassel, 2012). Anishinaabe chil-
dren are thought to be brought to communities as gifts from
Creation to bring teachings to the community (Ineese-Nash,
Bomberry, Underwood, & Hache, 2018). Each individual is
thus held in high regard for the value they bring to the col-
lective and has position and responsibility based on the
gifts they hold. Belonging is fostered through interfamilial
and clan (in certain cultures) relationships and connections
to culture, ancestry, and land. Indigenous pedagogies centre
identity formation from early childhood through the life
cycle (Greenwood, 2006). Nationhood is at the core of
Indigenous value systems but vary from nation state defini-
tions which are premised on hegemonic structures (Yerxa,
2014). Indigenous nationhood has also evolved in response
to colonial violence, in that Indigenous nationality has
become a counterculture of sorts that seeks to resist colo-
nial constructions of normative lifeways. But is resisting
coloniality enough to define us in our entireties?
Is resistance enough?
When you strip us of dignity
Removing our agency
To live as we ought to be
When your fuel is bigotry
And ours is love,
Can I ever convince you that we are enough?
Identity in the in-between
Indigenous identities are intersectional, variable, and
complex, formed through the experiences and discourses
prevalent in people’s lives (Restoule, 2008). The trajectory
of identity development of Indigenous peoples has been
fractured through cultural genocide, land dispossession,
and ongoing colonial assimilation tactics. Growing up
Indigenous, whether in an urban or reserve context, is a
complicated path of reclamation, reconnection, and recov-
ery (Restoule, 2008). We are collectively healing from the
impact of colonization, and in this process, we are discover-
ing who we are as Indigenous peoples in relation to settler-
colonialism. Our lives are marked as threats to coloniality,
and our knowledge regarded as a means to ease settler guilt
(Tuck & Yang, 2012). But is this all that we are?
How can we be
Not in-between
Ineese-Nash 3
Not parts of wholes
Or holes of genes?
How can we breathe
Not of defeat
Futurities
In ourselves complete?
A not-so-unique example
My Kookum (great-grandmother) comes from a place
known as Mammamattawa, the place where the rivers
meet, where she lived for most of her early life. Our fam-
ily comes from a long-line of Cree trappers, and the com-
munity there was sustained through this traditional
economy until it became a hub for fur trading (Constance
Lake First Nation (CLFN), 2018). At the time of Treaty
signing in 1905,3 there were roughly 85 people occupying
the territory and were categorized as members of the
Albany Band (Long, 2010). Our community members
were not part of treaty signing directly but were desig-
nated lands near the trade post, to be governed by mem-
bers of the Albany Band (Long, 2010). We did not have
our own chief until 1921 (CLFN, 2018). Shortly after,
many community members of Mammamattawa, Fort
Albany, and Moose Factory began migrating south for
employment opportunities largely through the logging
corporations, fur trade, and Canadian railway system. By
1940, most of the members of Mammamattawa had relo-
cated to Pagwa and were therefore recategorized by Indian
Affairs as a new Oji-Cree community and designated new
lands near Constance Lake, where much of my family cur-
rently lives (CLFN, 2018).
My Kookum was a strong Cree woman. She held her
language and her knowledge of the land until her death at
over 100 years old. She was the source of knowledge for
our family, of a time not defined by the reserve but of the
land. She protected our family from some of the most dev-
astating impacts of colonization, taking her children to the
trapline when Indian agents would try to take all the chil-
dren to residential school. But there were other assailants
lurking that would slowly deteriorate our connections to
our lineage and our homeland. When my grandmother was
10 years old, she became very ill with Tuberculosis and
spent 2 years recovering in and out of hospital in Toronto.
During this time, she lost much of her language and culture
and returned home as a different person. She in turn had a
difficult life, defined by the misery of reserve life rather
than the traditional knowledges Kookum carried.
My mother was born the first daughter of my grandmother
and a French lumber mill owner. Shortly after she was born,
the two parted ways, and my grandmother had eight more
children with a native man, who I consider my grandfather.
My mother speaks of her childhood in flashes of pain and
disconnect. For most of my early life, this is all I knew of our
reserve, the misery that seeps into the bones of your being.
My mother left “home” at the age of 16, hitchhiking to
Toronto to escape the darkness she felt. But the pain and
anger followed. By the time she had me, as her fourth child,
she was tired and overburdened by the task of figuring out
who she was supposed to be. To save me from this fate, she
told me that it was easier being White. With no relation to my
European family, this was easier said than done.
I have spent much of my adult life trying to reconnect
the severed lines between me and all my relations. I have
felt unwelcome in certain spaces based on my appearance
and manner of walking through the world, largely by my
own family. I have also been granted many opportunities
for growth, life, and love, both within the Indigenous com-
munity and with non-Indigenous folks. Is Indigeneity
something that can be so easily switched on or off? Growing
up as white passing in an urban context has provided me
with countless privileges of which I am eternally grateful
for. Yet, this did not safeguard me from the statistical reali-
ties of my existence. I too suffered intergenerational and
firsthand trauma. I too was removed from my home through
child welfare policy. I too was discriminated against
because of my culture and forced to assimilate to a colonial
system. These are the mechanics of settler-colonialism that
does not necessitate full-blood quantum. These are the
ongoing processes that seek to destroy even me.
My life has been structured by colonial systems. My
lineage comes from a place that helped sustain my ances-
tors for millenia, while also supporting settler advance-
ment. My family has helped preserve land and knowledge
as well as disrupt it. Within my own life, I have fit into
nearly every stereotypical description of a Native life, yet
I am not always recognized as authentic. I feel wary in
ceremonial spaces, as though I am a fraud. I feel a longing
for knowledge that has been absent from my life, my
mothers, and my grandmothers. And at the same time, I
wonder if this knowledge is for me. Is there something
within me that is seeking something I cannot fully know?
Perhaps there is something different for me to understand,
another space I need to walk in, and another set of respon-
sibilities to carry altogether.
Identity and spirit
Identity is not only an expression of genealogy or experi-
ence, but it is also an outward representation of spirit
(Absolon, 2010). Indigenous nations hold complex under-
standings and spiritual beliefs of the origins of our people
which vary culturally and shape the ways we live (Watts,
2017). For me, spirituality has provided a mechanism to
understand my experience as part of something greater than
myself. But even spiritual connection is difficult when your
connections to peoples and places have been made invisi-
ble. I have been honoured to receive teachings from Elders
and traditional knowledge holders that have helped shape
my commitment towards answering the difficult questions
about my position and responsibilities. My spirit name and
clan membership have been some of the ways I have been
able to feel recognized as an Anishinaabe person, and to
centre my own life towards the progression of Indigenous
resurgence and decolonization. From this orientation, I am
able to connect with Creation in a way that is personal and
non-discriminatory. As many Elders have told me, Creator
does not make mistakes, and therefore connecting with
4 AlterNative 00(0)
spirituality may be an entry point into formulating identity
that is less political and more personal in nature.
Mixed-ancestry in the reconciliation era
Indigenous identity within the political context of settler-
colonialism has become popularized through Canada’s
renewed commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peo-
ples (Manuel & Derrickson, 2017). The Truth and
Reconciliation of Canada (TRC) has sought to gather stories
of Indigenous peoples across Canada in their experiences
with the Indian Residential School system to identify ways to
repair the relationships between Canadians and Indigenous
nations (Nagy, 2014). While the wide dissemination of the
information has been helpful in increasing awareness of
Indigenous experiences of colonization, the uptake of the
reconciliation agenda has largely overshadowed truth-telling
and accountability (Manuel & Derrickson, 2017). Mixed-
ancestry within the context of reconciliation can be difficult
to navigate, as the push for Indigenization becomes more
prominent in colonial institutions (Ottmann, 2013). Who has
voice in the decision-making processes of reconciliation is
an important consideration when Indigenous perspectives
have largely been absent from these conversations. Are
white-passing Indigenous peoples being honoured for their
Indigeneity and community membership or are they merely
used as an easier way to achieve reconciliation?
Reconciliation may be a place for Indigenous peoples to
walk the in-between in ways that honour their experiences
and positionalities. For myself, I have been recognized by
elders as holding particular privileges to be used to benefit
those who do not have the same access. In this, I seek ways
to push the boundaries of colonial institutions to make space
for Indigenous peoples that are authentic and meaningful,
centred on relationship and accountability. In recognizing
my ability to walk in both an Indigenous and non-Indige-
nous world, I have been asked to bring Indigenous knowl-
edge into non-Indigenous places as to make these sites less
harmful for all Indigenous peoples. In this way, I use my
whiteness as a point of leverage to support my Indigenous
brothers and sisters who may not be invited and enable them
to be heard. This, however, can lead to dichotomous identi-
ties for Indigenous peoples who are put into potentially hos-
tile situations and marked as collaborators of the colonial
regime. Not all Indigenous peoples want to be part of colo-
nial structures and as Indigenous peoples in the in-between,
we need to make choices about how far we will go in any
particular direction.
Indigenous knowledge: implications
for the path forward
Indigenous knowledge shapes who we are as Indigenous
peoples and the ways we navigate the world (Battiste,
2011). This knowledge comes through our blood memory,
spiritual connection, and direct instruction (Battiste, 2008).
For those along the path in-between Indigeneity and Settler,
knowledge becomes integral to our definitions of ourselves
(Wilson, 2008).
Commodification and cultural elitism
Not all Indigenous peoples have access to cultural knowl-
edge and the commodification of Indigenous knowledge
has enforced hierarchical structures of knowledge trans-
mission (Battiste, 2008). While many acknowledge the cul-
tural elitism that exists in colonial discourses of Indigenous
peoples, there is not often a conversation of the elitism that
occurs within Indigenous communities themselves. Cultural
knowledge is the source of our nationhood, our ability to
survive, and our way of maintaining our connections to our
web of relations (Simpson, 2017). However, the regulation
of cultural practice through colonial policy has impacted
the transmission of this knowledge to subsequent genera-
tions. Those with cultural knowledge have always been
highly regarded, but this has been amplified by capitalism,
creating structures of knowledge transmission that are less
relationship based. What does this mean for Indigenous
youth in communities who cannot afford to bring in cultural
teachers, or urban Indigenous peoples who are underem-
ployed or homeless? Even if one can afford to access a
knowledge holder, how does the commodification of these
gifts change the nature of their teachings?
Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island are in a collec-
tive reclamation process wherein we are asserting our right
to cultural knowledge (Corntassel, 2012). For some, the
lack of cultural understanding has fostered feelings of
shame and hindered our ability to identify as we wish to.
Reclaiming culture within the context of settler colonialism
can be difficult to all Indigenous peoples, but particularly
challenging for intersectional bodies that do not seem to fit
into the normative understanding of Indigeneity. Identity-
based discrimination occurs within Indigenous community
and has done harm to those who seek community member-
ship. This leads to the prioritizing of certain bodies and
knowledges and the subjugation of others. All Indigenous
peoples have a right to access and practice their culture
(United Nations General Assembly, 2007). Cultivating
spaces of co-resistance in which intersectional identities
can be honoured with equal regard is a means to ensure
equitable access to culture and community for all peoples
(Simpson, 2016).
Centering land as knowledge and identity
Land relationships have been at the core of Indigenous
identities, cultural practices, and governance structures for
millenia (Styres, 2011). But our connection to traditional
territory has been impacted through the regulation of
Indigenous lands and bodies. How can Indigenous peoples
understand where they come from and who they are when
in many cases, these distinctions are not so clear? How will
these land knowledges change in response to global climate
change and resource development? As an Indigenous per-
son, I have always known there was more to my lineage
than the place designated by government sanctions. There
is more to community membership than simply the place
names on our registration forms. There are teachings under-
neath the surface of our lakes, along our trails, and in our
skies. Land is a teacher that can provide the intervention on
Ineese-Nash 5
the ambiguities of the in-between (Styres, Haig-Brown, &
Blimkie, 2013). Land serves as a nurturer to all, and asks
only for us to practice gratitude and respect in exchange.
Entering into reciprocal land relations enables us to learn
more about ourselves, our nations, and our humanity:
Aki
Calls to me
To see
What is underneath
I breathe
Her in my dreams
She sees
All of me
All humans belong to land. We are the products of
Creation, originating from the stars in the sky world and
birthed through the waters of our mothers. And yet, our
societies have premised themselves on the appropriation of
land and all she holds. Settler-colonialism is rooted in land
ownership and control (Tuck & Yang, 2012). Decolonizing
our identities necessitates an understanding of our rooted-
ness to earth, not defined by reservation boundaries, con-
federate borders, or constituted nation states (Corntassel,
2012). Centering relationships to land allows us to engage
in ways that foster our connections to each other, to non-
humans, to present, past, and future relations (McGuire-
Kishebakabaykwe, 2010). Land knowledge has much to
teach us not only about traditional Indigenous lifeways, but
also of futurities in which place serves as a mechanism for
growth, connection, and learning (Tuck, McKenzie, &
McCoy, 2014). Do these connections need to be localized
to hereditary lands and waterways? What connections can
we maintain to urban environments or international places
where we may also feel cultural ties? Perhaps there is con-
nection in the landless places, or the places of virtual com-
munity wherein peoples are able to truly be themselves.
Centering land as our holders of knowledge in terms of our
identities does not always mean being on the land in the
traditional sense, but tracing our lives through cartographies
of experience to respect the memory and understanding the
place brings to our everyday lives. This enables us to hold
our own understandings of self as intersectional Indigenous
peoples while honouring local expertise and protocol.
Self-determination and the politicized body
Identifying as Indigenous is a political act (Coulthard,
2007). Indigenous bodies and minds are politicized insofar
that they discredit settler claims to authority. Settler coloni-
alism seeks to erase Indigeneity from lands deemed valua-
ble for exploitation, and in so doing, assume dominion over
the nation state (Tuck & Yang, 2012). Indigenous survival
and resurgence negates settler discourses of Terra Nullius
(Watson, 2014). Our resistance to colonial mechanisms of
erasure, genocide, and assimilation have redefined our
identities as not only Indigenous but also a direct adversary
to colonial advancement which has shaped our responsibili-
ties to our nations and settlers alike (Sharma & Wright,
2008). Indigenous nations hold the inherent right to self-
determination, and the ability to govern and make decisions
for the futures of our communities and life ways (Corntassel,
2008). Indigenous self-identification holds political weight
and marks your body as a threat to coloniality (Blackburn,
2009). For white-passing or intersectional Indigenous peo-
ples, this may feel like an onerous task to take on when we
are unsure of our lineage or our place within the political
landscape of settler-Indigenous relations (Paradies, 2016).
Self-determination extends to the ways in which we
choose to manifest our destinies as Indigenous peoples and
our ability to navigate the between differing political contexts
of Indigenous and settler nationhood (Corntassel, 2008).
Identifying as Indigenous is not only a statement of commu-
nity membership or of heredity, but it is also the practice of
cultural lifeways and orientation towards Indigenous value
systems (Simpson, 2017). Being Indigenous in contemporary
settler states is a commitment towards living with Indigenous
knowledge embedded in everyday practice, even when daily
life is seeped in coloniality. Self-determination within the
politics of identity requires informed decision-making, built
on an ongoing process of decolonial and Indigenous learn-
ing (Corntassel, 2012). To be Indigenous means to live
Indigenous, and to live Indigenous requires Indigenous
knowledge and thought. Many white-passing Indi genous
people do not have the same access to cultural learning oppor-
tunities as their full-blooded kin, which can lead to frag-
mented identities and cultural disconnect (Downey, 2017).
Cultural identity can be a source of resilience and pride for
all Indigenous peoples (McGuire-Kishebakabaykwe, 2010),
but not when the spaces in which cultural knowledge is
taught is discriminatory or divisive of lived experiences.
Decolonization of the self and the
politics of identity
Indigenous peoples have carried the responsibility of preserv-
ing cultural practice and knowledge in opposition to a state
system that has sought to erase them (Battiste, 2011; Smith,
2013). However, Indigenous nations have also learned behav-
iours that replicate imperial structures of knowledge com-
modification and identity-based discrimination (Bombay,
Matheson, & Anisman, 2014). There is thus a need for a
decolonizing practice for both Indigenous and settler peoples
to frame Indigenous identity as the complex construct that it
is, informed by pluri-cultural contexts, varying ties to land,
and lived experiences of Indigenous peoples. Decolonization
requires the explication of colonial structures that have
become embedded in the fabric of our societies and seeking
ways to dismantle them (Tuck & Yang, 2012). Understanding
how we (Indigenous peoples alike) have been colonized
allows us to seek ways to challenge ourselves in lessening our
colonial influence onto others, and recognizing our diverse
identities and experiences. Indigenous identity is not a univer-
sal concept, nor is it wholly defined by colonialism or
6 AlterNative 00(0)
tradition; Indigenous identity is the ongoing existence of
Indigeneity that extends beyond what we know or can pre-
dict, evolving as we collectively learn more about ourselves
and find ways to continue on.
Ethical responsibilities for mixed-ancestry
indigenous peoples
Being Indigenous does not absolve us of political and
social responsibility to our nations, communities, or the
settler-state. In fact, mixed-Indigenous peoples hold a
plethora of ethical responsibilities that can seem daunting,
ambiguous, and impossible. Oftentimes, we are navigat-
ing the structures of colonialism in isolation from our
families, communities, and nations. It can therefore seem
easier to conform to these systems rather than resist colo-
niality at every turn. We are however here for something
greater. Indigenous leaders and scholars have spoken of
this time in political history as a pivotal moment in the
restoration of Indigenous lifeways (Simpson, 2008). We
are uniquely positioned to bring Indigenous knowledge to
its next state of being, wherein Indigenous peoples know
themselves, their cultures, and their languages (Simpson,
2008). But we must tread carefully along this path, as the
steps we must take are not so clear. We must walk a path
that honours our ancestors and our kin yet to come, in
acknowledging the complexity of each experience and
knowledge system. We must be careful to respect tradi-
tional knowledge as something to be shared but not com-
modified or appropriated. And we must also seek ways to
make the colonial structures less harmful to Indigenous
peoples to come. At the same time, we must honour our-
selves, our gifts, our knowledges, our clan responsibili-
ties, our spiritual destinies, and our community priorities.
In everything we do, we must do it in a good way.
Finding connection at the intersections
I have made a commitment in my life to honour my
Anishinaabe lineage by engaging in continual critical
reflection of my identity and my practice. I seek ways to
embed myself in culture not for the novelty of this experi-
ence, but to engage in healing for myself, my mother, and
my grandmother. In this pursuit, I know I am not alone. I
know there are other Indigenous people who are attending
their first ceremony, dancing at their first pow wow, or
receiving their spirit name for the first time. In this experi-
ence, I think there is connection, solidarity, and new ways
of nation building. It is at the place of unknowing that we
can begin to challenge our nations and ourselves to remem-
ber what it means to invite inclusion and reciprocity into
our lives. It is at the intersection of Indigeneity and settler-
nationhood that we can truly define what decolonization
could look like, both at an individual and systemic level.
Connection is what has enabled Indigenous peoples to per-
severe through colonial tactics of genocide, and it will be
what brings us into a new assemblage of being, one which
does not measure Indigeneity through blood tests or num-
ber of protests attended:
We are always enough
Slowly awakened
Resolve never shaken
All of us sacred
We will overcome
All that is fated
Our lineage braided
As we were created
We will never be the Indians you love to inspect
Nor will we be complacent in your rife disrespect
In this time of unrest, we have much to protect
Our futures are ours to define and direct
Conclusion
Identity, membership, belonging, and affect are parts of
Indigenous experience that are not often spoken of in aca-
demic spaces. Nor do interrogate the mechanics and com-
plexities of variance within Indigenous identities. As an
Indigenous scholar and educator, I have found the lack of
discourse of experiences I hold to be troublesome in ways
that have hindered my ability to connect with other
Indigenous peoples who may walk the path “in-between”
Indigenous and settler nationhood. There are considera-
ble implications residing in the ethically ambiguous
spaces in which Indigenous peoples navigate, which
require critical orientations towards decolonization and
Indigenous knowledge systems. For many, this also
means engaging in critical self-inquiry about our learned
behaviours and understandings. This article asks ques-
tions around what it means to be Indigenous in a political
climate that seeks to extract Indigenous knowledge for
colonial gain. What does it mean to have connection with
people and places outside of the Indigenous community
and how do we centre all our relations in our everyday
lives? How can we move away from the dichotomization
of identity wherein certain peoples may participate in
communities as their whole selves?
There are more questions than answers here and I
wonder if that is the point of inquiry from an Indigenous
perspective. I can only know my own experience. I need
these connections to formulate answers to the questions
I do not yet know I want answered. And rather than pre-
tending I can walk in two worlds at once, I need to rec-
oncile within myself what it means to be Anishinaabe,
European, a scholar, a poet, an artist, a woman, and an
urbanite all at once. I cannot be compartmentalized.
And so I will continue to wonder what is left said by
someone else, but at least now that what I say, I say
from the heart.
Ineese-Nash 7
Acknowledgements
I wish to acknowledge my community of Constance Lake First
Nation for the support and partnership in multiple research pro-
jects and capacities.
Declaration of conflicting interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with
respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this
article.
Funding
The author(s) received no financial support for the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
ORCID iD
Nicole Ineese-Nash https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4024-9703
Notes
1. All poetry within this article are written by the author
(N.I.-N.).
2. A Certificate of Indian Status is a legal document in Canada
which denotes registry of persons as Indian under the Indian
Act, a federal legislation determining jurisdiction over
Indigenous peoples in Canada.
3. This treaty was part of the numbered treaties, a nationwide
legislation of land use in Canada which continues to deter-
mine Indigenous movement and access to territory (see Long,
2010)
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