brown skin?

 

In some instances, I couldn't help feeling that it might have been much easier for me to say some of the things I have in this dissertation if I had brown skin,* or could claim Aboriginal ancestry (a political term), since many of the ways of knowing I was engaging are much more commonly discussed among Aboriginal peoples (Shauneen Pete, personal communication, May, 2006, 2007; Aboriginal Elder, personal communication, May, 2007). This is not, however, to negate the continued colonialization of Aboriginal peoples, their marginalization within (and outside of) the academy (Tuhiwai-Smith, 1999; Battiste & Henderson, 2000), and the frequent exploitations of their knowledges for the benefit of academics, anthropologists, and field of medicine (see Battiste & Henderson, 2000; Price, 2005; Tuhiwai-Smith, 1999). Nor does it assume that Aboriginal scholars have the same access to the many privileges I have as a white woman academic working in the field of education. What I am suggesting, however, is that it may have felt less weird, and just perhaps, easier to know where to seek corroboration. Who do I talk with? And how will I be received?

 

Once I finished the writing of the dissertation and moved to teach at the University of Saskatchewan, I gave myself permission to delve into many conversations with, and readings by, Aboriginal peoples. I had already done much of my personal "homework" to move beyond what Kuokkanen (2003) refers to as "epistemological ignorance" (n.p.) and arrive at ways of knowing that I could claim to be my own.

 

In many of the conversations, the ways of knowing I was engaging in were normalized. I was also reassured that they were not specifically Aboriginal qualities, but rather were universally shared by all humans. Yet in many instances, these ways of knowing, and the world views that accompany them, have been either put or pushed aside in favour of conceptual reasoned consciousness (see Bai, 2009) and dominant Western scientific views. The point is that neither way of knowing is more valuable than the other, but like the men who each viewed a different part of the elephant, each provides different kinds of information, perspectives, and insight.

 

*I would like to express gratitude to colleagues Marie Battiste, Rita Bouvier, Malvina Iron and Yvonne Vizina for their openness and sensitivity in these conversations.