Aboriginal perspectives I


How do we find shared ethical spaces (Ermine, Sinclair & Jeffery, 2004) to work, and talk, across boundaries? How can I claim, and speak, these ways of knowing?


In my ongoing experience in Canada, communication with plants and animals is normally associated with Aboriginal peoples and cultural practices, not Western academic knowledge-making. Highly politicized discussions around ownership of Aboriginal knowledge (Battiste & Henderson, 2000), concerns about cultural appropriation, and risks of being called an Aboriginal "wannabe" (O'Riley, 2003),* together with limited academic recognition of animist epistemologies (e.g. Harvey, 2006b) and marginalization of spirituality in the academy (Ezzy, 2004; Hurtado, 2003; Rendon, 2000; Shahjahan, 2005), made it difficult to find ways to speak explicitly about the processes I used in this research.


Explicitly speaking of the range of ancient ways of knowing that support an animist ontology seemed to risk not only my standing as a rational academic, but also as a politically appropriate scholar (see Battiste & Henderson, 2000; Kuokkanen, 2006; O'Riley, 2003).


This highly politicized racial context and my hesitancy to speak of things spiritual within the academy may have helped maintain my own autism to the voices of animate Earth just as much as the Cartesian mind/body split (see Bai, 2009). For a long time, I simply spoke more euphemistically of intuition or embodied knowing.


*This is not to discount the long history of appropriation of indigenous knowledges by researchers, as well as inappropriate interpretations of Indigenous cultural practices. See Aboriginal perspectives II and brown skin for an extension of this discussion.