Through the 2020-2021 tutorial 12 months, Dr. Luhui Whitebear (Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation), assistant professor at Oregon State College and Middle Director of Kaku-Ixt Mana Ina Haws, dedicated to discovering artistic methods to decolonize the college classroom in a collection of three programs: Introduction to Native American Research, Indigenous Feminisms, and Indigenous Resistance and Pop Tradition. The latter two, she hopes to make everlasting at OSU.
Every class was designed to familiarize college students with the historic and ongoing impacts of settler-colonialism on Indigenous peoples, and the longstanding strategies of resistance Indigenous peoples have practiced and proceed to apply in response to those impacts. Studying targets have been facilitated by having college students contribute to digital, community-based artwork tasks.
“I actually like utilizing artistic tasks as remaining tasks for coursework due to the hands-on studying that occurs with it, and due to the appliance of what you be taught,” stated Whitebear. “It’s completely one among my favourite issues to do, and I feel it’s partially as a result of I work on the middle and I’m used to doing hands-on stuff with the workers by occasions, and so the way in which I train is incorporating a few of that as properly.”
Whereas having to show courses on-line might have eliminated the tactile facet, these tasks nonetheless invited methods for college students to acknowledge and uplift Indigenous struggles as residing histories of intergenerational resilience. Each by these tasks and in written reflections, college students have been capable of discover ways to establish and critique the consequences of settler-colonialism to advocate for change, in addition to have interaction with views which were subjugated, erased, and criminalized for hundreds of years.
Introduction to Native American Research
This Ethnic Research course is meant to introduce college students to Indigenous histories, in addition to to boost consciousness of Indigenous peoples’ present lived experiences and relationships with the U.S.
Below Whitebear’s path, college students needed to create, for his or her remaining project, a web page for a collective arts-based zine that mirrored up to date points being confronted by Indigenous communities. These included federally acknowledged, state acknowledged, and unrecognized Tribes within the U.S.; First Nations communities in Canada; Indigenous communities in Mexico; and Native Hawaiian communities.
“A part of what occurs when educating any sort of Native Research is that individuals will consider us as being prior to now,” stated Whitebear. “So I need individuals to seek out one thing that’s present, not one thing that’s from method again — although all of it ties to colonization.”
The zine covers a spread of points regarding intergenerational traumas of land dispossession, poverty, cultural appropriation, the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls disaster, and pure useful resource extraction.
Just a few college students contributed pages highlighting up to date resistance actions led by Indigenous communities in opposition to extraction and building tasks on lands to which they’ve deeply rooted ancestral and cultural connections.
Throughout North America, Indigenous land defenders and water protectors have been leading the frontlines of direct motion in opposition to fossil gasoline enlargement and useful resource extraction. However greater than that, they’ve been actively confronting additional desecration of ancestral homelands susceptible to being cleared, depleted, polluted, privatized, bulldozed and constructed upon. From the Trans-Pecos pipeline to Fairy Creek to Mauna Kea and past, Indigenous organizers have been chaining themselves to earth-moving tools, establishing camps and blockades, occupying the lobbies of company monetary backers, and so forth. Because of this, they’ve additionally been the most heavily targeted and criminalized inside the local weather justice motion.
But, whereas there may be some rising recognition that supporting Indigenous struggles for sovereignty and decolonization is a key resolution to the local weather disaster, Whitebear famous that there’s not sufficient of a shift happening inside mainstream environmentalism.
“Exterior of issues like Standing Rock, Keystone, or possibly even the LNG project at Jordan Cove right here in Oregon, these are very particular examples that individuals would possibly learn about, however in the event you assume extra broadly about environmental activism as a complete, it’s not all the time taking path from Indigenous peoples,” stated Whitebear. “I feel artwork’s function in centering Indigenous management is to assist increase consciousness and in addition decide how the story [of environmental justice] is offered and instructed.”
On the peak of the #NoDAPL movement at Standing Rock, Oceti Sakowin water protectors have been capable of obtain this partly by re-storying the development of the Dakota Entry Pipeline inside an extended historical past of colonial violence in opposition to historical reciprocal relationships between land, individuals, and lifeways. Their messaging on the sanctity and kinship of water — treasured, lifegiving, and deserving of safety — was knowledgeable by weaving in conventional storytelling and art with up to date direct motion techniques drawn from generations of Indigenous resistance.
“The Black Snake prophecy was actually particular to Tribal communities over there,” stated Whitebear. “It’s serving to recenter their management by bringing in conventional tales in addition to conventional artwork and illustration.”
Cross-listed as a course in Ethnic Research; Queer Research; and Girls, Gender and Sexuality Research, this 300-level particular subjects class launched college students to Indigenous feminist and queer responses to settler-colonialism. Subjects included the longstanding organizing and care Indigenous girls have offered to their communities, in addition to their roles in reclaiming conventional data and identities that settler-colonialism has sought to erase.
“Indigenous girls have all the time had political autonomy and management roles, whether or not or not they have been matriarchal or matrifocal, or in the event that they shared management inside their nations,” stated Whitebear. “Traditionally and in up to date occasions, Indigenous girls have all the time had a powerful presence inside our communities… They usually had a big function in resistance to colonization, so a part of speaking about Indigenous feminisms is bringing these tales to the middle.”
Being on the forefront of such resistance, consequently, has traditionally rendered Indigenous girls targets for violence and exploitation.
“If you consider what occurs round extraction, like temporary housing areas [for male construction workers], the sexual violence in opposition to Indigenous girls and youth basically — not simply women, however Two-Spirit individuals and younger boys, too — is absolutely dangerous,” stated Whitebear. “And I feel that that’s typically been used as a method to assist body these actually deep connections to land and assist us perceive that land and physique exploitation typically go hand in hand. It’s serving to us perceive that not solely is the land or the assets being extracted, and never solely is the water or the land being polluted, however there’s additionally this violence occurring in the direction of Indigenous our bodies on the similar time.”
Whitebear expanded on this extra in an essay featured within the anthology Persistence is Resistance: Celebrating 50 Years of Gender, Girls & Sexuality Research, writing, “The violences in the direction of Indigenous our bodies and lands are intertwined and a part of the settler-colonial paradigm. At its root, Indigenous feminism is about these connections in addition to the methods during which settler-colonialism has inflicted gendered violence on our our bodies and spirits due to who we’re as Indigenous individuals.”
Traditionally, one of the prevalent manifestations of this gendered violence is the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirits, or #MMIWG2S.
“I deliberate on having the category do a Lacking and Murdered Indigenous Girls’s consciousness occasion for campus, maintain it throughout class, and invite the campus and group to that occasion, however the pandemic derailed that,” stated Whitebear. “I ended up having [students] simply do a artistic challenge; it could possibly be a portray, a drawing, a collage, a poem or a tune.”
Utilizing Adobe Spark, Dr. Whitebear assembled all of her college students’ tasks — a mixture of poems and visible artwork — right into a video. One scholar wrote and carried out a tune for his or her project, which could be heard taking part in within the background.
“A part of what I attempt to do at school was to spotlight that this actually tousled stuff is occurring, however that there’s additionally Indigenous girls who’ve completed actually highly effective issues regardless of it, like serving to to revive Tribes, the American Indian Non secular Freedom Act, and Women of All Red Nations,” stated Whitebear. “Indigenous girls have actually performed a distinguished function in acts of resistance and resilience, so I attempted to be actually cautious as a result of what occurs typically is the story of violence turns into the story of Indigenous girls.”
One Indigenous lady whose life and work college students have been capable of find out about was Corvallis-born Kathryn Jones Harrison, former Chairwoman of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde who performed an instrumental function in restoring the Tribes, and whom one among three Corvallis elementary faculties was recently renamed after.
Indigenous Resistance and Pop Tradition
The final iteration of the zine challenge for the tutorial 12 months passed off in spring time period by one other particular subjects class — Ethnic Research 399: Indigenous Resistance and Pop Tradition. Just like Whitebear’s Intro to Native Research class, for his or her remaining project every scholar needed to create a zine web page depicting varied up to date points affecting Indigenous communities. Solely this time, these points needed to be represented using elements of pop culture.
“I’m a popular culture nerd,” stated Whitebear. “I’m actually into Star Wars, I like graphic novels and music, and it’s simply one other solution to inform a narrative.”
Whitebear has expressed optimism within the methods Indigenous individuals have been capable of protect and reclaim their data, cultures, histories and futures by their very own use of popular culture. College students have been capable of see this for themselves by participating with movies, music, on-line video games, graphic novels, avenue artwork, and different artistic media by Indigenous artists.
Graphic novels that college students learn included The Outside Circle by Patti LeBoucane-Benson, 7 Generations: A Plains Cree Saga by David Robertson, and A Girl Called Echo, Vol. 1: Pemmican Wars by Katherena Vermette. Every tells empowering tales of Indigenous protagonists of their struggles to heal from centuries of trauma by studying their histories and reconnecting with their cultural heritages.
“Typically individuals will get actually bummed out studying about Indigenous histories, understandably; I get bummed out about our personal histories. It’s a extremely tough story due to the way in which that settler-colonialism operates, and I really feel like popular culture is one thing that individuals can relate to, and it’s additionally one thing that shapes our experiences and the way we see ourselves becoming into the world,” she stated. “And so having all of this Indigenous music out — and graphic novels, trend, and even movie — has actually allowed Indigenous individuals to inform our tales on our personal phrases as an alternative of being misrepresented in those self same parts.”
One scholar contributed a web page containing a photoshopped picture of the Indian Chief, a racist caricature from Disney’s 1953 animated movie, Peter Pan. On the entrance of the character’s clothes is a collage of a number of the myriad methods during which American popular culture — be it comics, cartoons or commercials — has been weaponized to mock, applicable, and dehumanize Indigenous peoples and cultures. In his shadow, nevertheless, lies a unique — and sometimes hidden — story.
On the foot of his shadow is a collage of black-and-white images depicting longer histories of Indigenous battle, such because the coercive, violent assimilation of Native kids into encroaching settler societies by the residential faculty system. These photos then give solution to coloration images — most of which have been taken inside the previous few years, some even inside the final a number of months — depicting ongoing, revitalized traditions of Indigenous resistance.
“If you consider the function of movie and cartoons and all of the ways in which Indigenous individuals have been exploited and misrepresented, this [project] is sort of a full turnaround on that,” stated Whitebear.
Asa Wright, an enrolled member of the Klamath Tribes in Chiloquin, Oregon, touched on this succinctly in an artist’s assertion for a poster he designed for the #DefundLine3 Arts Visibility Week of Action: “Via artwork we inform our story, hold our historical past and dream of the longer term. It connects us. It mobilizes us. It represents us. Artwork is the visible voice that reveals others that we personal our personal narrative. That we’re robust, resilient, and that we outline our personal future.”
Anishinaabe cultural critic Grace Dillon, an Indigenous Nations Research professor at Portland State College, coined the time period “Indigenous Futurisms” — an homage to Afrofuturism — in reference to a rising motion of Indigenous artists reimagining decolonial histories and futures by fashionable visible storytelling mediums and literary genres.
“[Art] helps visualize one thing that won’t have been considered earlier than,” stated Whitebear. “How can we think about our futures which can be based mostly in Indigenous sovereignty and Indigenous teachings? Artwork offers an entry level to consider that and to really see it occur, whether or not it’s by video video games or by music movies or movie. The entire goal of it’s to assist us assume forward in methods past what we’re present in.”
Persevering with the Work
Whitebear is presently educating Intro to Native Research once more this fall, which could have one other zine challenge that college students will probably be contributing to. Whereas the Pop Tradition and Indigenous Feminisms programs have been particular subjects courses, she hopes to show them once more sooner or later, and plans on making use of for them to be completely on the books at OSU.
As of this 12 months, Whitebear’s function on campus has expanded to Assistant Professor for the College of Language, Tradition, and Society — a place which is able to permit her to advance Indigenous Research at OSU with distinctive experience in Indigenous methodologies, feminisms, and California Indian Research. She can also be persevering with to offer tutorial management to the munk-skukum Indigenous Living-Learning Community — now beginning its second 12 months — members of which have the chance to enroll within the Intro to Native Research course every fall.
“We’re all present in a time the place we are sometimes requested to separate ourselves from feeling and from connecting to studying,” stated Whitebear. “Inventive tasks ask us to really feel, each internally and tangibly, which is one other solution to assume extra deeply with subjects in addition to consider how you can hold these connections going sooner or later. My hope is that college students are capable of take the underlying classes into different elements of their lives past the classroom as properly.”
By Emilie Ratcliff