Friends, I have been at these Indigenous PhD Studies now for a number of years, with finally a little light at the end of the academic tunnel!
The hardest part by far, my comprehensive examinations, is now over and done with. This involves an intimate and verified understanding of a total volume of 120 textbooks, with supporting materials.
PhD students uniformly dread these tests, some even getting physically ill in the taking.
One added feature to my future studies turns out as a result of my outright challenging my school, Trent U, to allow more of an Indigenous approach.
Another colleague who has done just that is Tlicho student Celine Vukson, whose older brother, George Mackenzie, happens to be the Tribal Chair of the Tlicho Grand Council.
I my case I have always pointed out to academia that we Indigenous peoples first learn by seeing and doing. Even a verbal explanation comes later, after you’ve proven you know how to do the simplest things, like starting a fire, getting the right kind of snow for tea and on.
At this point I’ve been asked to work with my school to come up with a new approach to working with community.
It helps that I have been at this for over a decade now and over the last few years right in my home of Radelie Koe, Fort Good Hope.
I’ve always found that our people relate best with things they can see and/or be directly involved with.
The last of the good number of murals I’ve worked on with the Elders, community members and especially the Youth is a Cancer Victims Memorial Mural, with a total of 45 names of our people on it, who’ve succumbed to the dreaded disease.
We still have to do what we can with the cancer, but for now my part of it will include a request, for our young people to understand more of our Dene culture.
One example is our traditional Dene gravedigging practices.
There is much more than simply digging a hole in the ground and putting a body in it, to our way of thinking.
It is one way in which our culture keeps itself together, and for my ongoing research, to add to tradition of education.
Mahsi, thank you.