“European views and power create what passes for useful knowledge,” says columnist Antoine Mountain. Antoine Mountain/NNSL photo

Friends, this simple statement, “research is ceremony,” is what first made my Indigenous PhD studies come alive five years ago.

The years since then have given my mantra new meaning, mainly because of the practice and discipline my studies have involved. Not the least of the challenges were the 120 textbooks we had to read.

Still it was Cree scholar, Shawn Wilson, author of Research Is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods, who put it all into scope.

Coming from a traditional Dene background and an upbringing on the land, I also know that in order to succeed, you need to know your tools and how to use them.

Research Is Ceremony advances the idea that as First Nations peoples, the reason our cultures have survived for over 30,000 years is that we already have an ethical background.

Exchange that Mola, European word for tradition and we now come understand how protocol, or the right approach, governs paradigms and systems of knowing.
The Chippewa way of thinking tells us “our knowledge is not primitive,” but has been made so by colonial forces.

European views and power create what passes for useful knowledge.

Another major concern of Indigenous research usually involves what academia calls axiology, which is how research or knowledge systems can be made valuable to communities.

The last and arguably most important of all is ontology, which is the nature of being. What this all means. Spirituality.

In the case of the future of education, Anishinaabe scholar Leanne Simpson comes the closest to where we are headed. She argues that those of us who still know and practice traditional skills are the most educated.

Again, the practice of culture, not just talking about it, is at the source of Dene knowledge.
Ceremony, in this case, is to avoid the Hollywood version – going in there for the flash and bang of it.

Rather, you follow along as best you can, from one step to the next, learning as you go.
Coming to the end, take what you have learned and use it to help carry on with your life.

In terms of Northern education, I do know that we’ve already intentionally put ourselves in the back seat of all of the choices available by limiting ourselves to a polytechnic Northern university, rather than one that stresses academics and policy-making.

We have chosen temporary jobs, not careers, for our youth. For the time being, though, I’ve also included one of my paintings, to show the meaning of the phrase, “research is ceremony.”

Mahsi, thank you.

Antoine Mountain

Antoine Mountain is a Dene artist and writer originally from Radilih Koe/Fort Good Hope. He can be reached at www.mountainarts.com.

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