SSHRCC Insight Grant (2017-2023)
Role: Principal Investigator Complex Sovereignties: Theory and Practice of Indigenous-Self Determination in Settler States and the International System”
DESCRIPTION: In April, 2017, I obtained a five year Insight Grant. This project (with me as Principal Investigator and Sheryl Lightfoot as Co-Applicant) seeks to conceptualize Indigenous Peoples’ rights to self-determination in new, creative and innovative ways, which fully respect Indigenous laws, traditions, and nation-to-nation relationships with settler governments. Scholarly debates in the Indigenous rights, politics, and law literatures focus attention on whether the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples advances Indigenous rights, or constitutes a form of assimilation and subjugation. This project sheds light on how Indigenous political actors in Canada, Aotearoa New Zealand, USA, and Nordic countries, are advancing self-determination in practice with, within, and across the borders of states, while navigating the international system, in assertive, maximal, innovative, and peaceful ways. Our research aims to inform both the theoretical development of self-determination and policy decisions, building on literature documenting the history of Indigenous diplomacy and trade. We will also problematize methods by which states are resisting or acceding to these efforts, given the history of settler state suppression of Indigenous rights. We plan to explore distinct, but overlapping and complementary, forms of self-determining practice, including passports, independent trade or diplomatic missions, involvement in elements of state external sovereignty, treaty relations, territorial and economic self-determination, pooled sovereignty, global organizing beyond the state, and the rebuilding and assertion of nationhood.
SSHRCC Insight Grant (2013-2018)
Role: Principal Investigator “Aboriginal-Settler Bi-Nationalism as a form of Reconciliation within a Multicultural context: Can a New Zealand model of Power"
DESCRIPTION Hidden in plain sight, Aboriginal peoples are one of the fastest growing groups in Canada, yet their contributions have been marginalized politically and culturally in national life. It is undeniable that Aboriginal peoples face serious power imbalances relative to settler Canadians, due to the intergenerational effects of legalized discrimination, alienation from ancestral lands, abuse in Indian Residential Schools (IRS), inordinate rates of incarceration, poverty, social exclusion, and other systemic challenges. Those conducting research with Aboriginal peoples are well aware of broken relationships and fractured communities created by the IRS system, but are equally cognizant of the potential of Aboriginal traditional systems and ways of knowing to engender a more vibrant and dynamic society for all of us. There is movement towards improving Aboriginal-settler relationships through reconciliation, a term with multiple interpretations. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) observes that reconciliation may take seven generations, but has chosen to focus on shorter term reconciliation between Survivors, Aboriginal families and communities, with an emphasis on their healing journeys. Complementing the TRC, a longer term vision of reconciliation, epitomized through seven generations teaching, could potentially channel Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal energies towards a better, shared future. One (albeit imperfect) model of where we might direct reconciliation efforts is offered by New Zealand. From the 1970s, (indigenous) Māori political mobilization and Pākeha (settler) acknowledgement of colonial injustices inaugurated bi-nationalism, a process of power sharing and cultural syncretism between settlers and indigenous peoples, something starkly different from our view of bi-nationalism as an English-French settler dyadic relationship. This program of research problematizes NZ style bi-nationalism as a model of reconciliation in Canada, within a multicultural context. This project has four aims: To determine whether multiculturalism advances the interests of Aboriginal people. While heralded as model for ethnic and cultural relations, many Aboriginal theorists are critical of it. I seek to understand whether multicultural policies and practices could be better synchronized with Aboriginal priorities. To gauge the potentiality of bi-national models of power and resource sharing as a means to reconciliation, and to critically examine the prototypical case of NZ to determine whether this model (with both positive and negative features) offers insights into where our relationship with Aboriginal peoples could move. Of course this foregrounds the linguistic, cultural, and geographic diversity of Aboriginal peoples here, and their more complex treaty and non-treaty relationships with the crown. To use seven generations teaching to envisage benchmarks to help determine a timeline for successful reconciliation. Bi-nationalism offers the prospect of both Aboriginal self-determination on their own lands, as well as the potential to meaningfully share political, cultural, and economic power in Canadian institutions while also indigenizing these institutions and practices. This project tests whether the NZ model can be expanded to encompass bi-national multiculturalisms – that is, to create a framework which recognizes both the diversity and distinctiveness of Aboriginal peoples as pre-conquest multicultural peoples, alongside the multiculturalism of settlers. To gauge how Canada’s racialised minorities (in particular South Asian and Caribbean peoples) relate to each other now through multiculturalism, and to posit how this relationship might change in positive ways (while also identifying potential problems) if reconciliation is successful in creating a bi-national basis for governance in Canada.
SSHRCC Partnership Development Grant (2014-2019)
Role: Co-Applicant "Embodying Empathy : Fostering Historical Knowledge and Caring Through a Virtual Indian Residential School"
DESCRIPTION Canadians must become better informed about the history and legacies of Indian Residential Schools and the damage they inflicted and in many ways continue to inflict on Aboriginal peoples in Canada. This awareness will contribute to the larger process of “unsettling” settler Canadians, of morally and politically reorienting them towards the structural violence encountered by Aboriginal s not just historically but, even now, in Canada’s prison systems, foster homes, and education system. But how should the tragic story of the IRS, the nation’s “dark secret, ” be made known to the Canadian public? What form must it take, what content conveyed, in order to create more understanding, compassion, and respect for Aboriginal people and their goals? Can emerging technologies help represent the IRS experience in a way that successfully “reframes” understanding of settler - colonial history, and thereby ideas of a common future? The overarching goal of Embodying Empathy is to promote knowledge of Canada’s Indian residential schools. We intend to stimulate debate and discussion about the ongoing legacies of these institutions in support of, and as an innovative supplement to, the work done by our partners the National Research Center on Residential Schools (NRCRS ), Shingwauk Residential School Centre (SRSC) and the Legacy of Hope Foundation (LHF ). Our springboard will be the prototype of a virtual residential school constructed using leading - edge technologies in a partnership that brings together Elders, Survivors, Aboriginal commemorative and educational agencies, curators, scholars, artists, and technology experts. In our design methodology, Elders will play a central role in situating and grounding this research, and as “key informants” they will contribute to our “participatory design” process. Participatory design (PD) refers to “a set of theories, practices, and studies related to end - users [who are] full participants in activities leading to software and hardware computer products and computer - based activities”. Fundamentally, although the virtual IRS is intended for diverse audiences, Survivors are the primary end - users since their experiences are to be represented in the virtual IRS and they require direct input into how these experiences are represented. Informed by extensive and ongoing participatory dialogues, our prototype will do several different but equally important kinds of work. First, it will gauge to what extent technologies are now capable of immersing users in the lives and traumas of others. Second, it will help us to assess the moral, psychological, and sociological significance of this immersion . It will assist us in empirically determining whether or not technologically mediated proximity to another’s suffering actually changes people, for example by making them more responsive to Aboriginal demands for redress in the form of a renewed relationship with Canada, respect for rights, jurisdiction over traditional lands, self - determination, and the honouring of treaties. Third, it is designed to impart information concerning Canada’s Indian residential schools and their Aboriginal victims. Fourth, it will pioneer innovative and adaptable technology for us e in a wide variety of community, institutional, and archival contexts . Through our partnerships we intend more specifically to: Consult with IRS Survivors and Elders in order to establish the representational parameters of our project. Our participatory design process will be ongoing, sensitive to Aboriginal modes of knowledge transmission. Design and construct the prototype of an immersive virtual representation of an Indian residential school, one that can be accessed on - line and installed within commemorative spaces. We are calling this representation a “storyworld,” though at its core the story it tells is a true one, drawn from documented Survivor accounts and archival sources. Our participatory design strategy relies heavily on consultations and dialogue in order to revise and precisely tailor technology to end - users’ needs and contexts. Conduct sociological and psychological research to examine the effectiveness of the virtual IRS in terms of its ability to increase knowledge of Canada ’ s history, foster empathy toward residential school experiences, and increase participants’ willingness to engage in commemorative and reconciliatory activities. Inspire and incubate ideas for other forms of collaboration between our various partners. Embodying Empathy is not just a product and a set of outcomes but also a site of transaction and generative exchange locally, nationally and globally.
SSHRCC Standard Research Grant (2009-2013)
Role: Principal Investigator "Indigenous People and the UN Genocide Convention: A Study of Indigenous Assimilation Policies in Canada"
DESCRIPTION In the 19th and 20th centuries, indigenous residential schooling in Canada formed part of a government-sponsored policy of forced assimilation. This program of research investigates to what extent the 1948 UN Genocide Convention (hereafter the UNGC) is applicable to the study of First Nations residential schooling in Canada. This project has three principle aims: To outline the extent to which the UNGC has been incorporated into domestic laws in Canada, and to identify tensions between domestic legislation and international law. To understand the process by which people might advance claims of indigenous genocide, and to comment on how different judicial approaches to statutory interpretation and incorporation of the Convention influence the success of failure of these claims. To critically examine arguments for and against the proposition that aspects of government and church sponsored indigenous assimilation policies in Canada might be seen as “genocidal” according to the UNGC. Some indigenous leaders and advocates have invoked the Convention in an effort to reinterpret assimilation policies. To explore indigenous understandings of genocide and the UNGC through 50 detailed open-ended interviews in Saskatchewan and Ontario. These interviews with residential school students and indigenous leaders will inform the project and allow a better understanding of indigenous beliefs and cultural responses to their experiences. This project will be the first to attempt a major critical analysis of First Nations residential schooling through the eyes of the UNGC. It will also be the first to gauge First Nations perceptions of the UNGC and its applicability to their history. The project builds on my previous case study research into the UNGC and its applicability to indigenous groups in western settler societies. There are important policy ramifications. If residential schooling can be considered “genocidal” under international law, compensation models may need to be reconsidered to ensure a higher level of cultural and psychological support for victims, including consideration of the effects of intergenerational trauma on the second and third generations. Further, a greater level of government sponsored commemoration and memorialization may be required to reflect the extent of the crimes committed against indigenous peoples. Alternatively, if genocide was not committed in Canada yet indigenous peoples feel that it was, there is an important dissonance between how the government and indigenous peoples approach Canadian history. This dissonance may need to be addressed before healing can be successfully achieved.