We are Evaluation Studies PhD students at the University of Minnesota studying in Dr. John LaVelle’s Advanced Evaluation Theory class, in which he emphasizes the importance of relationships for reflexive practice. Our narratives weave what critical reflexivity can be for non-Indigenous practitioners in reconciliation through participatory sense-making based on our shared experiences engaging in intercultural spaces. We are developing into critical reflexive scholars working alongside Indigenous communities.
My lineage goes back 4 generations on stolen Dakota land, in Mankato, Minnesota. The Dakota name is “Mahkato” meaning blue earth. Mahkato is the site of the largest mass execution on US soil. In December of 1862, 38 + 2 Dakota warriors were hung by order of President Lincoln. This place remembers the broken promises of the Treaty of Traverse Des Sioux. This place holds the potential for collective healing through truth-telling, healing, and reconciliation. My reconciliation journey brought me into becoming a non-Indigenist, Indigenist, community-engaged scholar (Wilson, et al., 2019).
Reconciliation is a verb, a praxis we learn by being together in the doing, this distinction of “with” not “on, to or for” is important. For non-indigenous practitioners, this requires developing a capability of two-eyed seeing, this can be cultivated through dialogue in intercultural spaces that enable the truth of the past to be shared. This builds a relational field that is ripe for embodied listening, navigating complexity and not-knowing, engaging in the work of decolonizing our minds and hearts through collective inquiry and participatory sense-making.
I remain humble, mindful and aware of the privilege and power my white body holds, de-centering settler narratives and tending to the complexity of intercultural spaces that bring Dakota voices, culture, language, stories and histories to be shared. This grounds our hearts into place, where we find shared caring, and are better able to honor and grow into our roles and responsibilities.
The child of conscientious objectors raised in Newfoundland, surrounded by those critical of the United States. Perhaps it was through osmosis that this criticality developed in me. At the age of 13, moving to Minnesota left me smacked in the face with culture shock. This was the beginning of my reflexive practice, of engaging with the world around me while listening to the nausea of ignorance, always questioning why it is that I do not know. Over the years, I have learned it is through relationships that one can best attend to what they don’t understand and what they must change.
Through critical ignorance and relational thinking, I have been fortunate to foster relationships with communities throughout the midwest. After countless discussions about how power excludes, confines, and contorts, I find my work intersecting with this other part of my life. Evaluation and accreditation are my bread and butter, and my values inform my approach: it is wrong to go into someone else’s home and tell them how they live and so I will not evaluate, but will work with in order to demonstrate to those in power that people are perfectly capable of attending to themselves without authoritative intervention. Thus my research, how compliance bodies exclude forms of knowledge through colonizing epistemologies. It is early yet and there is much I do not know. What I have learned is that this work stands on the shoulders of giants such as Crazy Bull, Bowman, Cram, and more. But, I am still parsing through what it means to be a non-Indigenous, Indigenist scholar.
There is no concluding statement to provide because this practice will not and cannot conclude. This is simply one perspective of critical reflexivity in the pursuit of sense-making.
Wilson, S., Breen, A. V., & DuPré, L. (2019). Research and reconciliation: Unsettling ways of knowing through indigenous relationships. Canadian Scholars, an imprint of CSP Books Inc.
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