Wakinyan miye yelo Sicangu Lakota Oyate hematanhan. Lakowicoh’an waun welo.
My name is Wakinyan LaPointe, I am from the Burnt Thigh Lakota Nation. I am here to kick off a full week of blogs about youth-engaged evaluation on behalf of the Minnesota Evaluation Association, acting as the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG) planning for AEA 2019, which is happening in Minneapolis, MN, in November. I am looking forward to participating in the conference, and presenting about the Wopasi: Indigenous Youth Research & Development Center (Wopasi). Here I offer meaningful insights into our formative work of Wopasi and indigenous, youth-engaged research methodologies.
In 2016, indigenous peoples, youth, and partners alongside LeMoine LaPointe, Sicangu Lakota, in Mnisota envisioned the formation of an Indigenous Youth Research & Development Center for creating transformational change in the way information about indigenous youth is gathered, shared, and used. Historically, western research on indigenous peoples has propagated inequalities, disparities, and deficit-based narratives, leaving indigenous youth with a negative picture of the future.
However, indigenous peoples did not become strong, successful, and healthy nations by focusing on their deficits, but rather on their strengths, gifts, and assets; indigenous peoples explored areas for improvement, transformations of existing systems, and innovations with future generations. In contrast to western society, indigenous peoples exercise distinct social, cultural, economic, and political collective rights-centering principles of all life and future generations that necessitate qualitative, collective indigenous research methodologies.
“In the Lakota language, the term ‘Wopasi’ means to pursue inquiry, to push the limitations of one’s knowledge, and to seek the greater understanding by looking for meaning and wisdom above, beneath, and all around.”
(LeMoine LaPointe, personal communication, 7/26/2018)
Traditional knowledge and the collective exercise of indigenous systems predate colonial nation-states and positively impact every target area of indigenous communities and nations.
The IYRDC utilizes a collective research and development process with indigenous youth, including: Wopasi, Woiyunge, Woableza, and Wokage:
“Woiyunge means to follow traditional protocols (such as offering of cansasa) in asking powerful and innovative questions that will enable our people to express their strengths, gifts, and possibilities for all life and future generations” Woableza means to realize something powerful and transformative that can help our people.” Wokage means creativity, to do something, implement, and make the future better for our relatives (all life and future generations).
(LeMoine LaPointe, personal communication, 6/7/2019)
Hot Tip: For visitors to Minneapolis for Evaluation 2019: Check out the American Indian Cultural Corridor along Franklin Avenue in South Minneapolis – stop in for a coffee at the Pow Wow Grounds Café, view and purchase Indigenous arts at the All My Relations Gallery, or drop by the Gatherings Café in the Minneapolis American Indian Center to decolonize your lunch!
Use the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in your work as a guiding and meaningful framework for partnership, and collaboration.
We’re looking forward to the fall and the Evaluation 2019 conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to firstname.lastname@example.org.