Digital Bundles: Creating Cultural Space for Indigenous Knowledge through New Technologies
wanted to welcome you to the first critical digital Humanities International Conference my name is Elizabeth Brown and I'm the faculty director of the critical digital Humanities initiative and a faculty member in historical studies and history here at the University of Toronto so it's my pleasure to open our first plenary session and to welcome all of you to Toronto whether you're here physically in the city or joining virtually we're all coming together virtually via Zoom for our first day when we launched cvhi in May of 2021 I could not have anticipated hosting such a large transdisciplinary diverse group of Scholars from around the world our program includes more than 420 participants from 38 countries and six continents and 132 institutions over today and tomorrow reflecting our commitment to supporting emerging Scholars half of our participants are postdoc fellows and graduate students so the critical digital Humanities initiative or cdhi is a strategic research initiative at the University of Toronto we emphasize questions of power social justice and critical theory in making and analyzing digital Technologies our version of DH places accessible anti-racist decolonial feminist and queer trans non-binary work at its core and which understands our current historical shift in digital technology as an opportunity for social and political transformation so to learn more about our work and our upcoming programs and events I encourage you to visit our website which is dhn.utoronto.ca the dhn's standing for the digital Humanities Network which has predated cbhi now for those of you on Twitter we would love to hear your thoughts on all of the sessions we'll be tweeting as well please add your voice to the conversation and be sure to tag us at U of T dhn or use the hashtag cdhi con 22. it's my great pleasure to introduce our colleagues Professor Karen recklett and professor John Johnson who will be opening our conference with the land acknowledgment and will then welcome our first keynote speaker Professor Jennifer lemaguanz and also will be moderating the plenary discussion afterwards so Karen recklett is an urban Cree scholar artist and writer born in Sturgeon Lake First Nation Karen's research focuses on relationality and care as analytics and technology for indigenous movement-based forms of inquiry in urban spaces she's an assistant professor in the women's Studies Institute at the University of Toronto John Johnson is an assistant professor at U of T's woodsworth College his research focuses on Urban land-based indigenous knowledge in Toronto as well as oral and digital storytelling he works with Toronto's indigenous community in his capacity as lead organizer for first story Toronto he is a French Canadian and Hunter snowy ancestry so please let me allow uh let me pass this on to Karen and John for the wonderful welcome for our plenary speaker today foreign I wish to start with gratitude I wish to start with breath I wish to start with an appreciation for all the forms of life especially those forms that have been impacted by racial capitalism that are struggling thank you for continuing despite everything to be in relation I wish to be that helper that thinks with you and supports the ways your limbs and Roots tentacularly grasp towards Futures towards the Stars towards Rock to be there for you in these enduring winds to honor how much you have witnessed and offered our children as spaces of Refuge you that one tree standing in the schoolyard of not too long ago what you have seen what you have felt and what you continue to endure as you take on the affect of this aftermath that continues to spark threatening flames we live within these apocalypses and lean once again into you for support we offer our gratitude for these more than human relatives I wish to acknowledge that this conference is hosted within the traditional lands of the wendot Confederacy or Seneca of the nashoni Confederacy and the mississaugas of the Credit First Nation part of the anishinaabe Three Fires Confederacy the ancestors of these nations have lived Within These lands continuously for the last at least thirteen Thousand Years Millennia of indigenous engagements have shaped these lands many of Toronto's earliest and most prominent roads including Young Street Dundas Davenport Road follow or were inspired by indigenous trails and knowledge of the land before the arrival of Europeans to this area the trails through these lands facilitated InterContinental trade networks that made Toronto an important Gathering Place for trade politics and ceremony indigenous peoples use controlled Burns to maintain and expand Savannah ecologies in different parts of Toronto like High Park and Rosedale Deer Park the beaches in Rouge Park these environments have supported incredible biodiversity and abundance in these lands the neighborhood of mimiko in Toronto's West End reflects the original anishna bamawan name for this that place omimika the place of the wild pigeons by the time of European arrival that place was home to hundreds of thousands of passenger pigeons now extinct they were fed by the acorns and abundance of the nearby First Nations savannas First Nations ancestors built sacred Mounds in High Park as gathering places where ringed relations often soared above spiraling ever higher before journeying Southward on their migrations around Lake Ontario Ontario is derived from Oni Dario a word meant that meant beautiful water in Onondaga language peace and friendship treaties like the dish with one spoon want them were created and maintained to protect this place of ongoing life and livingness and to ensure that it was shared in an equitable way it's no overstatement to say that the reason Toronto is here today is because indigenous peoples have gathered here have activated Futures here to make it a capacious important place today we're also part party to the dish with one spoon Wampum treaty and have responsibilities to understand and uphold its principles of environmental stewardship Justice and equity in our daily lives we need to continually listen and to support indigenous folks in Toronto currently numbering over a hundred thousand and align ourselves with their efforts to continue this work of embodying the relations of the dish with one spoon treaty today as we discuss the exciting possibilities of new and emerging digital Technologies it's important to also acknowledge and hold space for the original technologies that continue to be dedicated to the purpose of living a good life in relationship with the more than human world contextualized by radical and relational thinkers such as Jennifer Lemmings whom we are about to be in relation with soon it is important in our roles as helpers and witnesses that Embrace these thoughts ideas and concepts by leaning into them without the need to consume that we think deeply about the work that we do in support as helpers as Witnesses and consider how we Orient ourselves to these important provocations as We Gather today around these Concepts and ideas we can ask ourselves what are our processes of being an ethical relationship here in this space that is fraught rupturous situated on contentious grounds of stolen lands what does it mean to orient ourselves and to reorient ourselves into thinking with the spirals of bear mound to think in relationship with alternative shapes and forms of gathering to share and co-constitute knowledges that are prompted by wemiguance's provocations that the role of the helper is a capacious space maker that we world and we we world together over and over again in the face of multiple apocalypses that black and brown bodies continue to be in relationship with today in Canada is national day for Truth and Reconciliation also known as orange shirt day we create space here today to think about the multiple ways we can be helpers but always and into the future we not only acknowledge that this is the bare minimum but we activate relations we Orient our intentions we meaningfully gather around the reparations of the significant harms to indigenous communities from residential school systems in Canada this is a time when non-indigenous Canadians must rededicate themselves to the work that still needs to be done in collaboration with indigenous communities to dismantle settler Colonial structures in Canada towards ongoing beautiful futures for indigenous peoples this is a time not just a moment but an ongoing commitment to Center our efforts towards indigenous life and ongoing livingness what does it mean to be a helper in this space what are the textures the codes the signifiers that we need to gather around to focus on ongoing relations and ongoing life it is a time of Reckoning but also a time of providing the spaces and resources for indigenous people and black people to gather to determine for themselves their visions of the future and maybe in terms of our engagements we take leadership from them we align ourselves as helpers this means that we have to be patient we have to offer space we offer resources we learned to let go we transform we align ourselves with the dish with one spoon this is the work many of us are currently collaborating ethically with indigenous communities we try to embody the role of the helper and this is where John was speaking the helper is an orientation of humility one that seeks to First understand and then use supports and resources this is the work of decolonization and revitalization that indigenous communities are already doing it is our hope that this ethic informs today's conversation we think with the spiral today as the spiral incorporates a speculative architecture that gestures towards the future the stars the constellations that help us to understand deeply with the shapes of our Gatherings need to become the dish with one spoon is up there is strong and we lean into this space to think about our processes our ways of being in relation and to reorient them I look forward to how Jennifer gathers Us in this way to think about our responsibilities as helpers Jennifer we appreciate all of your labor all of the responsibilities that can you continue to take on and we hope to share in this labor with you today thank you Jennifer and for those of you that have yet to witness This brilliant Force Jennifer is from this beautiful place that we know as with kwamukong unseated territory on Manitoulin Island a new media producer writer and Scholar Jennifer specializes in the convergence between education indigenous knowledge and New Media Technologies Jennifer's book a digital bundle protecting and promoting indigenous knowledge online has been honored cared for kept in special places on bedsides it rests on a special bookcase beside children's artwork it is a bundle a Futurity bundle Dr women wants his work leans into digital indigenous creative relational practices and create space for other brilliant co-conspirators to engage and build Envision a future together and build and think about our kinships together and build and remember old blankets passed down from our grandparents and build Dr wimi guanza's practices cultural practices of cultural ethics of care and Indigenous Protocols of Creation in their work which signify digital bundles as new spaces for sharing indigenous knowledge and challenge non-indigenous audiences to step outside of their comfortable codified systems and learn a new way of being and perceiving the world their work is a hub a signifier for future Gatherings she is a friend a lovely human and an assistant professor in the adult education and Community Development program at Oozy University of Toronto take it away Jennifer make watch Karen week watch John that was so beautiful and what a lovely way to start the day and open with that um that beautiful Thanksgiving that gratitude let me watch for that um so speaking of Thanksgiving and gratitude I want to thank Danielle tashiro mammers Laura Smith and L Smith Brown for creating this space today and I also want to give a special thank you to T.L Cowan for your ongoing support and encouragement really this is um yeah I just wanted to start with my own gratitude so Miguel so today September 30th has been marked as a day for Truth and Reconciliation um I'm going to just share my slides here okay and for those of you who are not from here this day commemorates the indigenous survivors of residential school oh sorry Oh I thought it hurts okay so for those of you who are not from here the state commemorates the indigenous survivors of residential school but it also marks the deaths of thousands of indigenous children today my auntie will be at Toronto City Hall I have very mixed feelings about this day because every day is a day to seek out truth and every day is a day for people to take responsibility excuse me we're not seeing your your slides I'm sorry for interrupting oh no thank you for that um it says you are screen sharing yeah but we are seeing our own images I can see the slides um John so I'm not sure if it's an individual problem or if it's more than one person I can say my apologies I'll try to fix it here okay it looks like most people are seeing it yeah yeah I can see the slides too sorry for the interruption okay thank you Okay so so I'm talking um you know every day is the day to seek out truth and every day is the day for people to take responsibility because without responsibility there will be no reconciliation so rather than take a minute of Silence I want to dedicate this talk to truth and responsibility so historically indigenous knowledge was not recognized or acknowledged by Colonial settlers who were intent on occupying and taking indigenous land today not much has changed as many non-indigenous people have no idea what constitutes indigenous knowledge ongoing Erasure of indigenous knowledge has resulted in mainstream Educators policy makers government bodies and citizens in general needing to be educated on the importance of indigenous knowledge and what it constitutes as they currently have no reference point for it and willingly remain unaware and while some may be interested in learning many others want to facilitate ignorance and Erasure in order to keep and continue occupying and taking indigenous land residential schools did not facilitate learning residential schools destroyed families and with that they eradicated the transference of indigenous knowledge for children by removing them from their families and communities The Truth and Reconciliation Commission along with many reports before them have reiterated the need for public education to in to address indigenous knowledge and education in the curriculum to date this has not been achieved on a national scale foreign the UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous people stated that quote indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize use develop and transmit to Future Generations their histories languages oral Traditions philosophies writing systems and literatures and to designate and retain their own names for communities places and persons in discussing my work on digital bundles today I will show you how this work names and reclaims but also how it has the potential to facilitate and to facilitate access to indigenous knowledge online for educators and communities nationally in Reading Resurgence and Reconciliation indigenous settler relations and Earth teachings edited by Michael Ash John Burroughs and James Tully I appreciated the question being put forward which they say what are genuinely self-determining practices of resurgence and transformative forms of reconciliation today and how are they distinguished from non-robust and non-transformative practices and Reconciliation Brews and Tully state in the introduction that this is not only a theoretical question but a practical one which brings me to my work a digital bundle is a space created with the use of new technologies for the purposes of sharing indigenous knowledge for those of you coming to this work for the first time I will share a three-minute introduction clip to a website that I produced and launched in 2006.
the American continents have been called the new world but our histories as the original peoples of these lands tell us we have always been here that we belong to these places which are sacred to us our Collective memories go far back beyond what the modern world considers history we have shared these continents in all the four directions for many thousands of years to us this is the old world and there have been many nations here Through the Ages each of our Nations has always had their own ways of life with distinct beliefs and languages economic political and social systems and medicinal ecological and other forms of knowledge every one of these nations has its own way to recognize its place in the greater hope that we are all part of and all our diverse forms of knowledge lead back to that common Circle through our various traditions we recognize that everything in the universe is connected that everything has been and deserves respect we never worship the Sun or animals or other forms of nature as Gods but we recognize that these things are symbols of mysteries that cannot be explained in words and that they all lead back to the greatest mystery of all the source of all creation so through our stories and songs we have always recognized the same ultimate creative Force some of our elders still remember and maintain the foundations of our original knowledge forms of knowledge can hear we share a few teachings of Elders from some of the original nations of North America the migma of the Atlantic region the Mohawk or Lord nashoni of Southern Quebec and Ontario an upper New York State the Ojibwe or anishnavic of the Great Lakes region of the Canadian prairies and Woodlands and the pikani Blackfoot of Southern Alberta and Northern Montana welcome to the four directions interactive teachings okay so this site was designed to celebrate indigenous knowledge by honoring the process of listening with intent to the teachings of Elders and traditional teachers from five distinct indigenous Nations they are Tom Porter Mohawk Mary Lee Creed Stephen Augustine nigma Lillian pittuonic anishinaabe reg croshu and Jeff Crow Eagle Blackfoot it is significant to note that each Elder Knowledge keeper is featured prominently on the site their individual biographies are positioned with their teachings which avoids a pan-indian approach and speaks to indigenous methodology of location that is the biography locates each Elder and knowledge keeper within their Community which conveys to the visitor how they are or have become acknowledged and accepted as an elder further this approach demonstrates that the teachings and knowledge shared are not generic but are in fact a specific teaching from an acknowledged and valued cultural teacher that is a person who is recognized as having the cultural protocol to share that teaching for example Stephen Augustine's bio states that he is a hereditary Chief and Tom Porter's bio points to his early activism with indigenous knowledge keepers within indigenous epistemologies and teachings there are the four directions So within sorry within indigenous epistemologies the teachings of the four directions are Central and key to philosophical understandings of the universe and human beings roles and responsibilities indigenous visitors to the site are able to read the relationships of the four directions and understand that the direction and placement of each quadrant has a significant meaning for each teaching non-indigenous visitors to the site don't recognize that the stories being shared are teachings they don't recognize the importance of the interface design and how the circle represents a holistic model that is rooted in the teachings of the four directions they seem unable to grasp that part of the teaching is the interface design that shows the relationship of each Direction and hence the impact and flow of relationality from each of the four directions non-indigenous reception of the site seems completely unable to grasp that it is not linear it is not text-based it is relational and just as Western people have talked about Theory and signifiers so do indigenous people but we have our own set of signifiers and our own set of theories and models in the article centering relationality a conceptual model to advance indigenous knowledge organization practices author Sandra littletree Miranda bilardi Lewis and Marissa Duarte make the distinction between library and information science and principles of indigenous librarianship and Praxis which they say are grounded in a more community-based approach namely a relational approach and it is this relational approach that honors the profound relationships between people community the land Waters and all living beings so the circle the medicine wheel the teepee they are signifiers in fact we could say that they are relational signifiers that are particular to diverse indigenous Nations and to the elders and knowledge Keepers who teach them John Burroughs one of the people I interviewed for my book a digital bundle shared that for example he said I could see how this would help me to implement our treaty or deal with the storage of nuclear waste which we're confronting in our territory now having access and he's referring to indigenous knowledge and teachings online means that we could say here's a teaching that gives us some guidance on how to deal with ecological problems that are happening on the soybean Peninsula or here is a teaching for example that could be applied to personal injuries and property issues or even to the way people do business with one another it's pretty impressive with this kind of access to indigenous knowledge could do for us I think it could change the world so in my discussions with John Burroughs he told me that he uses four directions teachings.com in his indigenous law courses boroughs elaborated that indigenous teachings provide the opportunity to have a conversation and more importantly to deliberate around what they tell us indigenous teachings and knowledge provide the standards for judgment they are the authorities they are the guidelines and therefore the Precedence for boroughs indigenous knowledge teachings can set precedence in the legal sense of the term today Burroughs along with his colleague Val Napoleon have created the first ever program in a Canadian law school an integrated study of the common law and Indigenous legal Traditions launched in 2018 the University of Victoria offers the first ever indigenous law degree so distinct from the field of indigenous studies and digital storytelling and Indigenous New Media art digital bundles are recognized and accepted by indigenous communities as indigenous knowledge sites because they are community-based and validated according to diverse cultural protocols in fact I did not come up with the name digital bundle it was graciously coined by Cheryl Le Rondell an interdisciplinary Community engaged mixed Cree artist who wanted to note that four directions teachings.com is not just another website by calling it a digital bundle Cheryl was lifting it up and pointing to the Mannington responsibilities that come with caring such the bundle a digital bundle is a new cultural signifier it is a new offering online that distinguishes itself from New Media art digital storytelling and information in fact a digital bundle is a No in fact the digital bundle is a new social movement online as it is challenging existing dominant social configurations of Power by contributing to social and political transformation from the periphery of what Sandy Grande calls white stream Society digital bundles online help to revive and assert indigenous knowledge digital bundles complement Sandy Grande's seminal work red pedagogy where the foundation perspective and production remain distinctive rooted in indigenous knowledge and Praxis further my research has demonstrated that access to more indigenous knowledge education online would not only increase the viability of such knowledge but could potentially facilitate better relationships between settlers and Indigenous communities for example Larry shartran metis law professor from Ottawa shared he said I would like to see perhaps more in-depth sites of relevant Legends and stories of particular Nations whether it is DNA or the Coast Salish because one of the most important aspects of a viable legal tradition is to ensure its accessibility to those who are expected to be bound by it um an indigenous corrections officer from the Northwest terrorist from the Northwest Territory shared that further Canadians are not educated on what has happened to Aboriginal people we need to have more sites online that teach people about the treaties and about history from an Aboriginal perspective we need resources because they are not offered in the schools these historical truths are not offered anywhere to date there is not a single funding body dedicated to supporting the production of indigenous knowledge education projects online for the purposes of lifelong learning for indigenous and Canadian people I have currently reviewed what is on offer by Canadian Heritage and found it limiting in scope for example the Canada history fund supports the development of learning materials and activities that contribute to increasing Canadians knowledge about Canada the Canada New Media fund encourages the creation of popular Innovative Canadian content and software applications celebrate Canada provides funding for activities organized on National indigenous people's day uh Saint Jean-Baptiste Canadian multiculturalism day and Canada day commemorate Canada provide financial support to initiatives that commemorate Canada Canada's significant people places achievements and life events and the digital citizen research program supports research on countering online disinformation as well as other online harms and threats to Canada's democracy and social cohesion a few of the projects that actually um are created for indigenous communities are the indigenous language and cultures program this promotes indigenous languages strengthens indigenous cultural identity and increases indigenous participation in Canadian Society however a close look at it shows that it's focused exclusively on language and not knowledge and then another uh program was listen here our voices initiative can fund indigenous organizations to help digitize and preserve existing culture and language recordings for future Generations but when you look at this program it is focused on archival work through digitization which is a different type of project so the problem with these programs when I was looking at them is that there is a huge problem with eligibility and gatekeeping and the gatekeeping I would argue is embedded in the structure the criteria and values inherent in each program for example what kind of History will be accepted and fo and when you know what kind of History will be accepted when focused on the on knowledge about Canada so putting forward different types of history that come from indigenous perspectives on um colonization and talking about some of the brutal acts of Oppression with those history projects get funded from this envelope this is something I would question what kind of New Media is considered Innovative when Canadians have no conception or reference for indigenous knowledge I remember years ago in 2006 submitting four directions to the Canada New Media fund uh sorry to the Canada New Media Awards and it wasn't even accepted or shortlisted right and so but that being he says at the time for because for um the jurors and the people who were gatekeeping on that because it was clear that they did not understand what the site was actually accomplishing celebrate Canada well that's not going to work not even on National indigenous people's day that's a very problematic envelope for many levels copper can commemorate Canada um feature stories stop commemorate Canada by featuring the stories of indigenous Heroes that would be great and yeah we can do that by calling to remembrance our Warriors but doing this inverts Canada's notion of itself so to commemorate Canada here has two different appeals right what kind of Canada are we commemorating so the last one I'll point to is digital citizen research indigenous knowledge education online would definitely contribute to democratic expression via digital bundles by confronting disinformation and promoting a paradigm of knowledge unknown to the citizens of Canada but then again that is not really what digital citizen research is set up to do so with respect to the last two programs as I said they're kind of exclusively focused on either language or archival digitization which doesn't really point to um you know prioritizing indigenous knowledge so here's a shout out to Canadian Heritage anytime you want to meet and discuss let me know because today in particular when you are called to observe the national Truth and Reconciliation day and the commission's calls to action remember that truth and responsibility is an everyday commitment to action and until Canada calls into question its formation as a state all of their funding programs are inherently problematic for indigenous knowledge digital projects because they reify Canada as a just State my policy recommendation is a funding body or a center that is dedicated to supporting the production of indigenous knowledge digital projects for the purposes of addressing history knowledge of treaties tactics of colonization and for elevating indigenous knowledge teachings as digital bundles my second policy recommendation particularly on this day of all days is to make indigenous knowledge education a pillar of the public education system where children have this knowledge scaffolded for them from JK to grade 12. this can be accomplished effectively with access to indigenous knowledge education online having digital bundles online provides new possibilities for indigenous communities and for people who are searching and wanting to learn more about indigenous knowledges a digital bundle then is not only a form of resistance and cooperation to the state but a new infrastructure for creating Community solidarity across indigenous Nations using our own cultural practices and protocols a digital bundle is a significant indigenous designation for indigenous knowledge online because it elevates the cultural protocol and cultural responsibilities of the content for indigenous communities the idea of a bundle speaks to knowledge that is grounded within indigenous philosophy within indigenous philosophical paradigms and knowledge my research work verified that significant respectful and accurate representations of indigenous knowledge can be presented online in ways that can help users access and become inspired by such knowledge however it is important to recognize that no mere tool no matter how well designed or used can ever replace or even come close to oral person-to-person transmission of traditional cultural knowledge consequently any discussion of indigenous online of indigenous knowledge online should be digested with this important principle in mind and while certain aspects of indigenous knowledge can be expressed through new technologies and can contribute to the needs of indigenous communities what I am not advocating for is the transmission of deep indigenous knowledge or what might be called ceremonial knowledge as that is not the topic of my research rather my interests are devoted to researching the need and potential for culturally sensitive resources that speak to diverse forms of indigenous cultural heritage and the connections that can be made between new technologies and Indigenous epistemologies This research requires us to look differently and to learn differently in doing this work it is important to understand that I had to position myself as a helper which meant carefully following the directions of the elders and knowledge Keepers and ensuring that every step of the project was met with their approval a digital bundle is inclusive of and indeed executed according to local indigenous cultural protocol and therefore speaks directly to Megan Bang's notion of indigenous technology quote where our knowledge Keepers our elders and our cultural producers are The Architects and Engineers of that construction process unquote it is for this reason that I want to stress and note that the term knowledge production used in the academic context is very different from the way I'm applying it in the usage of my work the term knowledge production has different implications when used in the context of producing let's put that in quotes indigenous knowledge online what is really being talked about here is not the production of knowledge in the sense of creating new knowledge rather knowledge production here instead refers to the technical production of or really reproduction of aspects of long existing indigenous knowledge in new formats and in relation to new contexts in this sense it's a sense of assembling representing and creatively configuring this pre-existing knowledge but certainly not of creating it perhaps most importantly the notion of a digital bundle and the type of knowledge production that I am undertaking acknowledges by virtue of its deferral to respected knowledge Keepers that sharing and disseminating aspects of indigenous knowledge online while important for various reasons can never fully reflect or let alone come close or let alone come close to replacing the oral transmission of traditions on the basis of a real spiritual connection so in this way I have a responsibility in my role in the in the academy and that is to refuse the structure and paradigms of the University that would turn indigenous knowledge into a commodity consequently I have to find ways to articulate that are other ways of working and other ways of being in the world that support indigenous epistemologies and paradigms and so when I talk about the role of the helper this is another way of thinking of how to work within the ethics and care of community consequently many of the digital bundle projects that I work on come from Community models that are invested in indigenous networking protocols rarely do I Envision or come up with a digital bundle oftentimes it comes from Community itself so for example Victor masiva Jr who is a well-regarded artist and Hopi knowledge keeper contacted me to come and work with the indigenous time Keepers who have been meeting across North and South America since before 2012. I was so surprised and
honored to hear from him because we've never met and while he spoke he verified with me that I see myself as a Helper and that he was familiar with the kind of work I do from visiting for directions teachings.com and from hearing about my online support for the lake for the late Jake swamps condolence ceremony at the headwaters of the Mississippi in 2012. and so for me that connection was so humbling because it is the way that people validate you through community they look at what you do and not what you say and so you see it was important that I could see myself as a Helper and he said that was good because it's a good thing that we have helpers because then our elders and knowledge Keepers want helpers they want people who can help them and not just take from them or use them for inspiration which speaks to extractive practices so working with indigenous values and processes are very different especially if you position yourself as a helper it is understood that in the role of a helpful it is understood that in the role of a helper you accept that your rule is not interpretation or transmission but facility but facilitator you're facilitating this knowledge that is coming from a very specific knowledge keeper or Elder this model and practice are very different from the Western rules of producer director or even artists so even when I talk about my work as a shorthand I'll say a producer because I know if I write in my bio helper it's going to go over people's heads they're not going to understand that role that cultural signification and what it means from an indigenous perspective to be a helper so this is really important that we start to look at the different kinds of models and paradigms and how they inform these different kinds of cultural signifiers so in saying this I want to point out that unfortunately the media arts World works against this helper approach even though it is at the heart of indigenous practices instead there is an impetus to attach oneself to the Western model of what artists what media is and to create art or the art world it is about celebrity and about caches of little bits of power and it's just so sad because indigenous people are often forced to take up a whole history and theory of art practice and media practices that are not our own so in doing this work it's also being able to talk about different media practices and different ways of articulating those media practices working as a helper reinvigorates indigenous collaborative models of community creation for example in the research I'm undertaking now for indigenous timekeepers the elders and knowledge Keepers I'm working with understand that we are creating knowledge bundles and that these bundles will be created through utilizing new technologies we are we are all open to the process and have acknowledged that we will have to take great care and time to work with these Technologies to ensure that they are respectful and appropriate to the task at hand so in this sense you know with my discussions with communities um we are looking is this teaching is this project more suitable for augmented reality is this work this knowledge more suitable for interactive documentary or even virtual reality to better articulate a digital bundle significance I turned to the work of Leah leavero's book alternative and activist New Media which inspired me to recognize that indigenous knowledge online is itself a contemporary alternative and activist New Media project I Came Upon This work while searching for ways to frame my analysis of indigenous knowledge online I was particularly struck by her discussion of five basic genres of contemporary alternative and activists New Media projects which you can see here are culture jamming alternative Computing participatory journalism mediated mobilization and Commons knowledge these five online genres according to librew do not only reflect or critique mainstream media and culture they constitute and intervene in them so desperate to find out where and how for directions teachings.com might fit
into this array of alternative New Media I reviewed each genre carefully however I concluded that none really fits how poor directions teachings.com was conceived or how it works although aspects of mediated mobilization and Commons knowledge projects could be used to describe the work of foredirectionsteachings.com that would be like trying to fit a square block into a round hole for example according to levrow mediated mobilization relates to the domain of political cultural organizing and social movements she further explains that it takes advantage of web-based social software tools like social networks personal blogs flash mobs email lists list serves as well as do-it-yourself digital media to cultivate interpersonal networks online and to mobilize those networks to engage in live and mediated Collective action the Idle No More movement and Indigenous protest movement might be described in these terms that used Facebook personal blogs websites and lists list serves to mobilize Community flash dances in public spaces uh four directions teachings does not facilitate the same kind of public presence in the streets it has enabled users to act in the sense that many have requested more materials both for online and for offline use and more importantly the project has facilitated connections to Elders presented on four directions teachings.com for indigenous communities seeking their expertise with respect to the commons knowledge project levo writes that they quote reorganize and categorize information in ways that can challenge or reframe establish expert knowledge classifications of mainstream cultural institutions and disciplines unquote this genre she expounds relates to the content of culture itself the nature of knowledge and expertise how information is organized and evaluated and who decides Commons knowledge projects are framed in direct response to established Western knowledge constructs and therefore seen as radical and subversive of dominant power relations for indigenous communities that have never seen their knowledge appreciated or presented in public spaces indigenous knowledge projects online such as for directions are radical and antithetical to the Colonial education and textbooks used throughout North America it could be argued that four directions in some ways is a Commons knowledge project because of the subversive and alternative position that it occupies yet I would posit that this genre is too limiting because it cannot fully acknowledge the depth of the work and impact of indigenous knowledge online to acknowledge this impact I argue in my book a digital bundle that indigenous knowledge projects online are a unique genre so while I appreciate libro's discussion of the five basic genres of contemporary alternative and activist and media projects then is an ideal fit for indigenous knowledge online however I'm inspired by her thinking about genres and how it applies to activism on the internet indeed it was her writing on the notion of genre that helped me to accept the offering of four directions teachings as a digital bundle Libro defines the genre as a type of expression or communication that is useful or meaningful among the members of a given Community or within a particular situation she says genres have both form and purpose that is they have a typical material features or follow certain format conventions and they allow people to express themselves appropriately and to achieve their various purposes or intentions in a given situation so thinking about her work and with this in mind it is important to understand that the concept of a digital bundle comes from diverse indigenous knowledge paradigms that recognize that a bundle refers to a collection of things that are regarded as stateward in some way and held by a person with care and Ceremony this definition is very different from Commons projects for example a bundle could be a wrapping holding an eagle Wing or feather or containing a rattle or a pipe or often an item used in ceremony along with medicines like tobacco dried plants or even dry plants for smudging some bundles may be handed down through a family other bundles are Community bundles and hold a great deal of power as with very old pipe bundles some of which may even go back to the beginning of a specific revealed ceremony or tradition that supports the whole community in this case the person holding the bundle must undergo a thorough rigorous process of learning about the meaning of the tradition or ceremony and how it gets transferred to the members of the community for example Chief arvo looking horse at the Lakota Dakota nakota Nations it's highly regarded when at the age of 12 he received the sacred White Buffalo half pipe bundle and its teachings based on these responsibilities it can be said that a bundle is a lifelong Commitment if not then the bundle has to be responsibly passed on or otherwise released and never simply neglected or distorted in a disrespectful way because four directions teachings is a collection of teachings by respected elders and traditional teachers who have shared indigenous knowledge in culturally specific ways it has been embraced by indigenous community members as a digital bundle hence the site is a type of expression and communication that is Meaningful and recognizable to diverse indigenous communities while at the same time being completely unreadable and unrecognizable to non-indigenous communities this notion is in keeping with levro who also points out that genres have many other significant facets that make them quote relevant for alternative and activist New Media projects she writes they help mediate or facilitate communication among members of communities quoting the work of Kevin crowston and Marie Williams Libro includes their note that genres are useful because they make communication more easily recognizable and understandable by recipients thus she says genres are the means for creating and maintaining community and social contexts and the cultural products of those communities and contexts moreover she are she argues that genres can also be so specific to a certain group's world view or situation that Outsiders may not understand them so genres can also act as boundaries or markers that exclude Outsiders and reinforce the power of insiders citing crowston and Williams once more liberal concludes that recognition of a particular genre is one sign of membership in a particular community thank you indigenous communities understand traditional bundles to be representative of traditional cultural expression which carries cultural protocol and responsibilities these protocols and responsibilities differ across diverse indigenous Nations a digital bundle is a new offering online a new genre a new social movement because it does not fit within existing Frameworks online indigenous knowledge is a complex epistemological Paradigm that embodies ceremonial protocols only elders and teachers who have been gifted the indigenous knowledge and teachings in this way can share those teachings publicly and transfer them this type of indigenous knowledge is often considered as belonging to the community and held in trust by knowledge Keepers and Elders expected to abide by the cultural protocols entrusted to that knowledge as a producer of indigenous knowledge media projects and as an academic I make it part of my practice to articulate this distinction so as not to assume or usurp the role of a knowledge keeper or disrespect the indigenous protocols carry and held by Elders who carry the indigenous knowledge of their communities and clearly articulating my knowledge as acquired knowledge and in recognizing indigenous knowledge papers and Elders as representing the indigenous knowledge Protocols of their communities I am honoring the diverse copyright that is the protocols or what John Burroughs might refer to as the legal traditions of diverse indigenous Nations therefore in thinking about a bundle and what it means we have to be mindful with the care and passing on of bundles and that these are sacred things and that they are or at least could be or have a ceremony to go along with that process in this way our protocols note what is in the Commons and what is not so in closing I ask you what do you know about indigenous knowledge what do you know about our cultural signifiers and relational paradigms how many of you know what treaty you live in and how that treaty came about and whether it was created in good faith I also want you to reflect on what you learned about indigenous knowledge in your public or private education in reflecting upon these questions what kind of Truth do you seek out every day what kind of responsibility do you take in building good relations with the First Peoples of this continent our indigenous time keepers have said that the time is now take responsibility and step out of your comfort zone and learn a new way of being and perceiving the world because more because now more than ever we need truth we need responsibility and we need to take care of our communities the land the water the sky and all living beings once we do that then we can talk about reconciliation migration foreign thank you Jennifer that was um that was so expansive and um really echoing or vibrating off of um I guess Community stories Community knowledge Community pain um and articulated in such a way that um it reminded me of um conversations that I've had with my own Sturgeon Lake family and knowledge is that that I carry that um are held like bundles um but more in the form of like stories and the sharing of experiences that ungloo me in some ways so I really appreciate the assemblage that the idea and the um the creation of assemblages as a way to kind of think about um are how we land into relation with each other that like the Turtles back there are all of these different fractals um of experience and of of of of ways of of knowing but also the stories that we keep hidden or that we keep in a special place like abando whereas we know that if we were to mention these stories if we were to talk about these stories specifically on Oren's shirt day that they will be taken up in a particular way so what are those stories that we keep safe and kept and protected out of our love for these relations that share these stories with us so I guess I was thinking about as you were speaking Cheryl larondelle um who is like an Auntie to me um and Cheryl larondelle's um activation of digital bundles and and thinking with Cheryl about the light TP um that they are going to be um activating into Toronto uh for Nui Blanche and I was thinking about the light TB as sort of this um like I see this word resonance resonant chamber or Hub of um of indigenous Futurity of um the fractals and the assemblages that we are and that our bodies are and um I know that this work that you're doing or I feel it is is really challenging work because you are in relationship to all of these layers to all of these stories to all of this knowledge and then what do you put in a public like what do you what do you um what do you surface in a public situation like writing a book or doing a talk um so you know I just wanted to say with gratitude um that I see you but I see all of these other um I see you as an assemblage of all of these other um stories all of these other you know shared intimacies all these other relations and the language and the um the visuals that you construct for us are so helpful and also so intimate so I just wanted to thank you for for your sharing today okay watch Karen I'm keeping my meat because I've got garbage day here whatever you guys can hear it so loud yeah I hear it yeah I also want to thank you Jennifer for your your beautiful presentation um I have to acknowledge that you know um I have used for directions teachings in my teaching practice for many years and I continue to do so and it's the site is such a gift and I and if anyone who's seen it or has used it for teaching practice knows the thought and the care that went into that and the the the protocols that are embedded within that sharing um and it's just a beautiful beautiful sight um such a thoughtful and relevant talk about all of these considerations that need to go into indigenous knowledge projects online um that are that are transferable to so many different contexts and I think uh will definitely inform a lot of the conversations that are going to be going on today so I think it's your talk really nicely pre-figures um um and hopefully will inform a lot of those discussions so you know Jimmy guach thank you so much for that he also I'm I but I guess the assemblage or the the beautiful thinkers and the brilliant thinkers that are in this digital space right now um I was wondering if if folks from that are witnessing this work uh could help us in articulating the gratitude that we began with today and also to think uh expansively about how this um the sharing lands for you and perhaps like um reciprocate uh in that way for Jennifer's offering today so is there anybody amongst us um that would like to do so yeah please feel free to supricate in the comments or through the microphone Tia please hi everyone actually let me just lower my hand because I'll forget that question um thank you um uh for for this amazing work and for the work that you have continued to do and I have learned so much since meeting you when you arrived at the University of Toronto the first time we met at I think it was at the mcluhan center um and um and I saw you another tall woman across the room and I thought we are going to be friends and we became became friends um and I'm I'm so grateful for that friendship and for learning from you um in particular the conversations that we've had about what it means to think about being a scholar and being a scholar of digital culture and as a as a digital maker as a helper and what kinds of responsibilities we can bear um and share um as um for me I think about it in the context of um my settlerness and my whiteness um and I also think about um the thing and I think about this also I'm thinking with the three of you um and being you know very familiar with um the work that Karen you do on constellatory practices and John the work that you do with first story and one of the things I'm so grateful for today is thinking about how this work is a landing but it's also a skying it's also a watering it's also a relating um and it's not just about thinking about how we can instrumentalize this knowledge um in a settler framework but actually thinking about how we can have it impact us um impact the way that we work and think and relate to each other but not just thinking about oh how can I how can I grab a quote from this and put it in my talk today um sorry if anyone was thinking about doing that you can still do it but um I'm just thinking about you know the ways that settler scholarship has so has such a domination and extraction logic and that our Instinct and our habit is to just grab grab grab grab how can I how can I turn this into a sound bite that's going to reinforce my ideas and I think for one of the things that I learned through your humility in in your helper methods and helper way of working is really thinking about responsibility but also really thinking about giving up that idea that ego idea of original knowledge and thinking that that as an as a scholar that's what I'm going to do and I'm going to claim something as original that is mine and that um and that that is what is going to land me my brand that's what's going to land me my reputation that's what's going to land me my tenure and instead to think about Landing in a way of of the humility of the helper and the humility of a sense to responsibility and I think the way that you're thinking about this day as truth and responsibility as opposed to Truth and Reconciliation is so it's so extremely meaningful to me um especially as I go through processes of trying to think about who I am as a scholar in relation to the knowledges that I'm around um so I know that's babbly but I just I'm so grateful to our friendship all to all of you um and to what I've learned from all of you since we have come together at U of T over the last handful of years and um and so so grateful to be sharing the space with you today and always thanks so much TL that was beautiful and I should say um also really really appreciate um the work that we've been doing in the conversations we've had over the years as well um uh always always beautiful um there's some comments in the the chat as well that I'd like to read out for uh Jennifer to here because I don't think Jennifer's able to always see the the chat so uh Jazz uh has written Jennifer your work is always such a gift to those of us and in and around digital Humanities critical data and new media studies I especially love today how you point to the challenge that your helper methodology poses to Colonial media studies media arts and digital humanities which insists so much on the new and the singular so very much in line with what uh TL was saying there as well yeah I also I also appreciated um uh TL think through those um Logics of extraction and extractive knowledge and I'm wondering Jennifer if you um wanted to speak um to TL and Jazz's provocations or offerings are are offers of gratitude yeah it's me glitch for that it's a little quieter now the garbage is moved down or up the street um yeah I mean I think you know sitting and working with different Elders like so I've Had The Good Fortune um as I mentioned um working with the indigenous time Keepers so even being able to sit in in conversation with the kogis right and have like people interpret and be able to talk and meet with all of these these knowledge Keepers and elders and what I see is that um what people carry in terms of their bundles and their knowledge it's huge it's like so it's so interesting because we're always taught in a colonial education system that our knowledge is dead or dying or it's lost and when I'm out there talking to these elders and knowledge Keepers across South and North America it's just a wealth of knowledge and what they choose to share with us is just a tiny little intro it's just a snippet and so I feel like so when we talk about what is extraction it's like no no they they know what they're doing right so as a helper I'm just deferring to them and I can see that yeah what they're sharing with us is just just a snippet and yet it's so profound because it comes from heart knowledge it comes from De boiwin right it comes from truth and so yeah and so I think about that and I think about how all of the work that we&