Tuesday September 19, 2017

Decolonization: The Next 150 on Indigenous Lands

People hold up a sign during a demonstration on Parliament Hill, as a crowd gathered to erect a teepee as part of a four-day Canada Day protest, in Ottawa in July 2017.

People hold up a sign during a demonstration on Parliament Hill, as a crowd gathered to erect a teepee as part of a four-day Canada Day protest, in Ottawa in July 2017. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Listen to Full Episode 53:59

Canada's celebration of its 150th birthday has provoked a lot of mixed feelings. When Canada was created, the government was committed to eradicating the First Nations people who occupied the land for thousands of years—a fact we now acknowledge but have barely begun to reckon with.

Every year thousands of academics from across the country gather for the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. It's the largest annual gathering of scholars in Canada.

This year Congress was hosted by Ryerson University with the theme "The Next 150 on Indigenous Lands."

With that in mind, we invited three emerging Indigenous PhD students to talk about their work and what they could imagine possible in the next 150 years. Réal Carrière (Ryerson University), Keri Cheechoo (University of Ottawa) and Cherry Smiley (Concordia University) shared their insights. 

The public forum was moderated by Tom Howell and Nicola Luksic as part of our series Ideas from the Trenches, where we showcase the outstanding work of PhD students across the country.

Ideas from the Trenches - Decolonization - Réal Carrière

Réal Carrière

Réal Carrière – Ryerson University, Nehinuw (Cree) from Saskatchewan. His doctoral work focuses on Indigenous governance and language, especially the idea of "Nehinuw governance in Nehinuw terms". He is now teaching in the political science department at University of Saskatchewan.

"Indigenous people have been resisting colonialism since it began. It's been the Oka warriors, Big Bear and all the way back to the beginning. When Indigenous people have to stand up in their own country and say "you're breaking our laws," this should show Canadians that there's something wrong here." – ​Réal Carrière


Trenches - Decolonization -  Keri Cheechoo

Keri Cheechoo

Keri Cheechoo – University of Ottawa, Cree woman from Long Lake #58 First Nation. A poet and scholar whose doctoral work will study and rewrite (re-right) the missing histories of the state-sponsored policy of forcing or coercing Indigenous women to sterilize their wombs.

"If you're looking at the impact sterilization has on a woman's psyche, there's a sense of grief, a sense of loss. I know when I visit with my grandson, I know it's not just me looking at him. It's my ancestors. And I know it's not just my grandson I'm looking at, I'm looking at the future. So it's super critical that we provide that space for the narratives of women who've undergone sterilization….These women underwent these processes and they're not able to look into their grandchildren's eyes and see the future."

Trenches - Decolonization - Cherry Smiley

Cherry Smiley

Cherry Smiley – Concordia University, Nlaka'pamux (Thompson) and Diné (Navajo) artist and activist whose PhD work concerns the colonization of Indigenous women's bodies. In particular, she argues for defining prostitution as a key site of sexualized male violence against Indigenous women and girls.

"Decolonizing is going to hurt. It's not going to be easy. It means things are going to have to change. And it means we're going to have to give some things up. Some of us more than others. And I think people aren't ready for that yet….We're not going to get there overnight… but at my core I believe it's possible to change the world. If I didn't truly believe that, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing." – Cherry Smiley