Working Paper 2014-06

Title: Being Indigenous: Propositions from the Margins

Authors: Johnnie Manson and Dorothy Manson

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In this article, we use Indigenous stories as tools to reclaim our Tla-o-qui-aht identities, reject the colonial settler state of Canada’s way of being, and redeem the philosophies and experiences of our relations – human and nonhuman – that have been silenced by the process of colonialism. We outline the Tla-o-qui-aht philosophy of Hish-ook-ish-tsawalk, and demonstrate how its underlying principles inform the stories and actions of Dorothy’s ancestral teachers, whose stories and actions, in turn, informed how she experienced the world, her propositions on how the world should be, and finally, the stories she conveys to her children. Hence, we argue that Dorothy’s stories and experience can be thought of as a decolonizing praxis. We also seek to demonstrate that the coercive, discursive, and material configurations of colonial settler power constrain the ability of my mother to enact a life according to the teachings of her ancestors. We demonstrate how Dorothy, through recounting her stories within a relational and genealogical framework, challenges and rejects the discursive, coercive, and material propositions of the colonial settler state regarding the best way for her to conceptualize and enact her identity. The implications of Dorothy’s theoretical praxis are discussed regarding Indigenous sovereignty and Indigenous engagement in radical politics.

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