Woman Warriors Newsletter

Decolonizing Research Part 3

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Decolonizing Virtual Space

My guest for this virtual coffee chat, Barb and I have never met in person, yet we both feel a sense of trust and a strong relationship from spending time this past summer co-creating her digital story for her Master’s thesis. Barb was my first virtual student for the methodology of digital storytelling online, and our efforts led me to contemplate how to decolonize online space. In last week’s newsletter, I discussed featuring the lands and territories where each of my guests resides or spends time co-creating their research with Indigenous communities. I highlighted that our connection to the land is essential to the decolonization process. I asked Barb to pick the background of our virtual coffee chat in order to make her comfortable and give us a shared connection to her preferred landscape. She explained that the Rocky Mountains background was similar to the view from her office window. 

Another aspect of decolonizing virtual spaces is being able to follow protocol. For those that may not know what protocol is, it is the offering of tobacco for the privilege of being gifted knowledge, usually from an Elder but in Barb’s case, it was to her research co-creators. She offered protocol (tobacco) to her research co-creators online by showing them a pinch of tobacco on her screen then mailed it to them. I also had a similar experience when I moderated our Canadian Science Policy Conference panel and offered Elder Evelyn Good Striker online protocol. Barb stated it felt unnatural to do protocol in this way because she did not feel like there was a completed exchange. My observation is that we have done our best to adapt protocols to virtual spaces. Protocols are necessary to respecting knowledge exchange and being responsible with that knowledge, and the act of virtual protocol is still as respectful and binding as in-person protocol. I am interested in hearing from community members, students and academics about their feelings and experiences with online protocol.

Please click on the red arrow below to watch our virtual chat and subscribe to the Women Warriors Youtube Channel for next week’s virtual coffee chat with Iskotoah’ka William (Billy) Wadsworth from the Blood Tribe, Kainai Nation of the Blackfoot Confederacy. We are going on a virtual tour of his territory and learning about his research which is rooted in Blackfoot philosophy.

S01E03 Decolonizing Research: Barb Horsefall on the Experiences of Two-Spirit Women with Gender Protocols in Ceremony. 

Barb Horsefall on the Experiences of Two-Spirit Women with Gender Protocols in Ceremony

Barb Horsefall identifies as Otipemisiwak (Métis), and her ancestry is of Mohawk, Cree, Algonquin Anishinaabe, Wyandat, Mi’kmaw, French, and Irish peoples. She is 17th generation Metis, an identity that her family has held onto with much resilience despite the impacts of colonial violence. She is currently in her final year of her Masters of Conflict Analysis and Management at Royal Roads University. Her community-based research study explores the experiences of urban Indigenous Two-Spirit women with gender protocols in traditional ceremonies. It highlights the experiences of these women, communicated through an oral digital storytelling form to be shared with the greater grassroots Indigenous community, with hopes that it will ignite future social action for greater inclusivity within ceremony.
Barb is the daughter of late writer, Sharron Proulx-Turner. Proulx-Turner’s writing (for a complete list of her writing please click link) covered a variety of genres: poetry, memoir, and mixed-genre historical fiction. She is widely anthologized, appearing in Double Lives: Writing and Motherhood, Crisp Blue Edges: Indigenous Creative Non-Fiction, My Home as I Remember, and An Anthology of Canadian Native Literature in English. Proulx-Turner acted as a mentor to writers in the Canadian literature community, particularly for emerging Indigenous writers, and advocated on behalf of the field of Indigenous literature and its writers. She created opportunities for Two-Spirit and gender non-conforming people in ceremony and in writing communities. Spirituality was an integral part of Proulx-Turner’s writing process. As she wrote in her book, One Bead at a Time, the purpose of her writing is to: “…give back to the women and children whose stories so often go untold. To give back to the spirits of the Indigenous children that have been and are still missing.” 
On today’s episode Barb shares:

  • Using the methodology of digital storytelling in her research on the experiences of Two-Spirit Women with gender protocols in ceremony.
  • The inspiration for her research topic – a love letter to her late mom, Sharron Proulx-Turner.
  • Her mom’s role in academia and community and how it influenced Barb’s academic journey and research topic.
  • Creating safe and inclusive spaces for Indigenous peoples in academia and what that looks like.
  • Using the “Sky Woman story in her digital story and how her three research co-creators reacted to her digital story.
  • The co-creation of her research virtually and how she decolonized it.
  • How covid-19 has impacted her research journey.
  • Her advice for Indigenous students that want to write a thesis grounded in Indigenous methodology.

Selected Links from this Episode:

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