Woman Warriors Newsletter

Decolonizing Research Part 4

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Decolonizing Virtual Space

My guest for this virtual coffee chat, Billy Wadsworth and I met in September 2019 at the Alberta Indigenous Mentorship in Health Innovation (AIM-HI) Network retreat held on Tsuutʼina Nation. The purpose of the retreat was for the funded students to discuss their summer research projects, and to connect Indigenous students with Indigenous academic mentors. I received an undergraduate student stipend for my research, Digital Storytelling as an Indigenous Women’s Health Advocacy Tool: Empowering Indigenous Women to Frame Their Health Stories, and Billy and his wife, Tisha were both funded as graduate students. Recently, Tisha graduated from the University of Calgary with a Masters of Education and Billy is continuing his Master’s through the University of Lethbridge.

In last week’s newsletter, I discussed decolonizing virtual spaces by offering protocol to our knowledge keepers, Elders, or research co-creators virtually by holding up the tobacco on-screen to ask for the privilege of being gifted knowledge, then mailing the tobacco to complete the exchange. Also, I invested in a green screen so that I could virtually feature the lands and territories where each of my guests resides or spends time co-creating their research with Indigenous communities. I explained that sharing our connection to the land is essential to the decolonization process. This week I asked Billy to send me personal photos of his territory and to take us on a virtual tour. It was a wonderful experience to listen to Billy share stories about Blackfoot territory, including the traditional Blackfoot names. An important aspect of decolonizing the land and virtual spaces is revitalizing the traditional place-names and understanding the history of the land according to the oral stories and songs of the First Peoples of the land. Billy stated that Elders in his community acknowledge their long-standing relationship with the land in his Blackfoot land acknowledgement:

“And throughout Canada, when our elders speak of the land and where we’re from, [insert Blackfoot phrase] which means basically that we’ve been here for a very long time and that that the newcomers are new to the land and therefore they don’t have the identity to the land. They don’t know the stories and the songs to the land. And so that’s why they will always say that we are people of this land.” 

Billy mentioned a Ph.D. student with the University of Lethbridge, Mike Bruised Head that is mapping Blackfoot territory and revitalizing the traditional place-names. I did not find his research online, but for further insights on this topic please read the article, Putting Indigenous Place-Names and Languages Back on Maps.

I did not include all the photos or stories that Billy and I shared because of time constraints. I am trying to keep each interview to a maximum of 35 minutes to avoid online fatigue. Billy shared some important teachings from his Uncle, Dr. Leroy Little Bear about why land is sacred. I will share these insights in a separate video within the next few weeks. Please click on the red arrow below to watch our virtual chat and subscribe to the Women Warriors Youtube Channel .

Next week’s virtual coffee chat features another Blackfoot scholar, Dr. Gabrielle Lindstrom (née Weasel Head). She is an Educational Development Consultant in Indigenous ways of knowing in the Taylor Institute of Teaching and Learning with the University of Calgary in Calgary, Alberta. Her research interests include meaningful assessment, Indigenous homelessness policy reform, Indigenous health research, intercultural pedagogies, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL): intercultural parallels, Indigenous resilience, assessment reform in Child Welfare, anti-colonial theory and anti-oppression/anti-racist pedagogy.

S01E04 Decolonizing Research: Iskotoah’ka William (Billy) Wadsworth on OCAP™ Principles & Ethical Relationships.

Iskotoah’ka William (Billy) Wadsworth on OCAP™ Principles
& Ethical Relationships

Iskotoah’ka William (Billy) Wadsworth is from the Blood Tribe, Kainai Nation of the Blackfoot Confederacy. He is a member of the Motois’pitaiks “All Tall Peoples” Clan and a member of the Kaanaa’tsimiitaiks “Brave Dog” society. His research background is sovereign approaches to education, health, and governance rooted in Blackfoot philosophy. He is currently enrolled at the University of Lethbridge as a Master’s candidate, Indigenous studies (governance). Billy is a traditional singer and song composer. He is married to his wife, Tisha of 24 years and has 1 daughter and 1 grandson all of whom are part of the Brave Dog Society of the Kainai people. Billy has worked for the Blood Tribe in many capacities with respect to research and governance and served one position as an elected minor Chief for the Kainai nation. 
On today’s episode Billy shares:

  • Traditional Blackfoot land acknowledgement and the story of his traditional name.
  • A virtual tour of his territory featuring his personal pictures.
  • His background in research and an explanation of Blackfoot philosophy and how he applies it to research.
  • Research questions from a settler academic perspective verses grounded in Indigenous community.
  • Teachings on OCAP™ principles and data sovereignty.
  • His perspective on building ethical research relationships.
  • Teachings on historical trauma, the legacy of residential school, and healing from the cycle of intergenerational trauma.  

Selected Links from this Episode:

Connect with Billy
Instagram: @billy_wadsworth_bullhorn
Twitter: @WilliamBillyWa2
What did you learn about from this interview?
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