Inter-institutional panel affirms commitment to Indigenization and decolonization

University of Lethbridge faculty and former students, along with City of Lethbridge and Galt Museum staff, recently presented a panel at the Thinking with and Alongside Critical Indigenous Scholarship Conference at the University of Oxford. Organized by The Oxford Research Centre on the Humanities (TORCH) and its Critical Indigenous Studies Network, the conference sought to engage Indigenous epistemological and ontological perspectives and the contributions of Indigenous knowledge systems in diverse contexts.

The panel consisted of (top, left to right) Tara Million, Andrea Cuellar, Michelle Hogue, Patrick Wilson, and (bottom, left to right) Ross Kilgour, Camina Weasel Moccasin, Perry Stein.

The panel, Indigenization and Intercultural Collaboration in Municipal and Postsecondary Contexts, was convened by Dr. Patrick Wilson (Modern Languages and Linguistics and Prentice Institute Research Affiliate) and included contributions from Camina Weasel Moccasin (Curator Galt Museum), Perry Stein (Prentice Institute Research Affiliate, BA ’09), Ross Kilgour (City of Lethbridge Senior Community Planner and Prentice Institute Research Affiliate), Tara Million (Indigenous Studies and Prentice Institute Research Affiliate), Dr. Michelle Hogue (Indigenous Studies and Prentice Institute Research Affiliate), and Dr. Andrea Cuéllar (Anthropology and Associate Director of the Prentice Institute).

The panel was organized as a Talking Circle, following Indigenous protocols and ways of sharing knowledge, and consisted of conversations among panelists around four major themes — the TRC Calls to Action in institutional contexts, intercultural collaboration and cross-cultural learning, multiple constructions of Indigeneity and Indigenous identities, and decolonization and Indigenization — as they relate to their work in the City of Lethbridge, the University of Lethbridge and the Galt Museum and Archives.

These themes are connected to the ongoing commitment of each panelist to the work of reconciliation, and participation in this conference allowed them to see the relevance of this work in Lethbridge as well as a broader context.

Reconciliation is not the job of one person, one department, one institution, one community, or even one People; it is an ongoing, collective responsibility,” says Stein. “Participating in this conference allowed us to share the impact of collective action between and across the University of Lethbridge, City of Lethbridge and Galt Museum & Archives to advance not only conversations about truth and reconciliation, but concrete action and partnerships.”

Presenting this work at a conference hosted at the University of Oxford provided a unique opportunity to have discussions around reconciliation and decolonization at a place and institution with deep historical roots to colonization and its legacies and contributed to an ongoing conversation for the need to decolonize academic scholarship.

“Presenting this work in the form of a Talking Circle, where we addressed challenging topics with the audience seated in a circle around us bearing witness to our practice, allowed us to deconstruct conventional forms of conference presentations and offer a different model of disseminating knowledge, rooted in Indigenous ways of knowledge transmission,” says Hogue.

The conference also offered the opportunity for Camina Weasel Moccasin, in her role as Indigenous Curator at the Galt Museum and accompanied by other panelists, to initiate conversations with curators at the British Museum in London and the Pitt-Rivers Museum at Oxford around repatriation and rematriation of Blackfoot items of cultural significance held in those museums’ collections.

“The experience was very overwhelming, but also very enriching. I am grateful I had the opportunity to create new, and positive, relationships with museum staff while there,” shares Camina.

Cuéllar summarized the value of the conference and related activities.

“Participation in this conference allowed us to articulate and share the significance of years of interconnected and collaborative work on Indigenization and decolonization, to assess accomplishments and gaps, and to affirm our commitment to continuing this work.

“The museum visits and conversations with curators were very revealing, they prompted us to think about the need of a transnational reconciliation framework, of which repatriation programs could be a piece.”

The next steps for this collaborative work are to initiate a book project and present the panel at the University of Lethbridge during the Fall 2024 semester.

Participation in the conference was made possible by financial support from the Prentice Institute for Global Population and Economy, the University of Lethbridge, and two University of Lethbridge SSHRC Exchange grants (awarded to Wilson and Cuéllar).