Methodology: Proposed research strategies and key activities
Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s Decolonizing Methodologies (1999) made it impossible to see the division of research activity into theory, methodology, data collection, and reporting, etc. culturally neutral. We cannot purify our disciplinary ways of knowing or pretend to understand everything we read. Our main strategy is to read and seriously consider as many Indigenous writers, past and present, as we can, and to open up the many perspectives on the subject responsibly and respectfully.
Research Strategies and Key Activities
Objective # 1- a blog and a sustainable annotated open-access bibliography of Indigenous texts and related secondary materials, including sustainable digital publication and distribution of texts, where legally and ethically permissible: The blog will contain commissioned postings from the team, research assistants, and others. Among the topics covered will be research stories, book history, rare editions, interesting research resources (such as missionary magazines), and more. The audience for the website will consist of academics, students, researchers from a variety of disciplines, including literature, history, anthropology, and community members interested in culture-specific materials. We will ensure that the entries are tagged appropriately so that researchers anywhere in the world can find material that is relevant to their interests. Better still, they can suggest corrections, updates and additions. The website will feature an annotated bibliography of published work by Indigenous speakers and writers. Each entry will include secondary sources, such as Dictionary of Canadian Biography entries, critical articles, links to community websites, etc. The bibliography will also list important general critical and theoretical works and anthologies of works by multiple authors. For the period before 1992 we have already input into the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory (CRWC) a list of 53 individual authors who wrote and published texts and of 43 individuals whose words were transcribed, translated into English if necessary, edited and published by others. There are certainly more works by these storytellers and writers to discover, and certainly others whose work appears only in collections, periodicals, newspapers and manuscript collections.
We will also digitally publish otherwise inaccessible texts where legally possible and ethically desirable. For example, Marc André Fortin makes the compelling case that the novel, The Downfall of Temlaham (1928), by Marius Barbeau contains uncredited Indigenous Knowledge and privately owned stories that, if Indigenous claims are to be taken seriously as legitimate, ought not to be in circulation. We will make every effort to make available those texts that we can ethically post, but will also take the same amount of effort to consult appropriate Indigenous communities for ways in which we can provide material for their use and purposes.
Objective #2 – Regular forums and training workshops as part of the annual meetings of ILSA to investigate models of supportive, ethical, responsible and community-responsive research and to promote work on the growing web resource:
Most of our bibliography and materials discussed in Objective #1 will be available on-line to a general audience. We will also develop password protected resources designed for specific audiences, in accordance with our commitment to consult with appropriate communities connected to specific texts, the rights of communities to benefit from research and varying Indigenous protocols around the ownership of certain stories. Annual workshops synchronized with the annual ILSA conferences will report on specific test cases, raising questions about community feedback and concerns; scholars working with test cases will evaluate the benefits and gaps in maintaining resources for select audiences; also, others will consider the evaluation and navigation of the ethics procedures developed through the research offices at various universities that are typically composed for studies outside literary studies.
Our first test case will focus on the ample corpus of and about Mohawk poet E. Pauline Johnson (1861-1913). Johnson is an ideal test case because most of her work is considered to be in the public domain yet much is still not readily available outside of academic collections. For example, while many of her longer works (Legends of Vancouver, Moccasin Maker, Shagganappi) are available on-line through Project Gutenberg, much of her work is not; in fact, while her short stories were available for some time in the last decade on the McMaster University website, this link has not been working for several years. Also, two of our collaborators have direct community links to Johnson’s legacy. First is Mohawk literary scholar Dr. Rick Monture, (McMaster) is a member of the Board of Directors for the Chiefswood National Historic Site, Pauline Johnson’s childhood home and an Associate Professor with the Indigenous Knowledge Centre located at Grand River Six Nations. The second is Squamish archaeologist Dr. Rudy Reimer/Yumks, (SFU) who has an active ceremonial life in his home community. He is the descendant of Chief August Jack Kahtsahlano (1877-1967), a contemporary of Johnson and Chief Joe Capilano. With the assistance of Drs. Monture and Reimer as liaisons with their respective nations we will evaluate the large amount of archival material available on Johnson for on-line dissemination either to a general audience or to a select Mohawk or Squamish audience for their own purposes. Much of the material that we will use as a test case is in the personal archives of SFU colleague and Johnson expert Dr. Carole Gerson, professor in the Department of English, which we have access to with her permission. Our first meeting, in 2015 in conjunction with ILSA, will be hosted by Dr. Monture at Chiefswood; our second meeting, in 2016 in conjunction with ILSA, will be hosted with the aid of Dr. Reimer, by SFU on Squamish territory. In both meetings we will include delegates from Six Nations and Squamish, to help us think through issues of community participation, in order to produce a list of best practices for literary work in conjunction with Indigenous communities.
Objective #3: a manual on Indigenous Research Methods and Protocols for Literary Scholars: a final result of this collaborative work with our several partners, the ILSA membership, and community members is the production of a manual outlining “promising practices” of the field and describing innovations on training for scholars of Indigenous literary studies.
Objective #4- a collaborative literary history of multi-genre Indigenous texts
We will co-edit an anthology of essays of Indigenous texts from the beginnings of Indigenous literacy in English or in English translation to 1992. The focus will be on material written by Indigenous authors, although we will include some “told-to” texts. We choose a symbolic date as our cutoff, the Columbian quincentenary of European colonization; by 1992, a new conversation had clearly begun with an explosion of Indigenous fiction, poetry and drama. We will focus on the genres produced by Indigenous writers those that literature scholars now categorize as letters, petitions, journalism, life writing, travel writing, history, ethnography, and political commentary. That said, many texts range across these and other genres; our view of genre is that it is culture-specific, performative and rhetorically motivated (Powell); we will interrogate these categories as we proceed, including that of literary history itself. The geographical focus will be on the territory that is now called Canada, although writings by those who came to Canada will be included (e.g. Joseph Brant, John Norton, Thomas King; Mourning Dove). Although its primary focus will be on the writers in their cultural and historical context, it will also be an institutional history, given that early writers often emerged from European institutions such as the mission and the residential school, and later ones from Indigenous institutions, e.g. En’owkin Centre (Penticton) and Native Earth Performing Arts (Toronto).
A connecting focus will be on Indigenous meta-commentary on reading and writing in these texts, in other words, on Indigenous theories of interpretation. Some of this meta-commentary can be derived from oral narratives or applies to them, and we will connect knowledge derived from orature to our understanding of Indigenous interpretive practices. This analysis includes theoretical commentary on Indigenous epistemologies, languages, translation, interpretation and ways of speaking (see for example, Archibald; Armstrong, “Land”; Atleo; Battiste, ed; Battiste and Henderson; Borrows; Campbell et al.; Cruikshank, Dauenhauer and Dauenhauer; Doerfler et al.; Justice; McLeod; Reder; Scollon and Scollon; Sinclair; Valentine). We will commission chapters from appropriate scholars, including some to undertake close readings and historical contextualization of single important works or closely related works. Among these are John Norton’s Journal (1816), the works of George Copway and other Mississauga Ojibway converts who wrote in the mid-to-late nineteenth century (see Smith), Edward Ahenekew’s “Old Keyam” (ca. 1923; see Reder), William Beynon’s Potlatch at Gitsegukla (1945), Jerry Lonecloud’s memoirs (1923-29), Norval Morriseau’s Legends of My People, The Great Ojibway (1965), and Clutesi’s Potlatch (1969). A chapter on Cree-Métis life stories will bring together works by Peter Erasmus (1833-1931), who told his life story to a Métis reporter, Henry Thompson, in the 1920s, with the life writing of Marie Rose Delorme Smith (1861-1960), Joseph F. Dion (1888-1960), Edward Ahenakew (1885-1961), Maria Campbell (1940- ) and others (Adams; Dumont; Goulet; Watech; see MacKinnon). Another grouping will include the writings of those who travelled off the continent (see Weaver, Red Atlantic), including Louis Jackson (Mohawk; ca. 1843-after 1888), Maungwudaus/George Henry (Chippewa/Ojibwa; c. 1807-after 1877) and Abraham Ulrikab (Inuit; 1845?-1881). Maungwudaus, although trained as a missionary, organized a troupe of performers including his family members, and performed in London and then in Paris. Ulrikab, converted by Moravian missionaries, travelled to Germany with his family to be exhibited in Hagenbeck’s Zoo in 1880; they all died there of smallpox (see Lutz). These travellers’ comments on European customs are revealing of the differences between cultures. We will aim to include material from across Canada, including the North. And we will remember that stories are gifts that entail responsibilities.