Di-bayn-di-zi-win (To Own Ourselves): Embodying Ojibway-Anishinabe Ways was an interesting project from start to finish. It was a collaboration between friends, mentor, and student and publisher. The relationship grew over the period we were involved in the project. Dundurn Press was a respectful partner, and this is something that I won’t soon forget.
My story could never have been shared without Don’s participation and perspective of what goes on in the academy and what’s needed. As I mentioned in the book, I’m basically a “one-trick pony.” I’m all about resistance and know very little of the inner workings of the academy. I haven’t been privileged with this experience. Meegwetch to Don for sharing his understanding and perspective of the academy and agreeing to participate in the collaboration.
Obviously, my hope is that our message resonates with Anishinabeg impoverished by colonization and the culture of poverty. I still believe that education is the medicine that will cure the social ills of colonization and poverty. But this has to take place on our terms and in our own communities. My vision and understanding are based on freedom and regaining our indianness or Anishinabeness. These are a pre-requisite.
Indigenization of the academy is a noble gesture by people who have white privilege. In my mind, this is the nature of colonization. We’re old acquaintances for sure. The system and those more learned are right when they tell us that they “know us”. However, I push back and say that “we know ourselves better”.
Using the words indigenization, reconciliation, and indigenous are attempts to minimize who we are, where we come from, what we do and how we live and walk in this world. These three words imply that Canada “doesn’t want to be inconvenienced by our pain”. We’ve never been at a place of friendly relations; colonization doesn’t quite work that way. Therefore, it’s about prioritizing its feelings over our notions of justice and healing.
The language, words and ideas of oppression do matter. Our languages, ideas, words, and ways of doing and knowing on the other hand provide challenges to the mainstream academy and Canada. The Anishinabe understanding of reconciliation is bo-nayn-da-ma-win - “bo-nay” (Stop or End) “en-dam” (The angry mind) “da-maw” (Towards another).
While we’re not really certain of what’s happening in this moment of racial reckoning, I believe that real progress will require more listening, not less. More learning, not a stubborn resistance to our anishinabeness. More self-reflection, less defensiveness and not being afraid to open up. As well as more truth and less visceral dismissiveness. More respect and less self-righteous indignation. This is the way forward in my mind.
I hope that Di-bayn-di-zi-win (To Own Ourselves): Embodying Ojibway-Anishinabe Ways brings an awareness to the voices that are not being heard (Elders, Grandmothers, Grandfathers, Youth, Medicine people, Spiritual leaders, and the Poor) on this path to indigenization and reconciliation.
mii i’i-way anishinabe i-zhi-chi-gay-win zhigo mii'iw eta-go o-way neen-gi-kayn-dahn zhigo ni-gi-noon-dah-wah (This is the anishinabe way, and this is as much as I know and have heard)
mii i’iw (That is all)
Makwa Ogimaa (Jerry Fontaine) is Ojibway-Anishinabe from the Ojibway-Anishinabe community of Sagkeeng in Manitoba. He was (indian act) Chief during the period 1987 to 1998 and has been an adviser to Anishinabe communities and industry. Jerry currently teaches in the Department of Indigenous Studies at the University of Winnipeg. He lives in Traverse Bay, Manitoba. Learn more here.
Come back tomorrow to read the blog post of co-author Don McCaskill.