Indigenous politics as ‘a state of reclamation’: Robin R. Gray, Ts’msyen Revolution: The Poetics and Politics of Reclaiming, PhD Dissertation, University of Massachusetts, 2015
Abstract: As a result of the settler colonial project in North America, Ts’msyen have been thrust into a state of reclamation. The purpose of this study was to examine the distinctiveness of what it means for Ts’msyen to reclaim given our particular history and experiences with settler colonialism. Utilizing the poetics and politics as a theoretical, methodological and practical framework, this dissertation synthesizes the motivations, possibilities and obstacles associated with Ts’msyen reclamation in the contemporary era. Further, as a contribution to the literature on decolonization, Indigenous nationhood, Indigenous subjectivity, Indigenous methodologies and repatriation of Indigenous cultural heritage, I report on two multi-sited, auto-ethnographic, and community-based research initiatives: (1) a repatriation case study focusing on the legal and ethical dimensions associated with reclaiming Ts’msyen songs from archives, and (2) a case study focusing on embodied sovereignty and heritage reclamation with an urban Ts’msyen dance group. To contextualize the information generated from my engagements with over 200 Ts’msyen, I also offer my own experiences as a Ts’msyen hana’ax (woman), and as a dancer and a
singer. Primary data are derived from a series of listening gatherings, translation workshops and talking circles from the repatriation case study; and a Photovoice project, talking circle and dance ethnography from the dance group study. Secondary data are derived from Ts’msyen lived social realties in the third space; academic literature; current affairs and archival research. Key findings show (a) the ways in which Ts’msyen laws and systems of property ownership are enacted when Ts’msyen sing and dance, (b) how an Indigenous research paradigm develops organically based on an ethos of relational accountability, (c) how Indigenous standpoints alter ethnographic form and disrupt objectified knowledge production, (d) and where to put the theories of decolonization into praxis in settler colonial contexts. Ultimately, this dissertation is representative of a Ts’msyen manifesto. It is a call for a renunciation of contemporary ethics, policies, laws, discourses and practices that continue the work of structured dispossession and Indigenous elimination, while it is also an active assertion of Ts’msyen nationhood, sovereignty, precedent, laws and ways of knowing, being and doing.
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