Talking Past Each Other: From Xwelítem Ways Towards Practices of Ethical Being

As mentioned in previous posts- part of my identity is made up of settler, academic, educator and student labels. I am a novice educator and researcher in a Western university, a Criminology MA student in a Western university, and a settler Canadian. These mixed roles have ended up being spaces of contention as I try to learn how to ethically co-resist, teach, and research with and for Indigenous peoples. Research on Indigenous peoples serves the researcher who designs a project, goes into the community and uses them as a passive data source (Koster, Baccar, Lemelin, 2012, p.200). #ResearchwithIndigenous peoples is a mutually beneficial partnership between the community and the researcher from start to finish of the project (Koster et al., 2012, p.200). #ResearchforIndigenous community serves the community and occurs when a community reaches out to a researcher for assistance (Koster et al., 2012, p.200).

(Note: below I give a few stats/facts and am well aware they are barley scratching the surface but I use them in a sense of this may be things students hear but may hear out of context, not enough of, or have not yet had the dots connected)

The field of #criminologyhastheresponsibility through its relationship to Western academic institutions and to the criminal justice system to enter into #decolonisingrelationships with Indigenous peoples. Both relationships have played fundamental historical and contemporary roles in the colonisation of Indigenous peoples. Western education is linked to the Indian Residential schools, which between 1879 and 1996 forcibly removed 150,000 Indigenous children from their homes and families and subjected them to a curriculum that belittled their culture (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 2014, p.4; Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015, pp.3, 45, 72). University curriculums, teaching methodologies, and research endeavours have been used to suppress and subordinate Indigenous knowledges, worldviews, and peoples through a paradigm that benefited only the white researcher. And, Indigenous peoples are over-represented in every stage of the criminal justice system. For example, Indigenous girls make up 43% of all female youths admitted to correctional facilities, while Indigenous women comprise 38% of the provincial/territorial correction populations, and 31% of the federal correctional populations (Malakeih, 2017, p. 5; Retiano, 2017, p.5). Moreover, despite representing only 2% of the Canadian population the RCMP acknowledge 1,181 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls between 1980 and 2014 (Gilchrist, 2010, p.373).

Indigenous peoples are one of the most researched groups on earth, which has generated (FOUNDED!) mistrust and resistance on the part of Indigenous communities (Martin & Mirraboopa, 2009, p. 203). Moreover, ineffective research relationships and experiences have resulted in research fatigue caused by various researchers examining the same topic with no solution to the problem being given back to the community, despite the burdens and drain placed on the community (Brunger & Wall, 2016, p.1868). This burden comes not just from being research participants. It manifests in the unfortunate necessity of Indigenous peoples (most especially those deemed knowledge holders in the community) to mentor and educate non-Indigenous researchers. It is an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual labor that takes away from directing “their energies towards their own families and #communityshealingandresurgence” (Heaslip, p.84). Indigenous peoples are tired of researchers coming in and documenting all the things wrong with their communities (Strega & Brown, 2015, p.5). As Ball (2005) states, the research focuses on “youth suicide, child neglect, alcohol abuse, family violence, poor nutrition, [and] embezzlement…You[‘d] think people would want to figure out how we survive White people for so many hundreds of years…How about some research on what’s right about us? About what makes us #resilient (as cited in Strega & Brown, 2015, p.5).

The academy needs to see the importance and dire need to work in #partnership with Indigenous peoples. And, I believe I am seeing this more often. Moreover, it needs to adapt to the demands of this form of research and perhaps help prepare students to undertake this role in an ethical and respectful manner rather than resort to telling non-Indigenous researchers there is no space for them or try to push them into the new ‘hot topic’ for research. This is the response I had from the academy and it had me take my own moments to “retreat and look in the mirror” because I questioned if there was a space for me in this work and at times if this topic was important enough (Land, 2015, p.2). It was not until I read Heaslip’s (2017) doctoral thesis that I felt secure in my decision that there is a space for a white occupier researcher if I remain attuned to whether I am #creatingortaking space from Indigenous peoples (among many other lessons!).

Indigenous peoples in many different ways and places are offering us —as non-Indigenous people “who have come to live on and occupy Indigenous lands—a new path, a new relationship…they are asking us to come into this #ethicalspaceofengagement…[but] we—settlers—are, for the most part, not listening…we must be open to changing ourselves” (Heaslip, 2017, p.18) Instead, Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples are engaged “not in a dialogue but in two monologues” talking past each other (Reagan, 2010, p.115). White settlers remain locked in the ways of interacting with Indigenous peoples from only a colonizer/colonized and perpetrator/victim relationship (Reagan, 2010, p.115). It does not need to be this way, and in fact it cannot remain this way unless we as Canadians have decided to accept that cultural genocide will continue to be woven into our fabric as a nation. White settlers need to recognize that Indigenous peoples are offering us a space that we as Canadians can co-resist ongoing contemporary colonialism, take responsibility and make reparations for historical injustices, and enter into the possibility of existing on these lands in peaceful ways (Heaslip, 2017, p.18).

I first began to take serious steps in reconciliation in 2014 when I viewed the film #FindingDawn (I highly highly highly recommend a watch: This led to my ongoing research into the MMIWG and transformative learning and teaching. Despite the years between 2014 and 2017, the first real piece of advice I found for beginning ethical research as a settler came from Robyn Heaslip’s 2017 PhD thesis.

In her #guidancefordecolonizingwhitesettlerresearchandaction Heaslip names:

1. Recognizing and accepting that settler colonialism is an ongoing contemporary reality shaping the daily lives of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

2. Choosing to intervene and #coresistcontemporarycolonialism and work towards #reparationsandrestitution for historical injustices Indigenous people have endured

3. #Learningtosee; respect and #situateourselves within Indigenous homelands, including #respectingIndigenouslaws. This includes #rootingresearchandactonsinplace, particular colonial histories and present-day realities, and the #resurgenceoftheIndigenousnations whose lands we are occupying

4. Accepting and acting on the recognition that settler colonialism will not be deeply challenged, nor will justice for Indigenous people be found without a profound #transformation of the #whitesettlerproblem. We must turn the lens on ourselves and recognize the depth of conditioning that maintains the unjust colonial relationship (pp.30, 50, 77).


Brunger, F., & Wall, D. (2016). “What Do They Really Mean by Partnerships?”

Questioning the Unquestionable God Ethics in Guidelines Promoting Community

Engagement in Indigenous Health Research. Qualitative Health Research, 26(13), 1862-

1877. doi10.1177/1049732316649158

Gilchrist, K. (2010). “Newsworthy” Victims?: Exploring differences in Canadian local press coverage of missing/murdered Aboriginal and White women. Feminist Media Studies, 10(4), 373–390. doi:10.1080/14680777.2010.514110

Heaslip, R. (2017). From Xwelítem Ways Towards Practices of Ethical Being in Stó:lō

Téméxw: A Narrative Approach to Transforming Intergenerational White Settler

Subjectivities. (Unpublished Doctorate Dissertation) University of Victoria, Victoria, BC

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. (2014). Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in British Columbia, Canada. Retrieved from

Koster, R., Baccar, K., & Lemelin, R. (2012). Moving from research ON to research WITH

and FOR Indigenous communities: A critical reflection on community-based

participatory research. The Canadian Geographer, 56(2), 195-210. doi 10.1111/j.1541-


Malakieh, J. (March 1, 2017). Youth correctional statistics in Canada, 2015/16, Juristat,

ISSN 1209-6393. Retrieved from:


Martin, K., & Mirraboopa, B. (2003). Ways of knowing, being and doing: A theoretical

Framework and methods for indigenous and Indigenist re-search. Journal of Australian

Studies, 27(76), 203-214. doi 10.1080/14443050309387838

Regan, P. (2010). Unsettling the Settler Within: Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling,

and Reconciliation in Canada. UBC Press: Vancouver, Canada

Reitano, J. (March 1, 2017). Adult correctional statistics in Canada, 2015/16. Juristat, ISSN

1209-6393. Retrieved from:


Strega, S., & Brown, L. (2015). Introduction: From Resistance to Resurgence. In Strega, S.

& Brown, L. (Eds.), Research as Resistance: Revisiting Critical, Indigenous, and Anti-

Oppressive Approaches (2nd ed.) (1-16). Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015). Honouring the truth, reconciling for the future: Summary of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Winnipeg, MB, CAN: Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Retrieved from

Film: Finding Dawn:

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