In my LE_NONET graduate studies class we were asked in a Guided Reflection: How do you define success? This is what I wrote.
-If it's useful to the community.
-If I build my ability to serve the community with a process that brings peace and equity.
-If I can release myself from colonial conditioning and share that process and or experience with the community.
-If I can re-traditionalize or Indigenize myself with a conditioning that centres a world view from my self location.
-If I create a methodology that is useful for other Indigenous artists and peoples to confidently self locate themselves and find their role in serving the community with greater ease.
If success is the accomplishment of purpose, than success to me is effectively serving my Indigenous communities by bringing equity and peace to our cosmology and inter-relationality. I frame my reflection of these accomplishments in the 4 circles of Indigenous Relations: personal, family, community and Nationhood to be able to embed a nourishing and practical application of the work to keep myself accountable to my purpose of accomplishment.
Understanding self, our location and having confidence in that knowledge is at the heart of the work. Giving time for that Indigenous investigation of self and our relations to our cultural grounding is vital. Kovach defines cultural grounding “as the way that culture nourishes the researcher’s spirit during the inquiry, and how it nourishes the research itself” (pg 116). She goes on to say that “encompassing culture is part of the notion of researcher-in-relation.”
I think this is a big part of what success can look like, in a time where close to 70% of Indigenous peoples live off the reserve, success can be as complex and distilled as participating in one's own cultural grounding and conscious self-location. This is the heart and spirit work that allows us to be purposeful in our practices, the foundation we pivot around to ensure success in our servitude.
I find success in a colonial paradigm is driven product and deliverables, especially in theatre. The whole process is based on the industrial “revolution” model that focuses on the result and not the process. I find a lot of the educational work that I do with colonial institutions, is shifting the paradigm to embrace and centre a process based world view that doesn’t just look at creation work where the “play” is the most important part.
For me, the process is just as important as the play and it needs to be invested in equitably. This is proving to be one of the most difficult challenges I’m facing in a patriarchal capitalist colonial society and the theatre sector that exists within these systems.
For the purpose of my work, when I do the readings, I internally replace the word “research” with “creation” and find it’s incredibly applicable to the Indigenous theatrical creation process by illuminating the intersectionalities of working/researching/creating Indigenous stories, in relationship to artists and institutions holding and oppression western world views. I find one of the most laborious aspects of my work is garnering colonial trust in process and not a product.
In Absolon & Willet's Putting Ourselves Forward: Location in Aboriginal Research, they write, “Finally, when we talk about research in Aboriginal circles, we are not just talking about the goal and the finish; we are talking about everything that happens in between. Between the beginning and the end of any research project is process. Aboriginal research methodologies are as much about process as they are about product.”(pg 107)
If I am to be successful in serving my community, I’m going to have to educate colonialists on this process. Which is really vulnerable work because process is about trust and process involves the humility to know that within that process, self location is alive and impermanent and capitalist colonial systems refuse these notions by design to uphold white power. It's too unpredictable, they can't create a budget around these alive variables.
Absolon. K & Willet go on to write, “locating oneself is as lively and active as Aboriginal reality today. Each time we locate ourselves, our representations change and, depending on the context in which we locate, we may or may not emphasize certain aspects of our realities. Yet, as we locate, we must still account for the relative aspects of who we are and thus represent ourselves accordingly and distinctly. Location will not simply be about your name or where you are from, but will reflect more of a dynamic and transformative representation.” (pg 110)
I don’t currently believe that colonial institutions, especially the large ones are reflexive enough to respond and support Indigenous methods. Methods and approaches that are composed of an alive practice of self location in the creation process. This is a significant problem for Indigenous artists and our ability to be sovereign, powerful and successful.
When I situate the ideology of self location in theatre as the creation of the story - the process - I recognize that I have to garner buy-in from producing partners to resource and support a dynamic practice. We need non-Indigenous accomplices to courageously bear witness to not just the “play” or name or content of the narrative, but boldly invest in the transformative process.
If they do not, than they are forcing Indigenous creative practice into a western methodology by undermining Indigenous ontological art practice, as inter-relational. Which positions Indigenous artists to sever ourselves from our cosmologies, which is colonialist white supremacy in action. I will not be a part of maintaining these western approaches because Indigenous peoples will never find any sustainable and sovereign success in white supremacist environments and systems.
In Stories of Diverse Identity Locations in Indigenous Research, International Review of Qualitative Research, Kovach quotes Wilson who writes, “We cannot be separated from our work, not should our writing be separated from ourselves...Our relationships with our environment, families, ancestors, ideas, and the cosmos around us shape who we are and how we will conduct our research.” (pg 505)
Success is deeply connected for me to a process that is rooted in an Indigenous paradigm, within a methodology, that honours and nourishes the inter-relational bonds of story and spirit work. Not one that isolates creative practice and disassociates the storyteller from honouring the entire creation process because this racializes Indigenous artists.
Success is shifter and trickster work, for Indigenous artists are going to have to shift the worldviews of colonial institutions to ensure we can be successful in telling our stories and fulfilling our relational purposes.
In Judith C. Thompson's : My Journey to a Tahltan Research Paradigm, she writes, “An Indigenous methodology means talking about relational accountability. As a researcher you are answering to all your relations when you are doing research...The axiology or morals need to be an integral part of the methodology so that when I’m gaining knowledge, I am not just gaining in some abstract pursuit; I am gaining knowledge in order to fulfill my end of the research relationship...This becomes my methodology, an Indigenous methodology, by looking at relational accountability or being accountable to all my relations.” (pg 25).
For my work to be successful, I believe I am going to need partners who recognize and support a creation practice, that decentralizes the product based focus and resources an Indigenous encircling relational method, that deeply respects my accountabilities to all my relations, at all stages of the process.
This is The Work.
With humility and in service to my peoples, limelet, sechanalyagh,
Kim Senklip Harvey.
This is me at 4 years old graduating from kindergarten, a moment of "success" lol. My mom said I wore this outfit everyday for a year. Props to my Ma who allowed me and washed it for me everyday. Loving adult allies rule.