Following up on the thousands of pages collected from testimonies by residential school survivors and former employees between 2010 and 2015, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRCC) presented 94 recommendations to Canadian society, effectively making a call for systemic changes across all forms of governance and organization. Their expressed concern was that Euro-colonial practices continued to systemically discriminate against and cause grievous harm to Indigenous people within the Canadian nation-state. The purpose of this thesis is to answer to their call, specifically, to examine both from within a post-secondary academic institution and beyond its epistemological parameters, how one might attempt to reshape one’s approaches to knowledge formation in trying to build more respectful relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Taking to heart Indigenous scholarship prioritizing relationships over object-centric pursuits of knowledge, the author draws upon her linguistic, cultural and political upbringing as a member of a Japanese and multi-Asian diasporic community to reach toward Indigenous artists, whose works compel their audiences to be widely socially inclusive, to remember Canada’s colonial past in addressing the colonial present, and to respect one’s elders and ancestors. Distinct relationships are established between the author and Cree multi-media artist, Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Siksika interdisciplinary artist, Adrian Stimson, and Tahltan performance artist and object maker, Peter Morin. Rather than adhering to a pre-set methodology, a mentoring connection with L’Hirondelle, a role model relation with Stimson, and a best friendship with Morin guide the author’s processes of coming to know. Witnessing their practices, the author explores becoming sonorous, performative, and tactile shadows to L’Hirondelle, Stimson, and Morin, respectively. Consequently, the narrative and epistemic organization of the author’s personal experiences and institutionalized learning scatter and are drawn upon so far as they contribute to the relationship at hand. Throughout the dissertation, critical questions are raised and performatively considered to: challenge settler-Indigenous binaries of knowledge formation; investigate the limits of the known and knowable; and, include unexpected others. The dissertation concludes with the suggestion that reconciliation and witnessing are practice-based, and that collective responsibility is an intersubjective regard for that which has been experientially gathered along the way.
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Thesis advisor: Druick, Zoe
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