Indigenous knowledge practices in British Columbia: a study in decolonization.




Hill, Elina

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This thesis argues for a more expansive historiography rooted in Indigenous peoples’ oral, social and land-based modes of sharing knowledge. Such an approach may help to decolonize the practices and narratives of history in British Columbia, which have too often excluded or undermined Indigenous peoples' perspectives. Over the past several centuries, Indigenous knowledge-keepers have used their languages to maintain their oral traditions and other modes of sharing, despite colonial policies in Canada aimed at destroying them. This thesis gives careful consideration to ethical approaches to cross-cultural engagement, including researcher’s position in discourse and colonial paradigms, as well as modes of listening that emphasize attitudes of respect, flexibility, responsibility and trust-building. I travelled to Syilx (Okanagan) territory in south central British Columbia to interview five knowledgeable Upper Nicola band members about their knowledge practices. Their views, combined with those of others (from Nlaka’pamux, to Coast Salish, to Maliseet peoples and more) pointed to the importance of a vibrant Indigenous historiography at the local community level. Interviewees discussed the ways speaker/listener relationships, as well as timing and life experience, shape knowledge passed on. They also explained the ways Indigenous knowledge practices are linked to particular territories, as knowledge may help to sustain or may be sustained by particular places. Lastly, all touched on how colonial policies have impacted their knowledge practices. This thesis proposes some decolonizing approaches for engaging with Indigenous knowledge and knowledge practices. By accounting for Indigenous knowledge 'institutions' that have long existed outside of colonial frameworks, we can move one step closer to decolonization.



Indigenous Knowledge Practice, Historiography, Okanagan, Oral History, Oral Tradition, Syilx, Upper Nicola, Decolonizing, Decolonization, Nlaka'pamux