Being allies: exploring indigeneity and difference in decolonized anti-oppressive spaces




Lang, Susan

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This study explores the ways in which Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators have experienced working together as allies for social and racial justice. The study is grounded in anti-oppressive, decolonizing, and participatory action research paradigms. Theoretically, it is framed by anti-racism and anti-oppressive approaches that highlight oppression, exploitation, and power. Within the theoretical field of antiracism, there is a tendency to ignore Indigeneity, and the ongoing oppression and racialization of Indigenous peoples (Lawrence & Dua, 2005; St. Denis, 2007). This study puts Indigeneity and oppression at the forefront of ally development research. The research was modeled upon an action research method called co-operative inquiry (Heron, 1996). The inquiry group involved seven group members, including the researcher. These group members came from diverse racial and social backgrounds. They were all women who work in diverse educational capacities (adult educators, nurse educator, counselor, teacher, lawyer). The inquiry spanned 11 weeks, with 18 hours spent together over six group sessions. Two Indigenous leaders joined the group in two sessions, to lend their experiences and insights on the role of allies. Group members retained a high level of commitment throughout the study. The study was a success in terms of analyzing many of the issues Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators face when working together. It also highlighted the roles of allies and useful strategies for allies to use. The study was shown to have a high level of catalytic validity (Herr & Anderson, 2005) as many group members reported a high degree of both epistemological (what they know) and ontological (how they become) learning. The results of this study lead to new insights on how allies have traditionally been conceptualized and the role that ontology plays in learning. The study also discusses how the congruence between topic and method was navigated, and how that in turn led to the creation of an allied space.



co-operative inquiry, indigeneity, anti-oppressive