Editor’s note: This post is part two of the previous weeks’ article.
Written by: Judy Half
Treaty Six territory in Alberta hosts diverse Indigenous communities; however their histories are still relatively unknown. In the 1980s, Indigenous Studies looked more at the Indian politics (Treaty), and government relations and women were often left out of the patriarchal and hegemonic discourses.
Anthropology is where I found I could apply a study of Plains Cree culture. Eurocentrism and ethnocentric discourse in Alberta have entrenched a cultural lens that is built on exclusion and homogeneity of Indigenous groups. Anthropologists such as David Mandelbaum (who studied the Plains Cree in Saskatchewan) and Clark Wissler (who studied Blackfoot culture) used a selective process that was resonant of the cultural centres and cultural diffusion approaches, and that would in turn be used to interpret and influence a way of understanding the Indigenous life western Canada.
In 2008, I began work with the Royal Alberta Museum (RAM) as the Aboriginal Liaison Officer, handling repatriation applications for the Blackfoot. Within this time frame, I also began to care for Cree collections and researched sacred objects in the context of Little Hunter’s Band. While completing my Masters of Arts in Integrated Studies (MAIS) that laddered the Heritage Resource Management Program through Athabasca University, I began exploring the oppression and subjugation of the Plains Cree within the context of Heritage and Cultural Management. My research is informed by Linda Tuhiwia Smith, author of Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, as well as Paulette Steeves’ work on decolonizing education, culture and heritage, both of whom illustrate ways to approach tangled histories often seen in places where oppression and subjugation of Indigenous peoples occurs.