For many years, I’ve had the honour and privilege to work with and learn from several Indigenous communities in Ontario, and across the country. My work with the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation and the Saugeen First Nation began over ten years ago while I was still completing my PhD in Statistics. More recently, I’ve been working with the Inuit of Rigolet, Nunatsiavut to develop the community-led eNuk health and environment monitoring program, and to try to bridge the digital divide using the RightMesh wireless mobile mesh network technology.
The partnerships that have developed over the years with the various communities have provided me with the opportunity to see first hand their innovation and resilience in the face of systemic racism and marginalization, the atrocities of colonization and the residential school system, the immediate and urgent threats associated with climate change, and countless other challenges related to food insecurity, poverty, and a lack of appropriate health and social services.
The reality is that so much of what I do is connected with or informed by what I’ve learned from the First Nations and Inuit communities that I’ve worked with. And this isn’t just in terms of research. The concept of two-eyed-seeing – understanding the world both through the strengths of Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science – requires skills that are core to interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary work. This includes (but is not limited to) excellent communication and teamwork skills, and an openness to different ways of knowing the world. These skills are the same as those that I try to teach in my courses through community-engaged scholarship or through the forced mixing of students from multiple disciplines.
While many of these skills seem simple, they aren’t easy to teach and they most definitely require continued practice. Even now, I still find myself forming questions or counterarguments to arguments when I should instead be listening, or assuming that my understanding is the correct or better understanding. Fortunately, I benefit from the diversity of understandings that working with Indigenous communities and other disciplines provide, and I’ve seen first hand how these understandings enrich and improve the work that I’ve been privileged to be involved with.
This brings me to the point of this post – acknowledgements. In academic work, it is customary for researchers to identify, acknowledge, and thank those who have somehow played a role in the research. This may include lab technicians, data cleaners, or people whose conversations sparked the research itself. In my case, however, I believe that the research that comes out of my lab is also the direct result of the effect the Indigenous communities have had on my understanding of the world. With that in mind, I’ve decided that all research publications that come from my lab will formally recognize the Indigenous contributions and the ancestral and treaty lands on which the work has been conducted.
If you are interested in doing the same, this page might be useful. I’ve included an example acknowledgement below which borrows from the University of Guelph’s Territorial Acknowledgement. This by no means is a static acknowledgement, as it will be updated and modified to reflect the partnerships, contributions, and lands that support our research.
The Dish With One Spoon Covenant speaks to our collective responsibility to steward and sustain the land and environment in which we live and work, so that all peoples, present and future, may benefit from the sustenance it provides. As we continue to strive to strengthen our relationships with and continue to learn from our Indigenous neighbours, we recognize the partnerships and knowledge that have guided the research presented in this work and from our lab. We acknowledge that the University of Guelph resides in the ancestral and treaty lands of several Indigenous peoples, including the Attawandaron people and the Mississaugas of the Credit, and we recognize and honour our Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, and Métis neighbours. We acknowledge that RightMesh resides on the ancestral lands of the Katzie, and Lummi people, and we also acknowledge the contributions and guidance of the original peoples of Labrador: the Inuit of Nunatsiavut, the Inuit of NunatuKavut, the Innu of Nitassinan, and their ancestors. We acknowledge that the work presented here has occurred on their traditional lands so that we might work to build lasting partnerships that respect, honour, and value the culture, traditions, and wisdom of those who have lived here since time immemorial.