112c. Norman K. Denzin, Yvonna S. Lincoln, Linda Tuhiwai Smith, eds., Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies, continued

by breavman99

denzin lincoln

The second part of the Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies focuses on critical and Indigenous pedagogies. Even though I’m not interested in pedagogy as part of this project, I persevered. “In the five chapters in Part II, indigenous scholars describe Hawaiian, Native American, Mestizaje, endarkened, and Islamic pedagogies,” which “exist in-between, border, marginal, and liminal spaces, the crossroads where colonializing and decolonializing frameworks intersect and come into conflict with one another” (211). “Each pedagogy represents a particular indigenous worldview,” the editors continue, and “[e]ach rests on special cultural and spiritual understandings” (211). 

In “Indigenous and Authentic: Hawaiian Epistemology and the Triangulation of Meaning,” Manulani Aluli Meyer introduces readers “to indigenous epistemology as viewed by Native Hawaiian mentors, friends, and family” so that we “will understand that specificity leader to universality” (217). Universality, Meyer continues, “is a spiritual principle within ancient streams of knowing” (217). Knowing, or epistemology, is “specific to place and people,” Meyer writes, and both knowledge and truth are “vast, limitless, and completely subjective” (218). The essay presents seven categories, she continues, which “help to organize systems of consciousness that are needed to enliven what knowing means in today’s rampage called modernity” (218).

The first of these categories is “Spirituality and Knowing: The Cultural Context of Knowledge” (218). “Knowledge that endures is spirit driven,” Meyer writes. “It is a life force connected to all other life forces. It is more an extension than it is a thing to accumulate” (218). The spiritual principles that are “the foundation of a Hawaiian essence” are “the intentionality of process, the value and purpose of meaning, and the practice of deep mindfulness” (218). “[I]f played out as epistemology,” these principles “help us enter spaces of wonderment, discernment, right viewing, and mature discourse” (218). “Spirit as knowing is a real idea that allows us to ritualize ways to collect medicine, read a text, prepare a meal, or communicate with family, Meyer continues. “It allows knowing to be an act of consciousness that reaches beyond the mundane into connection and alignment with an essence that finds its renewal throughout the generations” (218-19). This “higher reach of knowing” collapsed during colonialism and assimilation, and “[i]t must right itself through our engagement to secure our survival” (219). For Meyer, the interpretation of knowledge as spirit does not affect one’s research. Rather, “[i]t merely points to a frequency that if heard will synergize with your courage when you write without fear after asking questions that search for deeper meaning to an act, an idea, a moment” (219). “An epistemology of spirit” encourages us to be of “service to others or to our natural environment” (219). Meyer ends by calling upon her readers to see their work “as a taonga (sacred object) for your family, your community, your people—because it is” (219).

The second category, “That Which Feeds: Physical Place and Knowing,” is about the land. “Land is our mother. This is not a metaphor,” Meyer states (219). “For the Native Hawaiians speaking of knowledge, land was the central theme that drew forth all others. You came from a place. You grew in a place and you had a relationship with that place,” she continues. “This is an epistemological idea” (219). Because of mobility in contemporary North American society, many people find this idea difficult to understand, she writes, but the land and the ocean shape her thinking, her way of being, and her sense of what is valuable (219). “One does not simply learn about land, we learn best from land,” she contends. “This knowing makes you intelligent to my people. How you are on land or in the ocean tells us something about you. Absolutely. It opens doors to the specificity of what it means to exist in a space and how that existing extends into how best to interact in it” (219). However, land is more than a physical location: “It is an idea that engages knowledge and contextualizes knowing. It is the key that turns the doors inward to reflect on how space shapes us” (219). Space is not about emptiness but rather about “consciousness” (219). Space is “an epistemological idea because it conceptualizes those things of value to embed them in a context” (219). “Land as an epistemological cornerstone to our ways of rethinking is all about relating in ways that are sustaining, nourishing, receptive, wise,” Meyer writes. “Knowing with land should help you find out more about your own self, and when that process begins as a researcher, you start to open your own phenomenological inquiry into your origins of space,” about “how space influenced your thinking” (219). 

In the third category, “The Cultural Nature of the Senses: Expanding Our Ideas of Empiricism,” Meyer writes, “I am empirically configured by my past, and my senses and body were the tools and recording devices through which I retrieved and stored all data” (220). This leads to a very different claim: “Our senses are culturally shaped. This is an epistemological idea” (220). Her example is a cornfield. She does not see the same cornfield as a farmer who looks and recognizes that the corn “is in need of calcium and water” while she notices “nothing” (220). “This fundamental idea that our senses are culturally shaped seems almost obvious, but it must be understood deeply if you are to proceed into what many may not understand,” she continues. “What this entails for your research is that you will need to slow down what it means to see something, hear something, or experience something” (220). Understanding one’s uniqueness “at this basic level will bring a keen understanding of the nuance” of one’s own subjectivity (220).

The fourth category is “Relationship and Knowledge: Self Through Other” (220). “Existing in relationship triggers everything: with people, with ideas, with the natural world,” Meyer writes (221). This “epistemological category” suggests that “[k]nowing was the by-product of slow and deliberate dialogue with an idea, with others’ knowing, or with one’s own experience with the world. Knowing was in relationship with knowledge, a nested idea that deepened information (knowledge) through direct experience (knowing)” (221). “The focus is with connection and our capacity to be changed with the exchange,” she continues. “Thus the idea of self through other” (221). This idea inspires research because “[i]t reminds us that knowledge does not exist in a vacuum” (221). Rather, “[i]ntelligence is challenged, extended, and enriched when viewed in dyad awareness or group consciousness” (221). (Is knowledge the same as intelligence?) “Will your research bring forth solutions that strengthen relationships with others or will it damage future collaborations?” she asks. “How will your relationship with self inspire truth and courage to do what will be needed when predictable roadblocks enter your view? A knowledge that includes true awareness of other will radically alter research protocols, questions, and processes” (221).

“Utility and Knowledge: Ideas of Wealth and Usefulness” is the fifth category. “Function is the higher vibration of an idea, not the lower,” Meyer begins. “How one defines function is first discovered in its meaning and then its interpretation” (221). (I’m not following the notion of a hierarchy of vibrations.) “Make your work useful by your meaning and truth,” she continues. “I know it sounds ethereal, but this is the point: Knowledge that does not heal, bring together, challenge, surprise, encourage, or expand our awareness is not part of the consciousness this world needs now. This is the function we as indigenous people posit” (221). She includes by positing that “We are all indigenous” (222). (I would never describe myself that way.)

The sixth category, “Words and Knowledge: Causality in Language,” is “an epistemological category better reflected in Hawaiian literature and historic textual discussions than the mentors [she] interviewed” (222). “Hawaiians at one time believed in the causative agency of intention,” Meyer explains. “Thought creates. This is why it was seen as negative to even think of hitting a child. Negative thoughts then had negative consequences” (222). The belief that “effect begins with intention” is “an epistemological idea that helps us mature into a deeper relationship with what action and reality is at its core: thought” (222). “The idea that thought creates and intention shapes the observable world may seem far-fetched to some, but it is now recognized and discussed in depth by indigenous scholars, quantum physicists, mothers, and social scientists and summarized in groundbreaking works,” she argues, citing several texts, including one by Vine Deloria and one called The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali (222). “Our thoughts create reality,” she continues (222). She suggests that, for Hawai’i, “postcolonialism” (does she mean decolonization?) “is not first a physical place but a mental one” (222). She suggests that this effects one’s research because, rather than objectivity, “it is fully conscious subjectivity” called “metaconsciousness,” and calls upon her readers to write their thoughts in prologues or appendices to their research (222).

The last category is “The Body/Mind Question: The Illusion of Separation,” which Meyer describes as “the capstone of Hawaiian epistemology and its sharpest sword in this duel with mainstream expectations of what it means to know something” (223). “The separation of mind from body is not found in a Hawaiian worldview,” she explains. “Indeed, intelligence and knowledge were embedded at the core of our bodies—the stomach or na’au” (223). “Body is the central space in which knowing is embedded,” she continues. “Our body holds truth, our body invigorates knowing, our body helps us become who we are. This is not simply a metaphoric discussion of union with sensation and conceptualization. Our thinking mind is not separated from our feeling mind. Our mind is our body. Our body is our mind. And both connect to the spiritual act of knowledge acquisition” (223). This idea is “an integral space in the triangulation of meaning” (223). “Knowing there is intelligence in feeling and feeling in intelligence begins the long turnaround from an isolated thinking self void of the potential messiness of subjective realities found in all versions of the world,” Meyer writes. “It brings us back into ancient sensibilities that recognize the strength found in conscious subjectivity and clearly stated origins of thought found in empirical, objective recognition” (223). The reference to “ancient sensibilities” sounds New Agey, and it would be helpful to see sources cited here. “[S]ubjectivity is actually a maturing of objectivity,” she concludes, “not a dumbing down” (223). I’m not sure what that means.

What are the implications of these categories for research? “It has become clear to me that the specificity of these Hawaiian epistemological categories is indeed endemic to islands in the middle of the Pacific,” Meyer states. “But they also offer a way to organize universal truths” that the reader “may wish to consider,” including the notions that “[f]inding knowledge that endures is a spiritual act that animates and educates,” that “[w]e are earth,” that “[o]ur senses are culturally shaped,” that “[k]nowing something is bound to how we develop a relationship with it,” that “[f]unction is vital with regard to knowing something,” that “[i]ntention shapes our language and creates our reality,” and that “[k]nowing is embodied and in union with cognition” (223-24). In other words, those categories, for Meyer, represent both culturally specific aspects of Hawaiian epistemology and universal truths. “I arrived at this view-plain through the specificity of knowing my ancient self—spaces we all can recognize because we all have them,” Meyer explains. “True intelligence is self knowledge” (224). 

The next section of the essay, “The Triangulation of Meaning: Body, Mind, and Spirit,” is, according to Meyer, its “authentic part” (224):

It is a set of ideas that may bring you back to remembering. It extends indigenous epistemology into a context of world awakening. It is daringly simple, but then again, words only point to the truth. Genuine knowledge must be experienced directly. It is meant to help your organize your research mind and give you the courage to do so with the rigor found in facts, logic, and metaphor. It is offered now because it organized my own thoughts and oiled the tools needed to dismantle the master’s house found in perfect order in my own mind. (224)

The idea of triangulation comes from wilderness education: “if you wish to find your place on a topographical map, you need only locate two geographical distinctions on land, and with the use of a compass and pencil, the third and final spot—your location—can then be found” (224). “[T]he metaphor of triangulating our way to meaning with the use of three points” involves “[b]ody, mind, and spirit” (224). “Using body, mind, and spirit as a template in which to organize meaningful research asks us to extend through our objective/empirical knowing (body) into wider spaces of reflection offered through conscious subjectivity (mind) and, finally, via recognition and engagement with deeper realities (spirit),” Meyer states (224). Why is objective knowing associated with the body, though, and subjective knowing associated with the mind? “Body is a synonym for external, objective, literal, sensual, empirical,” she continues, contending that “your schooled mind has been shaped by mostly [that] one point in the triangulation” (225). “Change agents, indigenous researchers, cultural leaders, and transformational scholars are now working together to help this idea grow up,” she concludes. “So, take a breath. Keep your mind open” (225). 

In the next section, “The Number Three,” Meyer suggests that Buckminster Fuller’s tetrahedron is “the sacred geometry of infinity, energy, and the perfect balance of equilibrium found in postquantum physics” (225). Dualities and binary systems have “caused untold horror and helped create a rigid epistemology we now assume cannot evolve” (225). “[A]s we gather evidence from all sectors of world scholars, mystics, and practitioners, we are discovering that life moves within a context of dynamic consciousness that synergizes with Aristotle’s highest intellectual virtual he referred to as phronesis,” she continues. “This is not simply a discussion of moral relativity or the third point in duality; it is a piercing into different planes of epistemology to discuss what inevitably shifts into nonduality because of its inherent wholeness” (225). The vague reference to “scholars, mystics, and practitioners” (practitioners of what?) suggests the New Age source of this argument. 

The next section, “Reaching for Wholeness,” begins with the statement, “The world is more than dual. It is whole” (225). “With regard to research, we still believe statistics is synonymous with truth,” Meyer states. “It is a dangerous road to travel when we pack only empirical ways of being into our research backpack” (225). But this book collects essays by people who do qualitative research, not quantitative research—is number crunching the only empiricism? Really? “Empiricism is just one point in our triangulation of meaning, and although it may begin the process of research, it by no means is the final way in which to engage, experience, or summarize it,” Meyer continues. “Research and life are more in line with three simple categories that have been lost in theory and rhetoric: body, mind, and spirit” (225-26). Body, she suggests, represents “the part of your research that may be counted, sorted, and emphasized because of statistical analysis. It is what you see, not the way in which you interpret what you see or hear” (226). Body “is what science has cornered. It is expressed through sensation via objective measurement and evaluation. It is a valuable and rigorous part in the triangulation of meaning and the center of most research processes” (226).“It has been the bread and butter of research and science and the main assumption found in the notion of rigor,” she continues. “It is objective, tangible, and measurable” (226). But it is not enough: “don’t you think it’s time to evolve?” (226).

“To believe that science or objective and empirical-based research could describe all of life reduces it to its smallest part,” Meyer argues (226). I’m not convinced anyone does believe that, however. I am sensing a straw-man argument here—or else the author has had her qualitative research rejected by quantitative journals. “Objectivity is its own limitation,” she writes. “Enter mind, subjectivity, thought. Courage is needed to articulate these ideas with a robustness that will signal a leap in consciousness within our society” (227). It is obvious, she continues, that “[o]ur rational minds, our inside thoughts, our subjective knowing are vital to how we experience and understand the world” (227). She presents quotations from her “heroes,” who include Leroy Little Bear and Greg Cajete, supporting the claim that subjectivity precedes objectivity (228). “Mind, as the second point in our triangulation of meaning, helps us recover from the bullying and uniformity of ‘power-over’ epistemology,” she concludes. “It gives us breathing space to self-reflect in meaningful ways and engage with a rigor perhaps not captured in academic citations” (228). 

“Follow mindfulness to its own intelligence and seek inevitably what most scholars refuse to admit exists: spirit,” Meyer writes. Spirit, she states, is “the third point in a spiral” (229) (the metaphor has suddenly changed). Spirit is neither religion nor dogma. Rather, “it is data moving toward usefulness, moving toward meaning and beauty. It is the contemplation part of your work that brings you to insight, steadiness, and interconnection. It is the joy or truthful insights of your lessons and the rigor found in your discipline and focus that is not so much written about but expressed nonetheless” (229). Spirit is “about seeing what is significant and having the courage to discuss it. . . . This category that pulls facts into logic and finally into metaphor recognizes that one will eventually see more than what is presented” (229). “To know we are more than simply body and thought is to acknowledge how those ideas expand into wider realms of knowing and being,” she continues. “This is a spirit-centred truth that is older than time” (229). Spirit “will help you think of your research as something of value and keep you at the edge of your wonder with how it will shape who you are becoming” (229). Spirit encompasses both body and mind: “It is an advancement of earlier ideas and gives a structure of rigor that positivism is ultimately shaped by” (229). “It is the frequency by which all connect. It is not simply a linear sequence. All three categories occur simultaneously” (229). 

In the essay’s final section, “Ha’ina mai ka puana: Thus Ends My Story,” Meyer writes, “I believe it is time to think indigenous and act authentic even at the price of rejection. To disagree with mainstream expectations is to wake up, to understand what is happening, to be of service to a larger whole” (230). “This is why we are heading into the field of hermeneutics—interpretation—via epistemology,” she contends. “We must first detail what we value about intelligence to even see there are other interpretations of life, brilliance, and knowing” (230). (I’m not sure exactly who is heading into hermeneutics through epistemology.) “When ancient renditions of the world are offered for debate within a context of real-life knowing, there is a robustness that I find invigorating and breathtaking,” she continues. “Here is where interpretations matter and because indigenous folk are peopling places we were never found before, do you see why things are changing? We simply posit difference—a difference that knows place and encourages a harmony within that place” (230). Indigenous people, she writes, bring with them “dreams, food, elders, courage and the clarity of speech and purpose” (230).

I’ve read Sandy Grande’s “Red Pedagogy: The Un-Methodology” before—I even have a file of notes on this computer that I took while I was reading it—but that was years ago, and I might as well give it another look. She begins by referring to Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, a book that she suggests charts a path “for those still navigating the deeply troubled waters of academic research” (233). “The historically turbulent relationship stems from centuries of use and abuse at the hands of Whitestream prospectors (read: academics), mining the dark bodies of indigenous peoples—either out of self-interest or self-hatred,” she writes (233). “Whitestream” is a term borrowed from Claude Denis, who suggests that while American society is not “White” in demographic terms, “it remains principally and fundamentally structured on the basis of the Anglo-European ‘White’ experience” (251). The same could be said of Canadian society, of course. “The history of dehumanization”—dehumanization through the employment of research by colonialism, I think—“raises significant questions for the indigenous scholar”: a choice between “retaining his or her integrity (identity) as a Native person or doing research” (234). There is a need for an academic exorcism, and “the demon to be purged is the specter of colonialism” (234). “As indigenous scholars, we live within, against, and outside of its constant company, witnessing its various manifestations as it shape-shifts its way into everything from research and public policy to textbooks and classrooms,” she writes, asking whether “[i]t is possible to engage the grammar of empire without replicating its effects?” (234). “By virtue of living in the Whitestream world, indigenous scholars have no choice but to negotiate the forces of colonialism, to learn, understand, and converse in the grammar of empire as well as develop the skills to contest it,” she states (234).

Red pedagogy is “an indigenous pedagogy that operates at the crossroads of Western theory—specifically critical pedagogy—and indigenous knowledge,” bridging two epistemological worlds and asking that as Indigenous scholars “examine our own communities, policies, and practices, that we take seriously the notion that knowing ourselves as revolutionary agents is more than an act of understanding who we are. It is an act of reinventing ourselves, of validating our overlapping cultural identifications and relating them to the materiality of social life and power relations” (234). To allow for this process of reinvention, she continues, Red pedagogy needs to be thought of as “a space of engagement. It is the liminal and intellectual borderlands where indigenous and nonindigenous scholars encounter one another, working to remember, redefine, and reverse the devastation of the original colonialist ‘encounter’” (234). That’s a powerful statement about pedagogical scholarship, and I find myself wondering whether it could be applied to other fields of endeavour, such as art practices, as well. 

“What follows is a framework for thinking about indigenous knowledge as it encounters critical pedagogy or Red pedagogy,” Grande writes. But first, she outlines the historical roots of Red pedagogy—the colonial and genocidal policies and attitudes through which the U.S. government attempted to destroy Indigenous cultures. “While it is important to recognize the progress that has been made since colonial times, it is also evident that the legacy of colonization persists,” Grande states (235). One way to address the socioeconomic effects of that legacy is “culturally based education,” which would involve recognizing and using Indigenous languages, employing pedagogy that stresses traditional cultural characteristics and relationships between adults and children, teaching strategies that are “congruent with traditional culture and ways of knowing and learning,” curriculum that recognizes the importance of Indigenous spirituality, community participation in education, and using “the social and political mores of the community” (235-36). However, Grande maintains, “unless educational reform also happens concurrently with an analysis of colonialism, it is bound to suffocate from the tentacles of imperialism” (236). In addition, since 90 per cent of Indigenous students attend off-reservation schools, “indigenous educators need to theorize the ways in which power and domination inform the processes and procedures of schooling and develop pedagogies that disrupt their effects” (236). “[A]n education for decolonization must . . . make no claim to political neutrality,” and “it must engage a method of analysis and social inquiry that troubles the capitalist, imperialist aims of unfettered competition, accumulation, and exploitation”—forms of analysis that “have been the domain of critical theorists” (236). 

However, despite its apparent relevance, Indigenous scholars “have had limited engagement with critical theories of education” and have “concentrated on the social and political urgencies of their own communities” (236). “Against such immediate needs, engagement in abstract theory seems indulgent . . . Eurocentric and thereby inherently contrary to the aims of indigenous education,” Grande writes (236). However, “the lack of engagement with critical theory has ultimately limited possibilities for indigenous scholars to build broad-based coalitions and political solidarities,” and that limitation “has serious implications” (236). “[T]he time is ripe for indigenous scholars to engage in critique-al studies” through Red pedagogy, which “aims to initiate an indigenous conversation that can, in turn, engage in dialogical contestation with critical and revolutionary theories” (236-37). The purpose of this essay is “to initiate this conversation, examining points of tension and intersection between Red pedagogy and critical theory: articulating possibilities for coalition” (237).

Grande describes the intellectual roots of critical pedagogy in the work of Paulo Freire and John Dewey, and in the later developments of poststructuralist, Marxist, postcolonial, feminist, and critical race theory. Critical pedagogy, according to Grande, is rooted in a Marxist social and economic analysis. It must be collective, critical, systematic, participatory, and creative, she continues, citing McLaren and Farahmandpur (237). These principles, she continues, “are clearly relevant to Native students and educators in dire need of pedagogies of disruption, intervention, collectivity, hope, and possibility” (238). “The foregrounding of capitalist relations as the axis of exploitation helps reveal the history of indigenous peoples as one of dispossession and not simply oppression,” she continues (238), although I’m not sure Marxist analysis is necessary for that. Nevertheless, “revolutionary critical pedagogy remains rooted in the Western paradigm and therefore in tension with indigenous knowledge and praxis”; in particular, “the root constructs of democratization, subjectivity, and property are all defined through Western frames of reference that presume the individual as the primary subject of ‘rights’ and social status” (238). Those “basic failures” of critical pedagogy raise “three central questions”:

  1. Do critical/revolutionary pedagogies articulate constructions of subjectivity that can theorize the multiple and intersecting layers of indigenous identity as well as root them in the historical material realities of indigenous life?
  2. Do critical/revolutionary pedagogies articulate a geopolitical landscape any more receptive to the notion of indigenous sovereignty than other critical pedagogies rooted in liberal conceptions of democracy?
  3. Do critical/revolutionary pedagogies articulate a view of land and natural resources that is less anthropocentric than other Western discourses? (238)

These “perceived aporias” are not deficiencies but rather “points of tension” that help “to define the spaces-in-between the Western and indigenous thought-worlds” (238). “[T]he basis of Red pedagogy remains distinctive, rooted in traditional indigenous knowledge and praxis,” she continues (238). Addressing these questions, each in turn, may “map a common ground of struggle with revolutionary critical pedagogy” that may “serve as the foundation for eventual solidarities” (238).

In her discussion of the first question, Grande begins with postmodernism’s “framing of questions of identity and difference exclusively in terms of the cultural and discursive” without reference to “structural causes and material relations that create ‘difference’” (238). “[S]uch postmodern tactics serve to obfuscate, if not deny, the hierarchies of power,” and so she turns to “the postcolonial notion of mestizaje as a more effective model of multisubjectivity,” which both “signifies the decline of the imperial West” and “decenters Whiteness and undermines the myth of a democratic nation-state based on borders and exclusions” (239). However, an emphasis on hybridity or mestizaje can lead to “losing sight of the unique challenges of particular groups and their distinctive struggles for social justice” (239). In addition, this “transgressive subjectivity . . . both furthers and impedes indigenous imperatives of self-determination and sovereignty,” because “it remains problematic for indigenous formations of subjectivity and the expressed need to forge and maintain integral connections to both land and place” (239). “[T]he radical mestizaje retains the same core assumption of other Western pedagogies,” which is that “in a democratic society, the articulation of human subjectivity is rooted in the intangible notion of rights as opposed to the tangible reality of land” (239). 

“To be clear, indigenous and critical scholars share some common ground,” Grande admits: “they envision an anti-imperialist theory of subjectivity, one free of the compulsions of global capitalism and the racism, classism, sexism, and xenophobia it engenders” (240). (Is capitalism necessarily the driving force behind those things?) “But where revolutionary scholars ground their vision in Western conceptions of democracy and justice that presume a ‘liberated’ self, indigenous scholars ground their vision in conceptions of sovereignty that presume a profound connection to place and land,” she states, noting that “the seemingly liberatory constructs of fluidity, mobility, and transgression are perceived not only as the language of critical subjectivity but also as part of the fundamental lexicon of Western imperialism” (240). Since Indigenous identities are “defined and shaped in interdependence with place, the transgressive mestizaje functions as a potentially homogenizing force that presumes the continued exile of tribal peoples” and their assimilation” (240). For Grande, “any liberatory project that does not begin with a clear understanding of the difference of indigenous sovereignty will, in the end, work to undermine tribal life” (241).

This analysis, Grande writes, “points to the need for an indigenous theory of subjectivity that addresses the political quest for sovereignty and the socioeconomic urgency to build transnational coalitions” (241). It is essential, she continues, the Indigenous peoples “work to maintain their distinctiveness as tribal peoples of sovereign nations” while moving “toward building inter- and intra-tribal solidarity and political coalition”—in other words, both borders and ways to cross those borders (241). “Such a Red pedagogy”—and, really, Grande is talking about more than just pedagogy—“would transform the struggle over identity to evolve, not apart from, but in relationship with, struggles over tribal land, resources, treaty rights, and intellectual property” (241). A Red pedagogy would also set out “to construct a self-determined space for American Indian intellectualism, recognizing that survival depends on the ability not only to navigate the terrain of Western knowledge but also to theorize and negotiate a racist, sexist marketplace that aims to exploit the labour of signified ‘others’ for capital gain” (241). Finally, Grande continues, a Red pedagogy would be “committed to providing American Indian students the social and intellectual space to reimagine what it means to be Indian in contemporary U.S. society, arming them with a critical analysis of the intersecting systems of domination and the tools to navigate them” (241).

Grande cites Alexander Ewen’s term “Indianismo,” a response to concepts of mestizaje or indigenismo (252), as a proposed construct that would “guide the search for a theory of subjectivity in a direction that embraces the location of Native peoples in the ‘constitutive outside’” (241). “Specifically, it claims a distinctively indigenous space shaped by and through a matrix of legacy, power, and ceremony. In so doing, the notion of Indianismo stands outside the polarizing debates of essentialism and postmodernism, recognizing that both the timeless and temporal are essential for theorizing the complexity of indigenous realities,” she writes. (241). “[T]he Red notion of Indianismo remains grounded in the intellectual histories of indigenous peoples,” she continues. “The centrality of place in the indigenous thought-world is explicitly conveyed through tradition and language and implicitly through the relationship between human beings and the rest of nature” (241). “What distinguishes the indigenous struggle for self-determination from others,” Grande writes,

is their collective effort to protect the rights of their peoples to live in accordance with traditional ways. It is the struggle to effectively negotiate the line between fetishizing such identities and recognizing their importance to the continuance of Indians as tribal peoples. Regardless of how any individual indigenous person chooses to live his or her life, he or she is responsible for protecting the right to live according to ancestral ways. As such, while indigenous peoples resist the kind of essentialism that recognizes only one way of being, they also work to retain a vast constellation of distinct traditions that serve as the defining characteristics of tribal life. (241)

Indigenous languages “must play a crucial role in maintaining the fabric of Indianismo,” because they “are replete with metaphors of existence that implicitly convey notions of multiplicity, hybridity, dialectics, contingency, and a sense of the ‘imaginary’” (241). (I’m not sure what she means by “‘imaginary.’” Why is it in scare quotes?) 

In her response to the second question, about Indigenous sovereignty and democracy, Grande contends that Red pedagogy “operates on the assumption that indigenous sovereignty does not oppose democracy,” but rather “views sovereignty as democracy’s only lifeline, asking, Is it possible for democracy to grow from the seeds of tyranny? Can the ‘good life’ be built upon the deaths of thousands?” (242). For Grande, the “playing field” of this discussion is the American educational system, where “liberal educators have championed the notion of cultural pluralism as the pathway to democracy, imbricating the constructs of national unity, multicultural harmony, and inclusion as the guiding principles of American education” (242). Such “progressive education still functioned as an assimilationast pedagogy designed to absorb cultural difference by ‘including’ marginalized groups in the universality of the nation-state, advocating a kind of multicultural nationalism” (242). However, “[c]ontemporary revolutionary scholars critique liberal forms of critical pedagogy, naming their ‘politics of inclusion’ as an accomplice to the broader project of neoliberalism” because “such models ignore the historic, economic, and material conditions of ‘difference,’ conspicuously averting attention from issues of power” (242). Instead, “revolutionary scholars call attention to the ‘democratically induced’ oppression experienced by colonized peoples,” and in that way, “they reconstitute democracy as a perpetually unfinished process, explicitly recentering democratic education around issues of power, dominance, subordination, and stratification” (242). However, those “revolutionary theorists” are still working “within a Western, linear political framework,” and therefore “they do not, in and of themselves, represent an emancipatory politics for indigenous people” (243). It’s not clear that those theorists “give any greater consideration to the pedagogical imperatives of indigenous sovereignty,” and there lies “the central tension between revolutionary visions of socialist democratic education and the indigenous project of education for sovereignty and self-determination” (243). “One of the most significant ways this difference plays out is the quest for indigenous sovereignty tied to issues of land, Western constructions of democracy are tied to issues of property,” Grande writes. “[G]iven the inexorable ties between land and sovereignty, sovereignty and citizenship, and citizenship and the nation-state, one of the most glaring questions for indigenous scholars is how a revolutionary socialist politics can imagine a ‘new’ social order unfolding upon (still) occupied land” (243). Her question, then, is “How does the ‘egalitarian distribution’ of colonized lands constitute greater justice for indigenous peoples?” (243). “The failure to problematize the issue of (colonized) land is perhaps the major deficiency of Marxist and other Western-centric politics,” she writes (243), a comment that recalls Craig Fortier’s argument in Unsettling the Commons: Social Movements Within, Against, and Beyond Settler Colonialism.

In addition, critical and Red pedagogy disagree about how to reconfigure democracy: “contrary to the assertions of revolutionary theorists, capitalist (exploitative) modes of production are not predicated on the exploitation of free (slave) labor but rather, first and foremost, premised on the colonization of indigenous land” (244). Privileging the class struggle “underestimates the overarching nature of decolonization: a totality that places capitalism, patriarchy, White supremacy, and Western Christianity in radical contingency” (244). “This tension alone necessitates an indigenous reinvisioning of the precepts of revolutionary theory, bringing them into alignment with the realities of indigenous struggle,” Grande writes. “The task ahead is to detach and rethink the notion of sovereignty from its connection to Western understandings of power and base it on indigenous notions of relationship” (244). 

Language must be central to decolonization, Grande continues: “Thus, where a revolutionary critical pedagogy compels students and educators to question how ‘knowledge is related historically, culturally and institutionally to the processes of production and consumption,’ a Red pedagogy compels students to question how knowledge is related to the processes of colonization,” and how “traditional indigenous knowledges can inform the project of decolonization” (244). According to Grande, this notion implies a threefold process for education:

(a) the subjection of the processes of Whitestream schooling to critical pedagogical analyses; (b) the decoupling and dethinking of education from its Western, colonialist contexts, including revolutionary critical pedagogy; and (c) the conceptualization of indigenous efforts to reground students and educators in traditional knowledge and teachings. (244)

“[T]he project of decolonization not only demands students to acquire the knowledge of ‘the oppressor’ but also the skills to negotiate and dismantle the implications of such knowledge,” Grande continues, suggesting that “traditional perspectives on power, justice, and relationships are essential, both to defend against further co-optation and to build intellectual solidarity—a collectivity of indigenous knowledge” (244).

Sovereignty, according to Grande, is “a restorative process” rather than “a separatist discourse” (244). It is “a profoundly spiritual project involving questions about who we are as a people” (245). It will require Indigenous people “to engage in the difficult process of self-definition, to come to consensus on a set of criteria that defines what behaviors and beliefs constitute acceptable expressions of their tribal heritage” (245). It will be “a process of reenchantment, of ensoulment, that is both deeply spiritual and sincerely mindful. The guiding force in this process must be the tribe, the people, the community; the perseverance of these entities and their connection to indigenous lands and sacred places is what inherits ‘spirituality’ and, in turn, the ‘sovereignty’ of Native peoples” (245). “[T]he vision of tribal and community stability rests in the desire and ability of indigenous peoples to listen to not only each other but also the land,” Grande writes. “The question remains, though, whether the ability to exercise spiritual sovereignty will continue to be fettered if not usurped by the desires of a capitalist state intent on devouring land” (245).

Finally, Grande arrives at her third question, about whether critical or revolutionary pedagogies articulate a view of land that is less anthropocentric than other Western discourses (245). She structures her answer through a discussion of the work of Bowers, who states that the “‘core cultural assumptions’ of revolutionary critical pedagogy” render it “indistinguishable from other Western pedagogies” (245). Its emphasis on critical reflection, a way of thinking derived from the Enlightenment, “undermines the ‘mythopoetic narratives’ that serve as ‘the basis of a culture’s moral system, way of thinking about relationships, and its silences’” (qtd. 245). Its emphasis on change and transformation “has led critical theorists to ignore what needs to be conserved and the value of ‘intergenerational knowledge’ (aka tradition)” (246). It is “‘based on an anthropocentric view of human/nature relationships,” and “presumes a ‘Western approach to literacy’ that ‘reinforces patterns of social relationships not found in oral-based cultures’” (Bowers, qtd. 246). Not that Grande agrees with Bowers. She suggests that critical pedagogy emphasizes “meaning,” rather than critical reflection (246), and that while the “root metaphor of ‘change as progress’ presents specific challenges to indigenous cultures rooted in tradition and intergenerational knowledge, revolutionary theorists do not categorically advocate change as inherently progressive” (246-47). In addition, while “the process of interrogation itself may encode the same sociotemporal markers of a colonialist consciousness that incites movement away from ‘sacred’ ways of knowing toward increased secularization,” that does not “preclude such processes of interrogation from being an integral part of Red pedagogy, particularly as indigenous communities remain threatened and deeply threatened and deeply compromised by colonialist forces,” meaning that Indigenous communities may need “social transformation” as part of a resistance to colonization (247-48). She does suggest that the claim that revolutionary critical pedagogy is anthropocentric is accurate (248). Expressions of “profound anthropocentrism” are both “unnecessary to the imperatives of the critical project” and “weaken its validity,” because they suggest that “[t]he value of the Earth itself is . . . only derived in terms of its ability to serve a distinctly human resource, carrying no inherent worth or subjectivity” (248). And, regarding literacy, “indigenous cultures engaged in institutional forms of schooling are just as concerned with students’ literacy as other cultures” (248-49). For Grande, “the value of revolutionary pedagogies is that the concept of ‘literacy’ is reformed to take on meaning beyond a simple depoliticized notion of reading and writing” (249). Grande concludes that revolutionary pedagogies could provide “the analytical robustness and ideological inclination needed to sort through the underlying power manipulations of colonialist forces,” even though they “are born of a Western tradition that has many components in conflict with indigenous knowledge, including a view of time and progress that is linear and an anthropocentric view that puts humans at the centre of the universe” (249). “Nevertheless,” she continues, “if revolutionary critical pedagogy is able to sustain the same kind of penetrating analysis it unleashes on capitalism, it may evolve into an invaluable tool for indigenous people and their allies, fighting to protect and extend indigenous sovereignty over tribal land and resources” (249). 

Grande ends her essay with “seven precepts” that provide “a way of thinking our way around and through the challenges facing American education in the 21st century and our mutual need to define decolonizing pedagogies”:

  1. Red pedagogy is primarily a pedagogical project. In this context, pedagogy is understood as being inherently political, cultural, spiritual, and intellectual.
  2. Red pedagogy is fundamentally rooted in indigenous knowledge and praxis. It is particularly interested in knowledge that furthers understanding and analysis of the forces of colonization.
  3. Red pedagogy is informed by critical theories of education. A Red pedagogy searches for ways it can both deepen and be deepened by engagement with critical and revolutionary theories and praxis.
  4. Red pedagogy promotes an education for decolonization. Within Red pedagogy, the root metaphors of decolonization are articulated as equity, emancipation, sovereignty, and balance. In this sense, an education for decolonization makes no claim to political neutrality but rather engages a method of analysis and social inquiry that troubles the capitalist-imperialist aims of unfettered competition, accumulation, and exploitation.
  5. Red pedagogy is a project that interrogates both democracy and indigenous sovereignty. . . .
  6. Red pedagogy actively cultivates praxis of collective agency. That is, Red pedagogy aims to build transcultural and transnational solidarities among indigenous peoples and others committed to reimagining a sovereign space free of imperialist, colonialist, and capitalist exploitation.
  7. Red pedagogy is grounded in hope. . . . a hope that lives in contingency with the past—one that trusts the beliefs and understandings of our ancestors, the power of traditional knowledge, and the possibilities of new understandings. (250)

“Red pedagogy,” Grande concludes, “is about engaging the development of ‘community-based power’ in the interest of ‘a responsible political, economic, and spiritual society’” (250). It is about Gerald Vizenor’s notion of survivance, which he describes as “an active repudiation of dominance, tragedy and victimry” (qtd. 250). For Grande, survivance “speaks to our collective need to decolonize, to push back against empire, and to reclaim what it means to be a people of sovereign mind and body” (250)

I understand Grande’s intentions in attempting to bring Indigenous thinking and critical theory together, but I find myself wondering whether critical theorists actually have more to learn from Indigenous ways of knowing than Indigenous thinkers do from critical theory. I was hoping for a more densely textured exposition of Indigenous epistemology and ontology here (assuming those are the correct terms to use; Vanessa Watts would disagree), and because Grande’s focus was more on critical theory, I realized that I would have to turn elsewhere, perhaps to Neil McLeod’s book on Cree narrative memory, to find that exposition. I’ve read McLeod’s book before, but probably need to read it again.

I skipped the last three essays in this section, because my project isn’t related to critical pedagogy. The two essays I did read, though, suggest that while it is difficult to bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous methodologies together, it is possible, and the results can be powerful. It needs to be done very carefully, though, probably by asking questions about non-Indigenous methodologies from an Indigenous perspective, rather than the other way around. That’s one good reason to read the work of Indigenous scholars carefully. I’m looking forward to getting through this book, finally, because the other books on my table—works by Indigenous researchers—are works that will, I think, accomplish that kind of scrutiny.

Works Cited

Denzin, Norman K., Yvonna S. Lincoln, and Linda Tuhiwai Smith, eds. Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies, Sage, 2008.

Fortier, Craig. Unsettling the Commons: Social Movements Within, Against, and Beyond Settler Colonialism, ARP Books, 2017.

McLeod, Neil. Cree Narrative Memory: From Treaties to Contemporary Times, Purich, 2007.

Watts, Vanessa. “Indigenous Place-Thought & Agency Amongst Humans and Non-Humans (First Woman and Sky Woman Go On a European World Tour!).” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, vol. 2, no. 1, 2013, pp. 20-34.