Methodologies Of Discomfort Tricia Livingston
Methodologies of Discomfort is a series of self-portraits taken by Tricia Livingston via her computer while crying. Although the series is ongoing, the images presented here were taken between 2012-16, a time in Livingston’s life when she was experiencing displacement, sadness, worry, a prevailing feeling of ungroundedness, and exhaustion from the constant burden of having to navigate colonial forces. Since this time, she made the difficult decision to move and return to her home community in northern British Columbia. While researching Livingston’s practice, I noticed that at one point she removed this series from her website. I reached out to her about the work and we began a dialogue, which forms the basis of this chapter.
Our discussion of Methodologies of Discomfortopened up a conversation on trauma, Indigenous-non-Indigenous relations, the continued failure of colonial institutions, libraries, language revitalization, and land. Echoing how Livingston originally presented the digitally rendered photographs, they are shown here at random in a horizontal manner, along with randomized fragments of text from our conversations.
– Heather Rigg
And then your heart will go into a good place
Collage Event at Gallery 44
June 11, 2019, 6:30-8:30pm
Coinciding with Tricia Livingston’s Methodologies of Discomfort online exhibition, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people will be invited to participate in a photo collaging workshop event at Gallery 44 on Tuesday June 11 from 6:30-8:30 PM. Digital photographs have been collected from members of her home community and sent to the gallery to be printed. These photos are landscape images that community photographers were moved to capture while out on the land in Tsek’ene/Tahltan/Kaska territory. Participants in this workshop are invited to create loving and encouraging messages addressed to on-reserve Indigenous children and youth. These collaged images will be returned to her community and hung up in the Healing Home to decorate the interior walls. This event is free to the public, and pre-registration is not required. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
We stay close to our Ancestors
May 15, 2019
Community youth will be designing and creating a mural that will be installed on a building located in their village in northern BC. Formerly known as “The White House” because of its white siding façade, this building has served as guest accommodations for visitors to the village since the late 90s. On March 15, 2019, the building was transformed and reopened as The Healing Home. Translated into Tsek’ene language as Kǫh Dune Nujèhde or The House Where People Heal, this newly reclaimed building is dedicated to providing a safe, sober, violence-free space for children, youth, and adults. This project is entirely community-led with the goal of reclaiming sovereignty over government-mandated child protective practices. In creating The Healing Home, the grounding philosophy has been that “it takes a village to raise a child” and community members are committed to keeping their children home and out of care by preemptively providing a holistic and restorative approach to family healing. By doing so, those involved in The Healing Home aim to encourage and protect the strength and resilience of future generations and their families. This mural project will represent the reclamation of this building by talented young artists, so that it will belong to them and all the children of the community. This project lies close to Tricia Livingston’s heart and she has been part of an incredible team of people who envisioned this initiative and brought it to life.
All images in this chapter:
Tricia Livingston, Methodologies of Discomfort, 2012 - 16.
1 Naomi Skawarna, “Anxiety Art for a New Era,” Canadian Art, January 20, 2017, https://canadianart.ca/essays/anxiety-art-new-era/
2 Renee Linklater, Decolonizing Trauma Work: Indigenous Stories and Strategies, (Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 2014), 20.
3 Linklater, Decolonizing Trauma Work, 22.
5 David Garneau, “Indigenous Creative Sovereignty after Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation,” C Magazine no. 128 (2016): 25.
6 Audre Lorde, “Poetry Is Not a Luxury,” Sister Outsider, (New York: Ten Speed Press, 2007), 3.
- a system of methods used in a particular area of study or activity
- an absence of comfort or ease; uneasiness, hardship, or mild pain.
- anything that is disturbing to or interferes with comfort.
verb (used with object)
- to disturb the comfort or happiness of; make uncomfortable or uneasy.
HR: I was intrigued by your Methodologies of Discomfort series and noticed that it is no longer on your website. Are you able to tell me more about it?
TL: The photo series you are talking about was created quite a while ago now. I took it down from my website recently, mostly because I felt like I needed to renegotiate my relationship to those self-portraits. It's definitely a project that I've been thinking about more these past couple months, just in terms of the conversations I was having with myself as an artist a couple of years ago and how my current practice might have evolved from there.
Then, I was thinking a lot about Indigenous representation within institutional spaces and my own position (at the time) as a displaced, urban Indigenous artist who grew up with their white dad, removed from their Indigenous culture. Now, I'm still thinking about those things, but also continuing thoughts around cultural revitalization and land-based practices, now that I’ve been living in my community on our traditional territory for the last few years
HR: This work provides us with the opportunity to explore the act of crying; the title provides an interesting way into the series. While sometimes this act/emotion is one we can’t control, quite often, there is a need to create the time and space to do so. What methods are there to quell one’s pain? What is causing this pain?
TL: I borrowed the title from the essay “Decolonizing Sensibilities: Indigenous Research and Engaging with Archives in Contemporary Colonial Canada” written by Crystal Fraser and Zoe Todd in 2016. This turn of phrase–methodologies of discomfort–struck me particularly, because the authors were urging settlers to remember this idea of discomfort of the self in processes of decolonization, but of course most Indigenous people are constantly in a state of discomfort, whether it’s interacting with institutional archives or just navigating any colonial spaces on a daily basis. While creating the images over many years (the series is ongoing), I was feeling the real weight of being an (overly self-critical) Indigenous person – displacement, loss, grief, fear, sadness, worry, longing for better circumstances, etcetera; all the emotions of existential angst. It felt important to broadcast these images, perhaps to counteract the idea that we are always strong, thriving communities who are accepting reconciliation and winning at decolonization. Most of the images were created when I was living in Montreal, though some were taken during my first residency at the Banff Centre.
HR: There is an aspect of performativity to this work, where the act of photographing yourself with your computer takes you out of the moment of crying. Can you tell me about this?
TL: You're right, this work is very performative. As a very introverted and introspective person, I have always spent most of my time alone, so these images represent all of that alone time at home. When my energy was at its lowest, I was devouring Ingmar Bergman films as well as countless white heteronormative rom-coms, where nothing truly bad happens and everyone’s existential crisis has a happy ending. It was pure escapism, seated in front of my computer, and I thank the endless stream of Netflix for coming through when I needed it most.
Crying, alone with myself, to me represents a moment of growth, a pivotal moment between past and future; external acknowledgement (in the form of a visual archive) has been important in my process. Of course, photography itself is always a pivotal moment between past and future, always for posterity. I am probably very influenced by Rebecca Belmore's work, particularly her performance for the 1991 Havana Biennial. The moment I saw the video documentation of her performance, her voice impacted me deeply; hearing her visceral cries brought me to tears. It really spoke to the feelings I had inside. It felt like a deep pain that, before that moment, I had never known anyone to express.
At times, this constant self-awareness has been detrimental to my wellbeing, which should also be acknowledged. I remember reading an article in the Winter 2017 issue of Canadian Art where Naomi Skwarna writes, “On Instagram, conditions that were previously solitary are now fit to be content. Sadness can be framed as luxury, inaudibly scored by Lana Del Rey.”1 Indeed, my ability to stay home and mope is a privilege that most people simply cannot afford.
HR: You briefly mentioned about some of the reasons that caused you to cry. Could you tell me a bit more about this?
TL: As a young person, people probably would have described me as deeply sensitive, emotional and very observant. For most of the self-portraits, I was definitely suffering from a lot of burnout and vicarious trauma after working as a frontline worker. Sometimes the obstacles Indigenous people face in accessing healing, the necessary healing to be able to recognize and acknowledge intergenerational trauma, can make the whole process feel overwhelming and hopeless. It’s real work that we have to do ourselves. Colonial forces can feel debilitating. I was also very lonely and isolated and at odds with my urban environment while longing for this idea of "home.” I wanted that cultural knowledge and solidification of identity so I could finally be confident as a whole Tsek'ene person. I have always known I am Tsek’ene but confronting the real meaning behind that identity was an important thing for me to do. Broken relationships, death, addiction, violence, and injustice within my immediate family is a reality, and these things can never be rationalized. I was feeling a lot of anger. Glen Coulthard's words on resentment in the face of so-called reconciliation gave voice to and justified my frustrations, which grew while living in an urban setting where the realities of Indigenous suffering are very visible. Sometimes I cry just because I feel sorry for myself, without any greater context than that.
TL: While in art school, I was always made to question authorship and audience–was I making work for non-Indigenous audiences? How was my own identity intentionally or forcefully implicated in the process? What did it mean to make work as an Indigenous person? Could I absolve myself of that role, as a light-skinned person who grew up in white culture? What did it mean to make work on someone else’s territory? What should Indigenous Art look like? How could I make work that is understood by my classmates/professors? Is my work recognizable to my communities (both rez and urban)? It always felt like I had to fill the role as educator on Indigenous issues and by extension had to defend myself within colonial conversations on a regular basis. I also had to do a lot of convincing for myself. It was exhausting. I was exploring the visual culture of “contemporary indigeneity” and trying to find imagery that is specific to my culture. I made a lot of terrible work, which was never properly critiqued. It felt like people didn’t want to speak up against bad Indigenous art, perhaps for fear of criticizing Indigenous people themselves!
These days, I’m not so concerned with being in direct dialogue with non-Indigenous people. It marks the difference between living in an urban centre where I was a minority to now, where I live in a remote village where non-Indigenous people are the minority. It doesn’t feel so urgent to have these intercultural conversations, and instead, I feel very preoccupied with local efforts to strengthen identity.
HR: You have been working on Sekani language revitalization. I sheepishly inquired about having this project translated, as if that would be an easy task. Are you open to sharing about your language revitalization work, and its complexities?
TL: I am very much in the infancy stages of learning our language; I know very little. Tsek’ene zaghe is both incredibly complex and incredibly beautiful. Our community has lost many elders in the last decade who would have been considered fluent speakers, although we have many “silent speakers” who have contributed significantly to our language revitalization efforts. As with many communities, healing from the effects of residential schools has made this process very difficult for our people. There are a number of dialects that allow for mutual understandings that span vast regions–from our relatives north extending into the Yukon to our family south towards central BC. For the time being, I have stepped back from actively contributing to the language class at the school, though I try to do behind-the-scenes work as much as I can. As the current school librarian, I make an effort to incorporate words into storybook time, and I speak as much as I can at home. We have two incredible language instructors who work full-time with our children and youth, as well as many elders who are contributing to a visual storytelling archive. I’m currently working on compiling all the terminology and phrases around moose hide tanning, so that we may hold hands-on workshops while incorporating all the relevant words. As a relatively tiny population of people, we have a lot of work to do. Championing our language by any means necessary is vital.
HR: In our previous correspondence you wrote “the land is healing,” which I thought was beautiful. Could you tell me more about this?
TL: I am privileged to be able to move home, to live and walk on the land that we can call our own, despite government-designated borders. Not every Indigenous person can do this so I want to acknowledge that and by no means do I intend to diminish their identity as Indigenous people by not having access to land. I will also say that the act of coming home was a very difficult and painful process. After having been separated from my maternal relations and community for the majority of my life, I very much felt and still feel like an outsider. But I have so much love for my community, and I thank the many people, especially the Elders, who welcomed me home with open arms. One Elder shared with me that they too felt like outsiders when they returned home from residential school. At the risk of romanticizing this colonial idea of "going back to the land,” I must say I have felt the significance of being on ancestral territories. When I am out of the village and traveling on the land, life makes sense, and I feel a sense of purpose. I'm sure a lot of the pain I felt before moving home was from this feeling of ungroundedness and disconnect. Culture is healing and so many people remind me that our Tsek’ene culture can be understood as simply walking the trails our ancestors walked, climbing the mountains, and being in relation with our territory, animals, and plants. Being able to de-intellectualize acts of decolonization in this way has been very refreshing.
HR: When did you start the Indigenous Artist Manifesto, how does it continue to evolve, and how does it shape your work?
TL: The Indigenous Artist Manifestoaddresses the frustrations I felt while navigating representations of Indigenous art within institutional/colonial contexts. These ideas stemmed from a seminar I took in 2014 with Heather Igloliorte on exhibiting Indigenous art. Specifically, I recall walking through the Canadian Guild of Crafts and feeling outraged at the physical layout of the gallery, their insistence on words like “traditional” and “authentic” and how very few of the works were actually displayed with the names of artists who created them. The exhibition felt so sloppy, and yet the organizers credited themselves for promoting and supporting the work of Inuit and First Nations artists. Of course, this is not the only example of poor protocol.
I wrote the manifesto in one sitting, and a few other artists have contributed additions to the text. I have to mention the influence of Raymond Boisjoly, whose ideas on indigeneity and art, continue to question the complexities of making and showing work within institutional contexts. The Manifesto helped quell insecurities around self-representation and so-called “Indigenous authenticity” and the need to explain myself. I felt released from the pressure of adhering to prescribed ideas of native art, which have largely been dictated by colonial rules and limitations.
HR: You are researching Tsek’ene objects held in Canadian institutions. Could you speak about this aspect of your practice?
TL: The research project you are referring to is on hold for now, though I still feel excited about it. The Few Sharp Edges text on my website (which links to the South Peace Historical Society’s site) is a glimpse into the anthropological writing that has been done on Tsek'ene people. When I was living in Montreal, I exhausted all online research efforts and encountered almost exclusively negative/condescending misrepresentations of my people written by colonizers. I also found very few examples of items labeled specifically as having been collected from Tsek’ene communities. I think this preliminary research probably serves a role in A Few Sharp Edges, in part to contextualize my thinking and approach to the idea of Self in that time of displacement.
I didn’t really intend to show the self-portraits that make up Methodologies of Discomfortto anyone, certainly not in an exhibition of any kind. Like many photographers, the most readily available subject for portraiture is often the self. I’ve experimented a lot with self-portraiture both on film and digitally, initially as a means to understand how I might be perceived by onlookers, outside of my own mirrored gaze. Thinking about both institutional and informal archives, I’ve always been intrigued by historical found photographs, and I am curious about archives uncovered at estate sales, flea markets, and old prints and portraits found jumbled together in boxes. I’m also very interested in faulty documentation and mislabeled works, where institutions have failed the archival process and as such, are seemingly arbitrarily holding on to these objects with little to no purpose or guidance. And so, what could these crying images mean decades from now? Where will they end up? Could they potentially add to the canon of Indigenous portraiture? Have I added to the archive of Tsek’ene culture? Why would an Indigenous person be crying so much in the 2010s? How will they survive as digital images? Will they simply disappear?
HR: Your photographs, captured digitally with your computer’s camera and shared online, are very intimate, private moments. They can be difficult to look at: difficult because it is hard to look at someone in pain, because you are in a private space, and because I feel that viewers are implicated in your pain in certain ways.
TL: Though this work is deeply personal and often references Indigenous issues and Indigeneity, I do hope it can speak to multiple experiences and it's not necessarily dedicated to any particular audience. Everyone cries and seeing someone else cry triggers instinctual emotions that viewers can feel or recognize in themselves. The ideas I've shared are my own and the reader should be critical of the fact that I'm a light-skinned indigenous person and I definitely don't speak for all indigenous people or for my entire community. I'm happy to share a glimpse into my personal life, but I would urge viewers to make a point of seeking out the work of many different indigenous people, especially those who experience the most discrimination and silencing. They are doing important work that deserves attention and real compensation.
HR: Could you talk about being a frontline worker?
TL: I worked for a few years in an emergency shelter for women and children. I feel like there are so many different ways Indigenous people are doing frontline work either in their communities, in urban centres, on the land, or even within their families and personal networks. It’s beautiful, difficult, brave, selfless work and I commend anyone who commits their love, time, and energy to it. I couldn’t last in the job I had because the pain and suffering I witnessed hit too close to home and I started carrying it around with me without realizing it. I didn’t have the skills to protect myself and compartmentalize to separate it from my personal life. However, I think this work has evolved for me, and I’m continuing to contribute to my communities, but in more behind-the-scenes ways.
HR: Could you talk more about resistance in honouring and reinstating matriarchal societies? What progress, if any, has been made, and what steps would you like to see taken to move closer towards it?
TL: When colonial governance systems are replicated in Indigenous communities, it upholds all forms of patriarchy forced onto us by colonizers. These ideas often stand in direct opposition to the beliefs and functions of many Indigenous traditional societies. I believe we already hold the knowledge necessary to undo these systems and we need to listen to our youth and seek advice from Elders who remember the old ways. We need to build up our women and two-spirit/queer family, and we need to honour the healthy men who are on our side. There are many artists, communities, and organizations doing this work already and we should be looking to them for guidance.
HR: David Garneau wrote a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report in issue 128 of C Magazine. Titled “Indigenous Creative Sovereignty after Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation” Garneau points to the problems at the root of the report, where, like all colonial projects, it: “has benefitted the state and non-Indigenous people more than it will ever improve the lives of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis.” Prior to this statement, he referred to the report as being “essential reading,” while pointing out that it is “written in the past tense, as if Indigenous assimilation and dispossession…are confined to history.” He goes on to explore the limited vision of art within the report, and ends by stating: “We, who identify as Indigenous artists (not simply artists who are also Indigenous), if we are also cultural workers, need to exercise our creative sovereignty, not simply by striving for individual success within the dominant art world, or by working within the Reconciliation (colonial) ideology.”5 What shifts, if any, do you feel have occurred since the TRC report?
TL: Though this work is deeply personal and often references Indigenous issues and Indigeneity, I do believe it is universal and not aimed at any particular audience. Everyone cries and seeing someone else cry triggers instinctual emotions that I hope viewers can feel or recognize in themselves. And I hope sadness/pity isn't the only emotion I invoke in the viewer.
I think a lot about number 27 and number 28 of the Indigenous Artist Manifesto.
HR: Tell me about your work as a librarian.
TL: I love my job, and I’ve never felt more supported in a work environment. We are very fortunate to have a library in our community and ordering new books feels so radical because of course, I’m expanding our collection of BIPOC-written feminist queer texts and storybooks. Our school serves approximately 100 children in all grades: kindergarten to grade twelve. Graphic novels and art books are really popular with all ages, so it’s exciting to get to have these conversations about art and encourage their creativity. Our library is also open to the whole community and this year I have been providing literacy support to adults. One of my favourite parts of my job is connecting with the students and emphasizing that the library is a safe space to take a mental health break to decompress and process what’s going on in their complex lives. As a school staff, we are having discussions surrounding restorative justice practices, and we recently facilitated a talking circle in the library for two young students. Next year, I would like to start having story time with Elders and maybe facilitate more workshops for young parents.
HR: What are you reading right now?
TL: I’ve got a huge stack of books I want to read. I just got myself a copy of Disintegrate/Dissociate by Arielle Twist, and I’m really excited to read it. I’ve been working my way slowly through All About Love by bell hooks and I’ve also been reading Eden Robinson’s Trickster Drift aloud bit by bit at home. My friend and inspiration, artist Anne Riley suggested we read the book Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good by adrienne maree brown together, which is currently on order. I’ve been carrying around my copy of This Wound is a World by Billy-Ray Belcourt lately, reading a passage here and there as I think about these self-portraits. In preparation for an art presentation I’ll be giving to our high school students, I’ve been re-reading Northern Athapaskan Art by Kate C. Duncan. As I mentioned to you recently, Tanya Tagaq’s audiobook version of Split Tooth is just incredible. I’ve been listening to it in segments. The new Canadian Art: Spacetime just arrived in the mail too. I do very little reading online; actually, I still prefer print.
HR: Could you talk more about de-intellectualizing decolonization?
TL: I was talking to someone recently about how Indigenous meme accounts are doing frontline work. It’s this idea that incredibly complex ideas are being highlighted in surprisingly simple and sophisticated ways. As someone who grew up in white spaces and achieved “success” within colonial academia, I think it’s very important to recognize when to shut up and listen. Academics talk too much. I’ve witnessed incredibly powerful decolonial work here in my home community amongst my people, and it’s very humbling. I think it’s important to understand the capacity we have to decolonize ourselves by simplifying our actions. Disengaging from those urban intellectual conversations and learning from Elders, children, and the land has shown me new ways of seeing and valuing actions that strengthen sovereignty. Right now, I’m very invested in restorative justice practices, where people are in direct relation with each other. I feel very strongly that this will be the first and very important step in our healing and, by extension, our decolonization.
HR: Can you speak about The Healing Home, and about the artists you will be working with to create a mural on the building’s façade?
TL: I will be facilitating a mural painting project for some youth who will be designing and creating a new artwork that will be installed outside on one of our community buildings. Formerly known as “The White House” because of its white siding façade, the building has served as guest accommodations for visitors to the village since the late 90s. On March 15, 2019, the building was transformed and reopened as The Healing Home. Translated into Tsek’ene language as Kǫh Dune Nujèhde or The House Where People Heal, this newly reclaimed building is dedicated to providing a safe, sober, violence-free space for children, youth, and adults. This project is entirely community-led to reclaim sovereignty over government-mandated child protective practices. In creating The Healing Home, the grounding philosophy has been that “it takes a village to raise a child” and we are invested in keeping our children out of care by preemptively providing a holistic and restorative approach to family healing. We are trying to encourage and protect the strength and resilience of future generations and their families. This mural project will represent the reclamation of this building by talented young artists in our community so that it will belong to them and all the children of the community.
HR: In thinking about archives, Methodologies of Discomfort is an archive of yours, one that could be referred to as an “emotional” archive that subverts that rational and linear nature of colonial archives. This is further countered here as the photographs–and text–are presented to viewers in a horizontal manner determined by algorithmic sorting.
TL: I love that idea of subverting colonial archives. What I’ve discovered is that institutional archives often fail on their own terms anyway. I think specifically regarding Indigenous objects and artifacts, accurate cataloguing mechanisms couldn’t keep up with the amount of materials and objects being collected, so lots of things fell through the cracks. So many objects are documented inaccurately, mislabeled or unlabeled, photographed sloppily, and the provenance is dubious at best. So why not dismantle the whole structure and challenge these deep ideas of authenticity and linearity?
HR:A maze of collapsing lines is an online publication created to mark the 40th anniversary of Gallery 44. In thinking about the role of artist-run centres in 2019 what would you like to see from such spaces moving forward?
TL: I’m so excited to be included in this publication, and I’m beyond grateful you reached out to me. Some spaces are doing this already and I would say to continue to reach out to artists who aren’t based in urban centres and to give opportunities to artists who aren’t academically trained. I would also encourage continued community engagement and to follow up once the project has been completed. Personally, I’m always excited by collaborative efforts where ideas of singular authorship are challenged.
HR: I’ve been reading the work of Audre Lorde. In thinking about your work and our conversations, I have returned to Lorde’s essayPoetry is not a Luxury, specifically this excerpt:
When we view living in the european mode only as a problem to be solved, we rely solely upon our ideas to make us free, for these were what the white fathers told us were precious.
But as we come more into touch with our own ancient, non-european consciousness of living as a situation to be experienced and interacted with we learn more and more to cherish our feelings, and to respect those hidden sources of our power from where true knowledge and, therefore, lasting action comes.
At this point in time, I believe that women carry within ourselves the possibility for fusion of these two approaches as keystone for survival, and we come closest to this combination in our poetry. I speak here of poetry as a revelatory or distillation of experience, not the sterile word play that, too often, the white fathers distorted the word poetry to mean — in order to cover their desperate wish for imagination without insight.
For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.6
TL: Thank you for sharing that text; it inspired me to read the entire essay. Further on, Lorde writes, “We can train ourselves to respect our feelings and to transpose them into a language so they can be shared.” European intellectuals and artist-geniuses have always vilified emotionality, in particular female (and queer) sentimentality. It is seen as wild and unpredictable, though we could argue now that it is inherently radical and visionary. Anne Riley has coined the term “radical softening,” and it’s such an important thought that reaches so many different realms. I feel like if, amongst ourselves, we can value and cherish our deep emotional truths in tenderness and love, our isolation and disconnectedness could be alleviated. Recognizing myself in others has been my greatest lesson, and it continues to give me so much hope in this world.
HR: I recently read Renee Linklater’s book Decolonizing Trauma Work: Indigenous Stories and Strategies. It helped me gain a greater understanding of the severe insufficiencies and colonial entrenchment of Canada’s healthcare system. Linklater writes: “It is widely recognized that Indigenous peoples are often not well served by Western treatment styles and those seeking help are often confronted with more alienation and traumatization.”2 She unpacks the fact that “Indigenous trauma has been largely “diagnosed” through non-Indigenous theories…and that adherence to strictly Western models of treatment maintains the colonization process.”3 Western psychology is based on a very different approach from Indigenous concepts of care; the western model is based on illness while the Indigenous approach is based on wellness. Western medicine treats the mind and body as separate entities while Indigenous wellness takes a holistic approach that considers the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical aspects of a person equally. “The term trauma originates from Western contexts, and with a decolonizing approach, it is essential to acknowledge this…Using trauma terminology implies that the individual is responsible for the response, rather than the broader systemic force caused by the state’s abuse of power.”4 Throughout the book Linklater navigates both Western psychology and Indigenous wellness to locate the best methods for healing and helping Indigenous individuals and communities, utilizing a decolonizing approach.
TL: Colonial institutions and agencies always have, and continue to, fail Indigenous people. This is especially true when it comes to mental health. Growing up, I had certainly never heard of “intergenerational trauma” nor would I have ever thought that it would apply to me. But learning and unpacking all of the ways it has affected my life and the people around me, particularly the need to confront the idea of indigeneity itself after having been kept from my culture, indicates that despite our survivance and resilience, there is a lot of work to do. I am learning that this cannot happen in isolation. Approaching wellness holistically is not easy and there are real barriers to healing: inadequate housing, unequal opportunities to education (both colonial and traditional knowledges), limited/no access to land, limited interaction with healthy decolonized Elders, lack of knowledge of our languages, resistance in honouring and reinstating matriarchal societies, replicating colonial political structures, toxic masculinity and patriarchy, continued violence against queer, trans, and two-spirit people, unwillingness to de-Christianize communities, inadequate health care, non-Indigenous administered child protection policies, colonial criminal justice systems, rez/urban divide, broken family structures, never enough Indigenous health workers, and never enough time. Despite this overwhelming list, communities have been making enormous strides in self-determination and sovereignty. We have to hold on to hope and hold governments accountable.
HR: In our correspondence, we have talked about this chapter being rooted in Indigenous and non-Indigenous conversation. Can you speak about how such conversations have changed, or not changed, for you over the years?
TL: It’s an interesting article. What does creative sovereignty look like? I know that more Indigenous people have been hired within cultural institutions and certainly lots of Indigenous artists are having their work shown in many new and different ways. Do we ultimately have a goal to be recognized by and included in art institutions or is there even a collective we? I’m interested in the work that is being made and shown outside of major institutions. I’m also very curious about the creative projects that are happening outside of urban centres. To be honest, I feel very disconnected from what’s going on in the “art world.” Is my lack of engagement due to geographical remoteness or intellectual dissonance? I’m not too sure. I think a lot about number 27 and number 28 of the Indigenous Artist Manifesto.