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About

I am currently a 6th year PhD candidate in Sociology and Equity Studies in Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), at the University of Toronto, Canada. My thesis is titled "Decolonizing our Technologies of Knowing: Publishing for the Indigenous Good in the Digital Era" and is supervised by Dr. Rubén Gaztambide-Fernández, along with doctoral committee members Eve Tuck and Scott Morgenson. It engages the fields of sociology, settler colonialism & digital humanities, examining the ways in which Indigenous publishers articulate the possibilities and challenges of digital publishing technologies for furthering decolonization and Indigenous sovereignty. For 2013-2015 I was awarded the Canadian Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Doctoral Fellowship for this work. In the two years since the SSHRC fellowship's completion (2015/2016 & 2016/2017), I have been awarded the Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) for this work.

I also hold a Masters in Education (M.Ed) in Sociology and Equity Studies in Education, a Master's certificate in Comparative, International & Development Education - both from the University of Toronto - and a Bachelors of Arts (B.A) in English from the University of Victoria.

I currently live and work with my family as a zhaganash/settler in Tkaronto/Toronto, in Dish with One Spoon Treaty territory, and I am continually learning more about what it means to work for decolonization as a settler on Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee lands.

In 2011 I co-founded - and continue to be the Editor of - one of the premier journals for critical Indigenous and decolonization studies, Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society. It is an interdisciplinary, Open Access journal that brings together discussions of Indigenous knowledges and decolonization from around the globe, and innovates and expands the ways in which academic knowledge might be made accessible to broader communities. Decolonization is a collaborative project committed to centring decolonization work grounded in community, activism, and engagement beyond the academy - work produced by a diverse group of scholars and activists from around the globe. The journal has, in a short time, gathered a world-class group of diverse and innovative scholars as members of various Editorial Boards, as well as an engaged and dedicated audience that includes academics, activists, community members, and artists.

Decolonization has published nine journal issues over three and a half years, along with over a hundred other online essays, stories, and reviews on our companion WordPress site. Decolonization continues to grow and develop, informed by a deep commitment to the political work of decolonization and to publishing in ways that are both responsive but also innovating and pushing the boundaries of what scholarly publishing can be and do. In 2013 I was interviewed about the journal; you can listen to that interview here.

I believe in building community, in doing the work of creating and sustaining relationships, and working responsively and accountably the the knowledges, the people, and the places that I engage. My work is intentionally collaborative, and is enriched by the many people I've had the honor to work and build with. This ethos of collaboration, community and co-creation is central to my work and, I believe, to decolonization.

Explore the rest of the site to find out more!

 

 

Publications

 

Talks

My Recent and Upcoming Speaking Engagements

 

Readings

Ideas I'm Working With

"Different social practices demand that information appear in different forms if that information is to produce a legitimate form of knowledge."

Elizabeth Povinelli (2012)

"How you fight determines who you will be when the battle is over."

Taiaiake Alfred (2009)

"Surviving as a Native person in any colonial situation is a strange mix of refusal, creation, and assertion."

Haunani-Kay Trask (1999)

"An ethic of incommensurability...stands in contrast to aims of reconciliation....Reconciliation is about rescuing settler normalcy, about rescuing a settler future. Reconciliation is concerned with questions of what will decolonization look like? What will happen after abolition? What will be the consequence of decolonization for the settler? Incommensurability acknowledges that these questions need not, and perhaps cannot, be answered in order for decolonization to exist as a framework.

...Decolonization is not obliged to answer those questions - decolonization is not obligated to settlers, or settler futurity. Decolonization is accountable to Indigenous sovereignty and futurity."

Eve Tuck & K. Wayne Yang (2012)

"While discursive categories are clearly central sites of contestation, they must be grounded in and informed by the material politics of everyday life, especially the daily life struggles for survival of...those written out of history."

Chandra Mohanty (2003)

"The idea that technology is neutral is itself not neutral."

Jerry Mander (1991)

"The Indian is a ghost in the system, an errant or virus that disrupts the virtual flows by stopping them, or revealing them to be what they are and will have been all along: colonialist."

Jodi Byrd (2011)

"We [Indigenous people] resist not to overthrow a government or to take political power, but because it is natural to resist extermination, to survive. We don't want power over white institutions; we want white institutions to disappear. That's revolution."

Russel Means (1980)

"The decolonization of our technologies of knowledge...insists on the necessity of transforming not only the use and the product of the technology but also the discursive context that defines what "is" epistemic technology."

Freya Schiwy (2009)

Decolonize Your Mind2

Blog

Most Recent Post

“Are You Indigenous?”: Reflections on Settler Responses to Joseph Boyden and Canada 150

BY Eric Ritskes / Commentary, Decolonization / 2 COMMENTS

Earlier this month I was hanging out with some friends and the conversation veered towards talking Canadian politics, as it often does. At one point in the conversation, Attawapiskat and northern reserves without clean drinking water were brought up. As is typical when these topics are broached in this particular group, I was asked my opinion, knowing that my PhD work has (in their words) “something to do with Indigenous issues.” After my response came the slightly hesitant, not sure how to word it, slightly embarrassed to ask it, question from one of them: Are you Indigenous?

It’s not the first time that I have been asked the question or, at other times, had it simply assumed that I was Indigenous without asking.

I assertively, and without leaving room for any doubt, answered, “No.” I let the answer hang in the silence caused by its brevity. The follow up question was one that I have been thinking on for some time. He asked: ‘So, why do you care so much about these issues, then?’

In light of the recent debate around Joseph Boyden, I have been thinking on this second question and my response to it. This is because, in defending Boyden from his critics who have laid out his many deceptions in regards to his claims to indigeneity, there is a pervasive sentiment among settler commentators, one which argues that Boyden should be accepted by Indigenous communities (and, by extension, not challenged) because of all the good work he has accomplished for them. This position is nicely encapsulated in a response from a recent commentary in the Toronto Star which compared Boyden to another famous ‘Pretendian’, the environmentalist Grey Owl: “So what? He made an important contribution.”

This essay is not about Boyden and his dishonest and ever shifting claims to various Indigenous nations and belonging, nor about the failure of Canadian settler society to understand the importance of these issues and prioritize Indigenous self-determination around questions of citizenship and belonging.

But both the ‘so what?’ position on Boyden, as well as my friend’s question of why I care about Indigenous issues, strike at the same sentiment; that is, only Indigenous peoples care about Indigenous issues.

So, here is how I answered my friend. For me, settler colonialism and the so-called ‘Indigenous issues’ (which are only ‘issues’ because of settler colonialism, so it’s more accurately a settler colonial issue) are fundamental to understanding justice in this place currently known as Canada. Being Canadian is also fundamental to how many of us understand belonging, our rights and responsibilities, and how we define ourselves. It is part of who we are. But this part of who we are is founded on genocidal violence against Indigenous peoples. Canada only exists because settlers stole Indigenous peoples’ land, worked as hard as we could to kill the Indigenous peoples who lived on that land (so that we could have it) and, then, when that didn’t completely work we worked as hard as we could to ‘kill the Indian, to save the man’, destroying Indigenous cultures and ways of life. We did whatever it took to remove Indigenous peoples from their land so that we could own it and exploit it. This is Canada.

At the ‘kill the Indian, to save the man’ line, my friend responded, “that’s just your analysis, right?”

To which, I replied: “No, that’s a direct quote. Canada and other settler nations were very explicit about their desire to eliminate Indigenous peoples.”

So, if I am someone who is interested in justice, in being part of and contributing to a place that truly is safe for everyone, that values everyone, and interested in being a part of creating peace (goals that Canada, and many Canadians, would at least pay lip service to), then, foundationally, I need to grapple with and fight for a way to end the ongoing colonialism that is Canada. If there is a settler colonial problem that is hindering peace for everyone, I am interested in ending the settler colonial problem.

This is not merely a need to grapple with reconciliation, which is to make amends and recompense for terrible things that happened at the formation of Canada, but to recognize that the problem of settler colonialism, and the terrible violence it inherently brings on Indigenous peoples, is ongoing. Settler colonial violence is foundational to the ways in which Canada operates as a nation, today. The goal of removing Indigenous peoples from the land so that settlers may exploit it is still very much part of our national fabric.

We see this in the ways in which Indigenous women, girls, Two Spirit and Trans people are made missing and murdered, we see it in the ways Indigenous consent is overridden, we see it in the ways in which settler commentators chauvinistically advise Indigenous peoples to solve colonial created problems with colonial answers. While the conversation with my friends began with Attawapiskat and boil water advisories on Indigenous reserves, which are often the most visible points of colonial neglect and violence in the Canadian political imaginary, settler colonial violence is a normalized, daily part of Indigenous peoples’ lives in Canada.

Especially as Canadians gather to celebrate 150 years of the nation, with a central theme of ‘reconciliation’, it is important to disrupt the national mythmaking of Canada as a peaceful, multicultural nation for all. For many, this is not a celebration but a moment to mourn the ongoing years of colonial violence and to re-commit to supporting Indigenous sovereignty as central to resisting colonial violence. This colonial violence, and our complicity within it, is something that all Canadians need to understand. You do not need to be Indigenous to do this work, and doing this necessary work doesn’t make you Indigenous. Everyone has a role to play in ending the violence that has marked 150 years of Canada.

 

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