UBC Theses and Dissertations
Transforming Settler identity through art and engagement with Indigenous culture in the Okanagan Przybille, Crystal Kay
How can learning about, listening to, and engaging with Indigenous people and culture transform Settler identity in the Okanagan? I explore this question, through the arts, to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s findings that the arts can “invite people to explore their own world views, values, beliefs, and attitudes that may be barriers to healing, justice, and reconciliation,” and that the arts can “serve to shape public memory in ways that are potentially transformative for individuals, communities, and national history” (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Honouring the Truth 280-83). I’ve taken an autoethnographic approach to this research, reflecting on ten years of engagement with Indigenous culture in the Okanagan Valley. This personal study of the developments of my changing understanding, reflected through art, is used to examine Settler identity from the inside. This reflection includes my participation in dialogical engagements with Syilx activists, community developers, and artists. These projects are intended to raise awareness of Eurocentric place-claiming, emblematic in the celebrations of the Canadian state’s sesquicentennial, and the omission of the historical and ongoing impact of colonialism on Indigenous culture. Producing these works and participating in Syilx-led projects provided an opportunity to hear individual perspectives and learn about the local history of the Indigenous community. This research led to a variety of insights and broadening of my perspectives, including glimpses into how the European project of Canadian state-making impacted, and impacts, existing nations. I made efforts to recognize the limitations inherent in understanding another’s perspective. Personal identity has defensive biases that may prevent us from transforming understanding and behaviour. These biases include the pursuit of a sense of “arrival” to reassure ourselves that we are free from participation in historical or ongoing injustices, or that we are in a position to judge the limits of empathy and a will to action experienced by fellow Settlers. Navigating this discourse is an unsettling process. Challenges seem insurmountable when faced with frameworks that maintain that reconciliation is self-serving for Settlers. However, I work on the premise that reconciliation means taking care of essential goods that serve our collective interests.
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