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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Okâwîmâwaskiy : regenerating a wholistic ethics Walker, Katherine


For generations, Cree Elders and other Indigenous philosophers on iyiniwi-ministik (North America) have recognized that revitalizing concepts of ourselves from within our Indigenous knowledges can bring about new lived realities. This recognition is partially reflected in Indigenous political theory as an examination of the ‘self’ of self-governance (Alfred, 2005) or the process of what was once called ‘surviving as Indians’ (Littlebear, Menno & Boldt, 1993), and is today often called ‘resurging as Indigenous peoples’ (Wildcat, et al., 2014). Building from Indigenous resurgence literature, my research takes a deep insurgent turn inward to explore the ethical implications of a Cree-recognized self formed in relationship with okâwîmâwaskiy or ‘mother earth.’ While it's important to understand how colonization affects the self or how we and others think about nîhiyawâtisowin / Creeness and Indigeneity, colonization is also an ongoing problem because it effects a certain non-nêhiyaw/non-Cree concept of the self. In effect, wîhtikow politics or a colonial, dehumanizing and consumptive-driven politics has eaten away at a wholistic Cree ethical understanding of ourselves and relationships with others. In revitalizing a Cree wholistic ethics, I deal with two ongoing woundings inflicted by wîhtikow politics: the attempted killing of a spiritual domain of the self and the displacement of our mothers from within wholistic Cree relations. I argue that the resurgence of a self grounded in okâwîmâwaskiy is attending to these wounds. Drawing primarily on Cree narratives, language and contemporary Cree theory and practice, I seek to relocate okâwîmâwaskiy in Cree life to better illuminate the life-ways that comprise this sense of self. Though represented as a mother’s care, the wholistic layers of okâwîmâwaskiy distribute the responsibility of care among all living beings and offer a care based on wholistic needs.

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