Volume 18, Number 2, 2023
Indigenous Historiographies, Place, and Memory in Decolonizing Educational Research, Policy, and Pedagogic Praxis: Special Issue in Honour and Memory of Professor Michael Marker (1951-2021)
Through more than 20 years of scholarship, Michael Marker brings our attention, again andagain, and more deeply, to the sentient, relational, spiritual, and political dimensions of place.This analytic review of his body of work illuminates Marker’s teachings on place, specifically, ineducation, history, and Indigenous knowledges. It is an effort to both crystalize and mobilize hisconceptualization to inform future work by others. Place, Marker teaches us, functions as anagent in the transmission of knowledge and in the course of events over time (sometimes referred to as history). Place is also centered in Marker’s research as an analytic tool. He incisively points out the consequences of neglecting the aforementioned dimensions of place from Indigenous perspectives and for Indigenous communities, as well as their relations in teaching, learning, and research contexts. In his later work, Marker (2019a) introduces the metaphor of alluvial zones to characterize the co-presence of Indigenous and Western epistemologies and ontologies in the university setting. Marker (2019a) traces the metaphor, which will be further detailed below, by referring to university spaces as a “transforming river delta,” a place that has the potential to yield the “most fertile soils in the world,” wherein sediments (knowledges) unite in one sense, but remain distinct in another (pp. 502-503). We work with Marker’s metaphor of the university as an alluvial zone to consider conceptualization and enactment of place as emblematic of Western and Indigenous knowledges coming together to both combine and not combine in ways that matter. In our resulting review of his work we found six themes on which we elaborate: recognizing local ancestors; placing knowledges; sustaining land relationships; engaging responsibilities; nurturing spirits; and confronting place refusals.
Michael Marker knew we are never just one thing. He often wrote about concepts that gesture toward convergence: To converge as a way of blurring boundaries; To converge as a challenging process of coming-together; to converge educationally in a murky, “alluvial” place of relationality that is only navigable through artistic and storied methodologies (Marker, 2017). Marker steadfastly resisted colonial structures that attempted to tidily delineate knowledge and compartmentalize the unknowable. In this article, I reflect upon Marker’s scholarship through the idea of convergence, and I outline three conceptual spaces of convergence that I have observed in his work. Through analysis of Marker’s body of work, and an attunement to his loving and poetic forms of resistance, I articulate my commitments in my role as a relatively new, non-Indigenous faculty member in his former department at the University of British Columbia. I think of convergence commitments as relational meeting places that can be at once joyful and also tension laden; they are necessary practices that help me to decentre and “muddify” Western ways of knowing that I have been socialized to enact in institutional spaces.
Universities play a critical role in the “alluvial mixing” of Indigenous and Western knowledges, but at the same time they are reluctant to dismantle structures that support their ongoing epistemic ignorance, epistemic biases, and epistemic dominance and are resistant to dismantle hierarchies that maintain the status quo (Marker, 2019). Decolonization and internationalization of higher education does not exist in separate realities, but exists in alluvial third spaces that are often turbulent, contested, and contradictory. This article encourages researchers, faculty, and staff to rethink assumptions about long-standing, deeply-rooted policies, practices, and structures of international student recruitment and enrolment that are characterized by dominating neocolonial values and priorities and to reimagine the practice of recruiting international students and competing in the global international student market by centering primacy of place where “land is not a soulless commodity” to be exploited and profited (Marker, 2019).
This paper uncovers my journey as K-12 practitioner in British Columbia towards exploring the use of “subversive art” as a “visual critical pedagogy” (Gil-Glazier,2015; Naidus,2005; Peters, 2016; Zorilla & Tisdell, 2016) to advance my students and myself towards reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in Canada. I use the powerfully unsettling painting done by Cree artist, Kent Monkman, titled “The Scream”, as a springboard for this inquiry. “The Scream” provides an Indigenous counternarrative to the colonial versions of residential school histories and has the potential to progress practitioners and students towards actionable reconciliation by activating their empathic and ethical consciousness. I attempt in this essay to weave together a cluster of concepts, as I explore: (a) the nature and evolution of truth in BC’s elementary school curriculum (Andersen, 2017); (b) the historical establishment of the curriculum in a positivist modality (Gadamer, 2013; Greene, 1975; Marker 2004); (c) Greene’s (1995) argument that aesthetic education can help students and practitioners to engage meaningfully with difficult knowledge; (d) Greene’s (1977, 1995) philosophy of wide-awakeness, through which students and practitioners can activate the power of difficult knowledge; (e) Gadamer’s (2013) “fusion of horizons” as a means by which wide-awakeness can function in this context; (f) “subversive art” as a form of “visual critical pedagogy” (Gil-Glazer, 2015); (g) and the critical pedagogy of Paulo Freire. I braid these concepts together using the scholarship of Indigenous scholar, Michael Marker (1951-2021) to provide the pedagogical rationale for my determination to establish the visual critical pedagogy of “subversive art” in my classroom.
Milpa is an ancestral agriculture technique that has been passed down by Indigenous communities in so-called North America for millennia through stories of place. As an Indigenous knowledge system that is based on the symbiotic cultivation of diverse species, learning from milpa gifts lessons to cultivate polycultures of reciprocity. Drawing from my lived experience as a Mestizx educator from Mexico, I propose embodying milpa in learning environments as a horizon of possibility to refuse and disrupt the ways in which education has been limited, standardized, controlled and confined to colonial monocultures (Shiva, 1993). I use the cultivation of milpa as a metaphor to represent the transformation of modernist education systems that prioritize individuality and rationality shifting towards collaborative learning environments that are complex, messy and entangled with the land. Late Indigenous Professor Michael Marker (2018) invites scholars to center place as the beginning point of inquiry when excavating the specific effects of colonization on Indigenous landscapes and communities. Following his advice, I use stories of milpa to experience placeness and provide a representation of the transformation of modernist education systems through the resurgence of Indigenous knowledge systems. I begin this paper with a piece of the Mexica creation story to center “the consciousness of landscape” (p. 453) and continue to explain how from a modern perspective, place has shifted to produce bordered monocultures that eradicate diversity. I conclude by narrating the story of three sisters to envision the embodiment of milpa inside learning environments to form polycultures of reciprocity where animate and inanimate beings are all connected inside a web of relations belonging to the land.
This article begins from Michael Marker’s methodological invocation to center place and “theconsciousness of landscape” (2018, p. 453). The places at issue are manito sakahikan (aka Lac Ste. Anne, Alberta) and amiskwaciwaskahikan (aka Beaver Hills House of Edmonton, Alberta). Both places were in the news in 2022 when Pope Francis made his historic and tardy apology on behalf of the Catholic Church and its members for their role in the cultural genocide of the Indigenous Peoples of Canada. Both places hold spiritual significance for the Papaschase First Nation, whose traditional territory encompasses them, as well as for practicing Catholics. As a means of advocacy for the Papaschase First Nation, I trace the breaking of their treaty, in part, to the Church’s role in, and the dire consequences of, terra nullius and the Doctrine of Discovery. I contrast the Western view that one can own the land with a traditional Indigenous emphasis on the importance of sharing and caring with and for the land. I present my arguments via an imagined three-way dialogue among Dr. Michael Marker, Pope Francis, and myself. To create this dialogue, I draw on: Marker’s scholarly work, particularly on the primacy of place; Pope Francis’s homilies, statements, and earlier papal bulls (decrees). As a Métis from manito sakahikan, I share memories of the place of my ancestors and childhood that bring forth an Indigenous Métissage (Donald, 2009, 2012), underscoring place-based and sacred traditional relationships to “sentient landscapes” (Marker, 2018, p. 454). The dialogue takes place in three places: Ancient Gathering Places, At the Vatican, and An Imagined Place of Care and Share. The results of the conversation suggest the importance of an Indigenous perspective on the sacredness of place as a possible educational path toward a renewed future.
Through this essay, Rocha seeks to describe and honour Michael Marker’s signature notion of the “metaphysical demand” within his more well-known historical and anthropological work on the agentic notion of place. The essay begins by noting the difficulty of this essay due to the “unwritability” of Marker, in allusion to Mellvile’s character, Bartleby, and Garcia Marquez’ssense of Latin America’s solitude. Then, after hermeneutic clarifications that resist reading this essay as a eulogy, the essay proceeds biographically reaching the intimate friendship between Rocha and Marker. These biographical confessions lead to Marker’s ideas, rooted in (and progressing from) Vine Deloria Jr’s critical understanding of the Indigenous philosophy of space, which proceed into a record of correspondence where Marker shares his idea of the metaphysical demand. The essay closes in a series of impressionistic anecdotes that contain key elements in Marker’s approach to his life and thought. A key element is Marker’s practice as a folk musician and his collaborative work with the author in the improvised composition of a track on claw-hammer and bluegrass banjo. From these memorial movements, Marker’s notion of the metaphysical demand of place, a voice that speaks through a calcified andlayered modern reality, is left unfinished, as he left it, to be heard and continued in work to follow.