Jill Fish
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[Speaks in foreign language] Good evening everyone, my name is Jill Fish, and I'm from Skarú:rę' Kayeda:kreh, the Tuscarora Nation. Before I begin, I want to acknowledge that the land that the call center is built upon, the land that we're all standing on, are the traditional homelands of the Dakota people, that for you all to exist in the city of Minneapolis today, the Dakota people had to experience genocide, displacement, reservation confinement and assimilation so that colonists could take their homelands and turn them into yours. And this is settler colonialism. It's not unique to the United States or even the Americas. You can see instances of it all around the world, where a settler population presumes racial and ethnic dominance over indigenous population and through their settler tactics erases the indigenous populations' narrative to replace it with a narrative of their own. So when you build a nation off of this narrative, you see one history, one story - it's that of the settlers. And this is a problem because narratives are a tool for us as a people to understand who we are. They tell us where we've been, where we are, and future possibilities for where we might end up. So when you fail to acknowledge indigenous narratives in favor of settler narratives, the narratives of conquest, of exploration, of taming a continent - "In recent years and even decades, too many people have forgotten that truth. They have forgotten that our ancestors trounced an empire, tamed a continent and triumphed over the worst evils in history." - you're denying indigenous people the right to exist. How do we as indigenous people honor and transcend a past that is seldom acknowledged, and when it is, it's our plague, not our perseverance, a culture not seen as thriving, but as long-lost? This is a question that I ask myself a lot. I've dedicated my research in psychology to it, and as a therapist, I've spent many times helping others meaningfully integrate their past and their present. It is deeply personal for me. My past goes all the way back to the 15th century. That's when our people, the Tuscaroras, came together to reside around the Great Lakes. Over time, my ancestors migrated to the North Carolina region, United States. And that's where they lived in the 17th century when European colonists began moving into our territory, raiding and capturing people from our tribe to sell into slavery. These settler acts of violence ignited the Tuscarora war. And during this war, in one moment, nearly 1 000 Tuscarora men, women and children were killed or captured at their stronghold Neoheroka. In this particular moment, this particular act of violence - it started my ancestor's journey back to the Great Lakes region. And this is where they would join the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas in the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. That is a 1 300 mile journey by foot and by water, through forests and through mountains, while some of my ancestors carried the remains of those relatives lost to danger and sacrifice. And we survived. Our present-day community is an area of land given to us by the Senecas. The Tuscarora reservation is where I was born. It's where I was raised in community, with my culture, my language, my beliefs and my traditions. It's even where I was educated through the sixth grade. So not only did we survive - we still exist. Our narrative has persisted for more than 300 years. How many of you knew all that about my tribe, our migrations, our present-day community? Go ahead and take a look around and see how many people are raising their hands. This is how it often feels for me, as a Tuscarora women in settler spaces - all these people looking at me, but not truly seeing me. This is how it felt when the sixth grade ended and my reservation no longer had the resources to continue our education there, so we were forced to mainstream in a school in a nearby town. I went from a cohort of less than 30 Haudenosaunee students to being trust into a cohort of over 300 predominantly white students. It was all these people looking at me, but not truly seeing my history or my culture. This is the first time I cut myself. I carved the word "hate" into my arm. And so there I was, this 12-year-old Native American girl, already hating herself. And it wasn't one event that led up to this moment of heartache for me and many others that would follow it. It was a process, one that took my humanity in all its richness and complexity, and instead of calling it a strength, stripped it away bit by bit, and called what was left a weakness. We call this the deficit model in psychology. It's more than a framework for understanding the psychological experiences of those from different cultural groups. It's a worldview, a belief system, one that perpetuates a very specific narrative. And the narrative is this: not only is my culture and history seen as different from yours, but it's for that reason that I'm deficient. And this narrative became apparent to me throughout all my mainstreamed experiences. I was immediately forced to trade in my Tuscarora language and culture courses for French and US history. I had peers spit on me and make fun of me for being poor, while I had parents of friends, who I did make, forbid their children from coming over to hang out with me. On top of that, school administrators contacted my parents, threatening them to have the police come to my birthday party to monitor it for drugs and alcohol. This was all because I was from the reservation. And while it's true we didn't come from a lot of money, and addiction was certainly present in my family, these things are not because I'm Native American. It's because settler society is an extension of the colonial dynamics that this nation was built upon, and seeks to oppress in the present just as it did in the past. I didn't know this then, so at 12 years old, it left me feeling alienated and unwanted. This is how a lot of Native youth feel. For suicides, Native youth between ages of 10 and 24 years old comprised 35% of completed suicides, compared to 11% of whites. For a high school education, Native Americans have the lowest high school graduation rates across the nation, in comparison to every racial and ethnic group. And as for a college education, one percent of Bachelor's degrees awarded go to Native Americans. That's one percent, whereas 68% go to whites. And so tonight, I want to know: when are you all going to stop asking what's wrong with indigenous and Native youth, and start asking what's wrong with our society? What would it be like if instead of stripping away the historical and cultural contacts that are so central to our sense of selves and ways of being in the world, that we use them as the foundation from which all our experiences can and should be understood? Can you imagine what that would do for our development? I sought out to answer this question when I became the first in my family to pursue higher education. And when I became a PhD student, I came across a model of human development that took culture and history into consideration. It's called the ecological systems model by developmental psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner. The focus of the model is on an individual and their interactions with their environment, and how those interactions impact their development. The model is widely used in psychology, but it's also used widely in our society. People use it to structure educational programming around it as well as community programming. This is what the model looks like. At the core of the model you have the individual, you have their traits and their characteristics. If we were to think of my experiences as an example for this model, this is where I would go. We would place me at the center of the model. At the second level of the model, there's the microsystem. The microsystem refers to environments that the individual is directly involved in, that impact their development. For me, microsystems included my parents, my peers and even the school. And at the third level, we have the mesosystem. The mesosystem refers to interactions between environments that we identified at the microsystem that impact my development. A perfect example of this would be the school contacting my parents and threatening them with the police. That's an interaction between two microsystems that had an impact on me. And at the fourth level, we have the exosystem. Similar to the mesosystem, the exosystem also refers to interactions between environments, except this time, one of the environments does not directly involve me, so it has an indirect impact on me. An example of this would be the parents of the friends that I made who forbid their children from coming over to play with me. I didn't know those parents, I wasn't involved with them in any sort of way, but through their decision, they had an influence and an indirect impact on my development. At the fifth level of the model, we have the macrosystem. And the macrosystem refers to trends seen in the previous environments in the ecological systems model. So these can be trends in norms, ideologies, opportunity structures, but this is where we capture culture. And past the sixth grade, my culture was no longer the center of my development. It was effectively moved to the margins. If culture was discussed, it often wasn't mine - it would be the culture of mainstream society, of settler society, so that'd be settler societies, language, beliefs, norms. Decades later, apart from the original model, a final layer was added to the ecological systems model. It's called the chronosystem. And the chronosystem is the third dimension of the model, so it cuts across all the other layers of the ecological systems model. This refers to consistencies or inconsistencies seen over time throughout the model. So this is where we would capture something like a personal history or even an ancestral history. The unfortunate thing is you can see that it's situated underneath the model. It's hidden underneath there, so it makes it really easy to overlook these historical pieces. It was also developed at such a later date that people would often refer to the earlier version of the model, which doesn't include the chronosystem in it, so again, it's overlooked. The ecological systems model had all the components I was looking for, but in its current condition, it didn't tell me anything new about the Native American experience. In fact, as I used it as a framework to understand the research literature in Native American psychology, I found that it encouraged the deficit perspective, because when you place the individual at the core of the model, it allows researchers who use the model to use the individual as the point of analysis, and then it allows those same people to situate problems in individuals and the communities that they come from, overlooking all the other factors at the outside of the model. And because my ancestors didn't pave the way to resistance for 1 300 miles for me to settle for the status quo, I decided to go back to the drawing board with the ecological systems model to rearrange it, to reconceptualize it so that it made more sense for the Native American experience, and before using it in my own research in our communities. And so what I did was I took this 39-year-old model, and I proposed to do two things to it. I proposed to take the chronosystem and then move it to the core of the model. It would still be the third dimension, but it would also now be the starting point of the model. And then the second thing I proposed to do was to take the macrosystem from the outside of the model, to move it to the inside. It would now be the second level of the model. Everything else would remain the same, so it'd be followed by the individual, the microsystem, the mesosystem and the exosystem. But this move to put the chronosystem and the macrosystem at the core, it accomplishes so many goals. By putting the chronosystem at the core of the model, we're laying the foundation from which all the other remaining layers of the model can and should be understood, that any consideration of the present-day experiences of Native American people must be grounded in the past. And then by taking the macrosystem and putting it from the outside of the model to the second level of the model, we're moving to center culture and development, so we would be centering Native American ways of being and knowing instead of pushing it at the margins, which is common in our experiences. And then by taking both the chronosystem and the macrosystem and putting it at the core before anything else as discussed, we are inextricably connecting culture and history into the remaining levels of the system, making it impossible to ignore the role that culture and history play in our development and the present-day experiences of native people. Adopting the reconceptualized ecological systems model moves us away from the deficit perspective, because it forces you to acknowledge that settler colonialism has created long-standing incongruencies between native people and settler society in the present day. It challenges you to look beyond the individual to the culture and history of the individual, and how these things interact with the culture and history of settler society. It begs the question: does settler society support or constrain indigenous histories and narratives? It also moves you towards this place where you can no longer contribute to the narrative that natives are deficient. You have to acknowledge that settler society is deficient in meeting the needs of people who don't come from a settler history or a settler culture. (Applause) That society does not equally integrate indigenous histories and cultures into its framework. Adopting the reconceptualized ecological systems model will also move you towards a cultural-strengths-based perspective, where by leveraging the chronosystem and macrosystem, you can begin to acknowledge and validate indigenous histories and cultures. But to do so, you have to start by asking yourself several questions. Are the spaces you create, are your actions, are your institutions, are your classrooms structured around settler society to the end of excluding indigenous histories and cultures? Are you working to shift paradigms so that these spaces shift to be more inclusive? Are you actively correcting for inaccurate histories, negative stereotypes and the degradation of indigenous histories and cultures? There are over 567 tribes in the United States. Are you familiar with the cultures and histories of those whose land are you standing on? And to that end, are you familiar with your own culture and history and how that influenced you in the present day? Ask yourself these questions, and this is how you can start to acknowledge and transcend your settler colonial past. Yawa. Thank you. (Applause)