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Mindfulness and Inclusivity

Jeff Corntassel discusses mindfulness and inclusivity.
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I think it gets back to being willing to be uncomfortable. I’m a big believer in a pedagogy of discomfort. Mega Bulla talks about this, that discomfort creates possibilities for empathy, possibilities for cross-cultural understandings. I think being aware of the living history of particular nations, especially where you’re at or where you’re operating, is really key here. By understanding the legacies, for example, residential school, we can understand how, and even through the ongoing legacies of intergenerational survivors, as well as murdered and missing indigenous women to spirit and queer people’s.
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If we start to understand that, then people can take a more trauma informed perspective, so by taking that more informed perspective, by reaching out, you can understand how indigenous peoples may reject your offers, they may dismiss it. But the offer has to be continuous in the sense that if you’re truly honoring and want to regenerate a relationship, then you have to be willing to be, like I said, uncomfortable, you have to be willing to put the time in. Time is another factor that I didn’t mention earlier, but really time being on community time frame rather than, let’s say a particular organizational time frame or a particular Western time frame.
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Understand it that there are certain times that are better than others to approach people from the community. Of course, in the time of COVID, that gets a little bit more complicated, but when it’s safer again to meet in person, we can imagine different ways of approaching people through food. I think food is the great way of bringing people together and that’s part of protocol. Coming to people with that self location, lain out who you are so that there’s an understanding of this is where this person comes from, and this is what their intentions are. To me that seems to epitomize what mindfulness might mean in practice.
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Taking it a step further would be to offer that self location and offer that gift a food in order to promote a meaningful relationship. I think being aware that the time frame that people are thinking is often not the time frame that you’re going to actually be on. If you’re willing to put the time in, so to speak, then it’s going to be, I think a more realistic set of expectations. Also really beginning to center indigenous ways of knowing and centering indigenous knowledge in that conversation is going to take some time, because it’s going to take some understanding, it’s going to take some conversation.
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I think the ultimate tests is what I referred to earlier as where the indigenous communities or the peoples that you’re working with have to come up with a different term to describe your relationship and go from one atom to friend and it’d be going from your nigga, which is several word for settler or a white person to [inaudible] which is trusted friend. I think I’ll close with that.

I interviewed Jeff Corntassel in 2020.

Jeff Corntassel is Tsalagi (of the Cherokee Nation). He is currently Associate Professor at the University of Victoria, which is located on Lekwungen and Wsanec homelands. Jeff was the first to represent the Cherokee Nation as a delegate to the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Peoples and strives to honor his family and nation as a teacher, activist, and scholar. He teaches and researches on issues concerned with Indigenous resurgence and the revitalization of Indigenous communities.

In this video Jeff discusses mindfulness and inclusivity.

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Demystifying Mindfulness

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