So I had coffee with a colleague of mine yesterday who does excellent work in ec dev and a range of other areas and is also a PhD student at UVic in Political Science. We had a great conversation as his project is on urban Aboriginal governance, although he’s specifically working in BC. We had a deep discussion about terminology and using Aboriginal or Indigenous. I’m currently contemplating this within my own research project.
I’m currently using the term Aboriginal as my research is meant to encompass First Nations (Status and Non-Status), Metis, and Inuit. The word itself carries a lot of baggage becasue in the community most people don’t like the word due to its association with government and its pan-Indian approach. I use this footnote in my research proposal:
The term Aboriginal is used as a category that includes First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples, as specified in section 35.2 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Although useful in that it encompasses the three constitutionally recognized cultural groups within the Indian Act, it is a government-created term that is problematic in that it homogenizes the three distinct cultural groups. In my research, I seek to explore the urban experience of these three groups in Ottawa as well as Non-Status Indians and those of mixed Aboriginal heritage. Although the term Aboriginal is problematic, I employ it for ease of reference and to have an inclusive approach to the research.
Most First Nations, Metis, or Inuit people prefer to use their specific group name. I use it in my research so that it is clear that I seek to study these three groups together although it’s not my preference either. Otherwise I would be writing First Nations, Metis, or Inuit throughout the entire dissertation. However, I don’t particularly like the term myself, although I want to study these three groups together as they do make up the Aboriginal — First Nations, Metis and Inuit — community in Ottawa. Also, I think these distinctions have come about largely due to the Indian Actand in many urban Aboriginal communities those distinction aren’t often used. The urban Aboriginal community in Vancouver is an example of this, which was my experience when I lived and worked there for 7 years. In my opinion the distinctions between these groups seems much more prevalent in Ottawa compared to Vancouver. I think this is likely due to government funding structures and programming, and the presence of the national Aboriginal organizations which seperately represent these groups. My committee has encouraged me to focus on First Nations and Metis, or just First Nations (Status and Non-Status), so I am also considering this although I feel like I will then be buying into the distinctions that I am trying to work around. It was also brought up that the Inuit experience is so different from the others that I should focus on First Nations and Metis.
So because of these considerations I have been considering changing the terminology within my reserach to urban Indigenous. This also provides it’s own set of complications as it’s a term used internationally for Indigenous populations and I am unclear if this term resonates with Metis? I am interested though in including in my literature review a short background on the increasing urban Indigenous population in the developed world and more post-colonial literature. I think this would work better though if my fieldsite weren’t specific to Ottawa. I’m currently considering all of these issues but for the time being I am moving forward with interviewing all three groups.