Standing With Sky Woman: A conversation on cultural fluency

October 24, 2019

Indigenous peoples carry the knowledge of our ancestors on our bodies. Our responsibility as knowledge keepers is to tell our history in a way that makes it come alive. The concept Tsi-ni-tsi-wen-ah, “to make it alive in the minds of the people” is about the practice of storytelling. Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) Kahente Horn-Miller carries us through the performance of the Sky Woman Story and explores storytelling as ceremony. The introspection that takes place when we tell our stories and as we experience the connections made with our audience tells us we are in relationship. We Are In Her And She Is In Us is part of a larger transformative experience where she also performs an Indigenous theory. The process of transformation for the performer and the retelling of the Sky Woman story provides an example of cultural fluency and of the rematriation of our stories where, in particular, we reinvigorate the cultural metaphors in language and the cultural principles of Rotinohnsionni-Haudenosaunee philosophy.  Cultural fluency is the understanding and effective use of the hidden cultural currents of communication over time. It’s how effective communicators use the language, material culture, subtle nuances in body language, and cultural traditions as we connect with others.

Dr. Kahente Horn-Miller (Kanien:keha’ka/Mohawk) is an Associate Professor in the School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies at Carleton University. She currently coordinates the development of Collaborative Indigenous Learning Bundles at Carleton in response to the TRC calls to action. The Bundles are proving an effective model for engaging faculty, students, and staff in Indigenous/Canadian history while undoing troubled relations and opening eyes to Haudenosaunee pedagogical practices. This work is about building relations for the Seven Generations to come, or The Coming Faces. Horn-Miller also is a Co-Chair on the Carleton University Strategic Initiatives Committee which is working towards developing a long-term Indigenous strategy for Carleton University. Her teaching practice, published writing and performance/storytelling centers in the Haudenosaunee philosophy of feminine Mother Law, bringing forth a way of engaging with the world in a relationship of respect, reciprocity and balance through ethical research, consensus-based decision making and collaborative engagement.

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