Elle-Máijá Apiniskim Tailfeathers (2011)

 

Elle-Máijá_Tailfeathers

 

Hometown (Nation): Kainai First Nation, Blackfoot Cofederacy / Sámi, Norway

Graduated: May 2011

Degree Specialization: FNSP Major, GRSJ Minor

Research Practicum topic: Comparing Canada’s reconciliation process with Australia’s and Norway’s

 

 


As an Indigenous person, I was drawn to FNSP courses because I felt that I did not know enough about our histories and current issues of social and political relevance. With that in mind, I signed up for Glen Coulthard and Susan Roy's FNSP 100 course because I wanted to gain a stronger understanding of what it means to be an Indigenous person in Canada today.

 

FNSP was life-changing. Before going to UBC, I worked as an actor in film and television. As a woman; a woman of color; and an Indigenous woman, I found myself very jaded with the industry but couldn't exactly place my finger on the main issue. I knew that there were fundamental problems with the industry itself and knew that these problems were somehow reflective of larger social issues pertaining to Indigenous peoples in Canada and the US. I just wasn't really sure how it was all related.

Taking FNSP courses helped me to understand how this complicated history of colonialism has served to silence, erase, and appropriate Indigenous voices and stories. Meaning, I began to understand how power is gendered and racialized through a colonial lens and how that translates not only into popular media, literature, and film but also into my own lived experiences as a Blackfoot and Sámi woman. With this knowledge, I finally understood that colonialism is still very much alive and well today and began to see all of the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that it effects my identity, my relationships, my family, my community/(ies), and the country within whose state-borders I reside. Essentially, FNSP was the stepping stone for decolonizing my mind, body, and spirit (Emphasis on STEPPING STONE because decolonization is a long, sometimes arduous, often difficult, always rewarding path that doesn't come with a guidebook).

 

FNSP definitely has many positive aspects but I would have to say that there a few that top my list. First and foremost, FNSP provides a very safe and open space for dialogue. The subject matter and required readings often cover topics that are difficult to discuss and/or engage with. However, because FNSP faculty are patient, forgiving, respectful, and -above all else- seriously genius, I found each class moving, engaging, and challenging in ways I never thought possible. There was always room for laughter, tears, pensive thought, and intense dialogue.

Secondly - given that FNSP is a young Program - it is always adapting, growing, and changing in order to suit the needs of students but also in order to reflect the ways in which the world around us is changing. The reading material is always relevant and faculty are often updating their syllibi (is that even a word?) in order to include current materials and include incredibly engaging guest speakers.

Thirdly, this Program is not all about theory. Instead, it is designed to give students a firm foundation in theory in order to apply that to praxis. Meaning, they push you out into the world in order to engage with community in a good way. Most, if not all, FNSP graduates can say that the Program provided them with practical working experience that can be applied to just about anything after graduating.

 

The program definitely directly influenced my career path. Today, I am a filmmaker, writer, actor, and newly-a-curator and there is not a single day that goes by where I do not apply my teachings from FNSP. In fact, it was through the program that I was given access to film equipment and editing software and eventually learned how to make my own films. This program has truly helped drive the content of my films and artistic practice. I'm now planning on furthering my education with a Masters in Film in the fall of 2015 and I walk confidently on this path largely due to the guidance I received through FNSP.

 

Truthfully, I think this program should be a requirement for all Canadians. However, I know that's not going to happen anytime soon!

In all seriousness, though, I think anybody with a mind and heart for social justice and community-based work should consider a Major or Minor in FNSP. I think the program is beneficial to anyone wanting to work with Indigenous communities in health, education, business; you name it, this program is applicable and worthwhile.