Barbara Wall says her “life’s work” is uncovering and revitalizing Indigenous water knowledges and practices. It’s also the focus of her Ph.D. research in a dissertation called, “It Flows from the Heart: Bodwewaadmii Anishinaabekwewag Nibi Waawiindmowin”.
“As Anishinaabe people we have seven grandfather or ancestor teachings,” says Professor Wall, an instructor in the Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies. “One of those values or principles is love. I chose the title to acknowledge that love is needed to do this work, because in the reclaiming and remembering process there’s healing involved. Personal healing, family healing, and healing of intergenerational trauma.”
A return to Indigenous ways of knowing
Her research brings to light stories from elders, women, youth and two-spirited people, via guided discussions with Bodwewaadmii (in English, Podawadami) people in relocated communities in the United States. Prof. Wall uses a methodology that allows for a return to ways of knowing and being that were covered up by colonization. She notes the approach is fundamental to bringing Indigenous voices through in scholarship — since for centuries people outside of Indigenous communities told Indigenous stories and history from their own perspectives.
“Indigenous knowledge comes from our relationship with the land and the water and the non-human beings that we live with,” says Prof. Wall. “So, when we’re relocated from that source of the knowledge that’s part of what covers it up. My grandfather’s community in Oklahoma, for example, was a voluntary relocation as well as forced removal back in 1840s to ‘60s. People had to focus on how to survive in totally different ecosystem.”
Benefiting from a strong Trent community
At Trent Prof. Wall’s research focuses on academic and literature sources about water practices and knowledges in the north, and benefits from what she describes as the “strong community” within the Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies.
“There’s a freedom at Trent to be creative and to use Indigenous research methodologies that privilege our voices,” says Prof. Wall. “The support system and community, as well as the relationships that Trent helps create, is fundamental to my research and all my work.”
Prof. Wall teaches in both the Indigenous Studies and the Indigenous Environmental Studies and Sciences (IESS) programs, using Indigenous pedagogies that she describes as “more circular than linear,” and frequently new to her students. Her aim: to share and support students in understanding the origins of Indigenous knowledge. Particularly within the IESS program, students are able to explore the intersection of Indigenous and western scientific knowledge, “creating a space where both can be honoured and used.”