There have been a number of developments and projects in the Ethnic Studies Department at UCSD over the past few years that have made this conference possible and inevitable. One of the primary projects was the Voicing Indigeneity podcast. The podcast began in October of 2006 as a conversation between Madelsar Tmetuchl Ngiraingas (from Belau), Angela Morrill (Modoc-Klamath) and myself, Michael Lujan Bevacqua (Chamorro from Guam) about the precarious place of indigenous people, their histories, struggles and dreams in Ethnic Studies. Over the next year, we completed a total of 18 podcasts, on a variety of issues and even with some special guests from our department. For a list of all the podcasts, please click here.
Below is the "declaration" through which we articulated why we were doing the podcast and what our hopes were.
Alii, el mor kemiu el rokui,
Hafa adai, mañelu-hu yan mañainå-hu,
Hello, friends and family,
Indigenous peoples and their struggles are often diminished or dismissed today as being either racist, parochial, essentialist or just too plain particular. As the majority of the world’s population is brought together in more and more tangible ways through ”international” and “transnational” narratives, it might be expected then that indigenous peoples, most of whom exist “intra-nationally,” or as nations within nations, might be dismissed as inconsequential or kind of distracting from the big picture and more universal concerns. In the United States today, terms such as sovereignty, decolonization and self-determination, which are common in the politics of indigenous peoples, are either completely foreign, or distasteful in the way they echo broken promises of failed revolutions and the dangers of modern utopianism.
In most academic disciplines we find a difficulty in seeing the importance of reckoning with indigenous struggles or epistemologies, except as just another ethnic group to be incorporated, an anachronism to be collected and catalogued, or colorful exceptions, footnotes on modernity’s journey forward.
We, the three “voices” of the Voicing Indigeneity podcast and blog are all graduate students in the Ethnic Studies department at the University of California, San Diego, and in different ways, both in and outside of our department often find ourselves entangled in the limits and resistances mentioned above. Over the past year, the three of us have had intense, inspiring and occasionally productive conversations about the difficulties and possibilities for articulating concepts such as sovereignty or decolonization in an Ethnic Studies framework.
Our decision to start to record and disseminate these conversations stems from our belief that indigenous studies and epistemological work, far from being racist, limited or essentialist, is in fact very global and holds important potential for reshaping academic disciplines such as Ethnic Studies. In our short time here at UCSD, we have already begun to see important of shifts of vision, and so we voice our critiques, precisely because we believe in the critical potential for the Ethnic Studies project. We feel that it is unfortunate that most potential indigenous scholars today do not see our Ethnic Studies department or the larger discipline as places where they can produce work which is relevant to issues of decolonization and sovereignty, and want to change this perception.
We therefore invite you to visit our website http://voicingindigeneity.blogspot.com, and download our podcasts, which range from serious to silly, frustrating to therapeutic. We also welcome you to leave comments, or join our conversation by emailing us with critiques, questions, suggestions and support at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Struggles for sovereignty and acts of decolonization are taking place all the time, at multiple levels attached to different dreams and nightmares. Both with these conversations and within these conversations you will find a number of ours.
Ko meral mesulang
Si Yu’us Ma’ase para i tiempon-miyu
Madelsar Tmetuchl Ngiraingas (Belauan – Beliliou, Orreor, Irrai)
Angela Morrill (Modoc-Klamath)
Michael Lujan Bevacqua (Chamorro, familian Kabesa/Bittot)