Academic Indian job description, a poem

By Cash Ahenakew


Photo by: Vanessa de Oliveira Andreotti

 

have to know
western knowledge and education
plus the critique of
western knowledge and education

have to know
indigenous ‘culture’ and education
plus the critique and the critique of the critique of
indigenous ‘culture’ and education

have to know
how to embody expected authenticity
and how to embody expected critique
of expected authenticity

have to know
when and where to use indigenous literature
and when and where to use the Western canon
to build legitimacy and credibility for indigenous thought and experience

have to know
when to vilify, to romanticize, to essentialize
when to apologize, to complexify, to compromise
when and who to be accountable to and why

have to know
how to reject modernity, how to be a modern Indian
how to ignore contradictions

how to deny incommensurabilities

have to know
when and how to perform at the same time
competence, confidence, boldness, heroic rebelliousness
and humility, compliance and gratitude for the opportunity

have to know
how to be an intellectual, an activist, a therapist, and an entrepreneur
how to improve retention, attrition and social mobility
and how to stop exploitation and ecological disaster

have to know
how to educate ‘your people’, liberal allies, immigrants, colleagues
how to relate to gang members, business sponsors, elders, politicians
how to speak with the crows, the trees, the sea, and the media

have to know
how to face and to help others heal inter-generational trauma in
self-doubt, self-harm, self-hatred
and self-defeating prophecies of self-sabotage

have to know
how to read and mirror middle class sense making and sensibility
in writing, speech, clothing, arts, taste,

as well as waste management, and table manners

have to know
how to push back, to show a finger, to ghost dance
how to honour elders, to wash toilets, to carry the weight
how to perform ceremonies, to carry a pipe, and to cure the sick

have to know
how to how to spell, to pronounce, to solve and to fix
colonialism, capitalism, racism, slavery, patriarchy,
hetero-cis-normativity, ableism, elitism, and intersectional violence

have to know
languages lost and found of family, communities, earth, spirit
languages imposed of nation, property, individualism, competition
and institutional academic language of secular liberal humanism

have to know
how to Indigenize and decolonize
disciplines, protocols, ethics and methodologies
to make aspiring experts on Indigenous issues feel and look good

have to know
how to package all of this in a foreign English language
to convince top ranked journals and performance analysts
that you too, against all odds, have market value

have to know
how to live with the guilt of having credentials, a secure job
and the awareness of compliance with a rigged system
built on the broken back and wounded soul of your family members

have to know
how to advance the project of reconciliation
with relatives who have harmed seven generations
with destitution, dispossession and “cultural” genocide

 

Apply online now.

This poem was first published in the article: Ahenakew, C. (2016). Grafting Indigenous ways of knowing onto non-Indigenous ways of being: The (underestimated) challenges of a decolonial imagination. International Review of Qualitative Research, 9(3), 323-340.