The Protocol Story

At the start of this project, I decided to join the blog team because, for the most part, I like the Internet and I am interested in creating less formal conversation and community discussion around Indigenous issues. Within this group, I took on the role of creating the protocol surrounding the ISUJ blog.  Surprisingly, I took this on voluntarily since I’ve recently discovered that I am pretty nerdy for protocol. I have never had any experience trying to create a protocol for a project, but my passion for the subject comes from the lack of well thought out protocol in all areas of our society, which is so necessary to functional communities. Over the past year, I have lost respect for written traditions because it seems as though there is less value placed on words that are written down than for words that people need to understand so that they can be passed down orally.


Our current government is quickly deteriorating the Constitution into something entirely undemocratic and it seems that there is very little that citizens can do to hold the government accountable. Also, within the Umbrella Final Agreement for many Yukon First Nations, there is no protocol agreed upon from my understanding to teach Yukoners as well as the members of the First Nations implicated on what these agreements mean! I am still trying to understand our Self-Government Agreement! It is definitely not taught in secondary schools. Yet the Yukon is asking for consultation from the entire Yukon about lands in my traditional territory that the majority of Yukoners have never stepped foot on. Law, media, and education, where are the safeguards against our own nature to make impulsive, isolated, and bad decisions about huge issues? I believe it starts with the small things.


At certain points over the last month, I felt like I was over thinking what I perceived to be a simple set of rules or procedures for our blog. Everybody has a blog now, right? Certainly not everybody follows strict ethical protocol and they don’t get in trouble for it. However, I had high expectations that this blog would be more than another piece of writing. As I said, societal change starts with the small things. I wanted to create an environment that was reflective and respectful and aware of the responsibility we have as writers and knowledge sharers. I believe that all the work we do should represent the values we would like to be upheld in our society.


Anyways, I started working on the protocol. I looked up other blogger’s codes of ethics and I became overwhelmed at the multitude of different areas I needed to look into. I was hoping that everybody within our team would be well versed in our way of being on the blog but our timeline was short. I became worried that destructive and frustrating conversation would arise on the blog and that our team would not be prepared to deal with it. After all, we all know how hurtful and all encompassing conversations on Indigenous issues with others can be.  The blog is meant to be a positive experience and I feel as though the protocol certainly has a role to play in that.


I brought these concerns to the group, and felt very emotional when discussing it in an open setting. From that point, we started to realize that this was a collective responsibility, which requires a lot of collaboration. For your future reference, one person cannot create a group protocol by themselves! These feelings were affirmed when I went to meet with Dr. Daniel Heath Justice, chair of the First Nations Studies Program at UBC. He gave us some great advice that the protocol is something that takes a long time to create and that we seemed to be letting our deadline lead our judgement rather than vice-versa. Another important piece of guidance was making us aware that there was a risk of our journal team being the only people who had given the protocol much thought if we presented it as already completed. Whereas, if we allowed the protocol to be an ongoing process then it could be created with our blog community and the whole community would feel more involved, aware, and responsible.


From these experiences, we collectively approached the protocol in a completely different way. We had a fantastic meeting where we brainstormed the protocol. Previously, I was thinking there was to be a set of rules, guidelines and procedures that we would all have to be very familiar with. However, out of this meeting we agreed that we did not want our protocol to be authoritative but something that would evolve as we learned through the growth of the blog. We also collectively decided that it requires both reflection and understanding. Among other teaching, we were inspired by the Nishnaabeg Grandfather/Grandmother teachings and the way they are given. There are seven Anishnaabe Grandmother/ Grandfather teachings, which are values, Nbwaakaawin (Wisdom), Zaagidwin (Love), Mnaadendimowin (Respect), Aakwade’ewin (Bravery), Gwekwaadiziwin (Honesty), Dbaadendiziwin (Humility), and Debwewin (Truth), and there are stories to accompany these values. In this way, they are presenting fundamental values that have been greatly reflected upon already, but which are open to interpretation and which will be solidified with experience. Dr. Daniel Heath Justice’s powerful “seven R’s” also inspired us: Reciprocity, Respect, Responsibility, Relationship, Reverence, Remembrance, and Resurgence.


So we laid out the values we thought should be guiding the journal and the blog with the assumption that we would continue to explore these concepts as a group to understand what they meant to us and to our work. Respect was the first word to come up and is connected to all that we do. We want to be respectful of other opinions, languages and cultures and of ourselves. We want to be respectful in the language we use. We want to respect our sources of knowledge. We hope to conduct all our work in a respectful way. Relationship is another crucial aspect of understanding for our team. We hope to constantly assess the relationships we are creating, nurturing, respecting or perhaps disrespecting through our work in order to be responsible and aware. The group came up with many other interconnected values such as responsibility, humility, truths, integrity, remembrance and resurgence. In an extended conversation with the blog and journal community, we hope to further explore the meaning of these values and how they are incorporated into our protocol to be mindful of how we are using our power as writers.


We have begun an exciting process and I hope that you also share in this excitement for protocol or for foundational reflection! Please share your thoughts and wisdom on the ethics of writing and protocol and become part of our community! Throughout the process I have thought a lot about different approaches to ethics and ways of building societies. I will leave you with this quote by Leanne Simpson, from the Nishnaabeg nation, which spoke to me:


“Our cultures were designed to produce individuals who had a lot of individual freedoms and a strong sense of belonging, as well as a sense of collective responsibility in the absence of coercive or authoritarian restrictions on freedoms. That is such a radical notion to me, because it flies in the face of colonialism, and it flies in the face of how we practice some of our traditions today. It is a challenge to do better, to listen closely to those old ones who are so soft spoken, so careful with their words, so gentle and full of compassion and patience, and so full of humility.”

-Leanne Simpson from “Lighting the Eighth Fire”, p. 209

Welcome to the Indigenous Studies Undergraduate Journal!

I look forward to learning with you!

Hai Cho!

Sophia Flather