Centering and Transforming Relationships with Indigenous Peoples: A Framework for Settler Responsibility and Accountability

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What are possibilities for transforming the structural relationship between Indigenous peoples and settlers? Research conversations among a set of project partners (Indigenous and settler pairs)—who reside in the Phoenix metro

What are possibilities for transforming the structural relationship between Indigenous peoples and settlers? Research conversations among a set of project partners (Indigenous and settler pairs)—who reside in the Phoenix metro area, Arizona or on O’ahu, Hawai’i—addressed what good relationships look like and how to move the structural relationship towards those characteristics. Participants agreed that developing shared understandings is foundational to transforming the structural relationship between Indigenous peoples and settlers; that Indigenous values systems should guide a process of transforming relationships; and that settlers must consider their position in relation to Indigenous peoples because position informs responsibility. The proposed framework for settler responsibility is based on the research design and findings, and addresses structural and individual level transformation. The framework suggests that structural-level settler responsibility entails helping to transform the structural relationship and that the settler role involves a settler transformation process parallel to Indigenous resurgence. On an individual level, personal relationships determine appropriate responsibilities, and the framework includes a suggested process between Indigenous persons and settlers for uncovering what these responsibilities are. The study included a trial of the suggested process, which includes four methods: (1) developing shared understandings of terms/concepts through discussion, (2) gathering stories about who participants are in relationship to each other, (3) examining existing daily practices that gesture to a different structural relationship, and (4) using creative processes to imagine structural relationships in a shared world beyond settler colonialism. These methods explore what possibilities unfold when settlers center their relationship with Indigenous peoples.