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Knowledge Makers, Knowledge Sharers

Knowledge Makers, Knowledge Sharers: How the Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellows Are Advancing Native Communities

The Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellows have been hard at work throughout 2020. While initial plans shifted in the face of COVID-19, still they moved forward with a series of virtual convenings designed to form networks and relationships with each other and other thought leaders, pursue topics of interest such as Indigenous leadership and restorative justice, and ultimately advance knowledge in ways that enrich the culture, strength, and vitality of those around them.

Here we highlight how the important work of the 10 inaugural Fellows is benefiting Native communities going forward.

A transformative impact
The Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship launched in 2019 under a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. The fellowship is designed to promote intellectual leadership in Native American communities by supporting Native individuals who are engaged in the creation, dissemination, and perpetuation of knowledge that advances their respective field or area of expertise.

What does that dissemination of knowledge look like? For the 10 fellows of 2020, it takes on many forms, including visual art, film and video, written articles and public advocacy, educational curricula, and formal scholarship or research. For Fellow Rahekawę̀·rih Montgomery Hill (Skarù·rę Tuscarora Indian Nation), a speaker, linguist, and language activist, it means the perpetuation of the Great Law of Peace within his community.

The Power of Peace

Rahekawę̀·rih Montgomery Hill, New York

Montgomery’s work involves teaching, learning, and otherwise sharing the message of the Great Law of Peace, the principles of governance belonging to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. This message of peace, power, and righteousness is the foundation of the strength and purpose of the Haudenosaunee people. Montgomery is focused on making the message available and accessible through tellings in various Indigenous languages: Tuscarora, Oneida, as well as in English.

The Tuscarora are a member nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. In the context of the teachings from Confederacy elders, peace refers to a linked personal-communal well-being created by solidarity, understanding, and caring. Power comes from the collaboration of individuals through their ability to create relationships across differences. Power, in this sense, requires everyone to carry out responsibilities and maintain systems of peer and intergenerational accountability. Finally, righteousness, like both peace and power is communal: It is about having a good mind; the ability to have self-awareness and confidence in ourselves and confidence in our community and our environment.

Montgomery says these teachings – sometimes delivered orally, and sometimes captured in a text or audiovisual recording – provide the grounding for communities to have a healthy framework for living and interacting with each other in a way that affirms cultural traditions and strength. The translation of these teachings into Tuscarora is new: There has never been an opportunity for the Tuscarora people’s history of diaspora and conflict to take the time to fully take on and absorb the message of peace until recently.

To strengthen and uplift his community, Montgomery has worked to translate the Great Law of Peace into the Tuscarora language and reaffirm the importance of the Haudenosaunee way of life. Now, through Montgomery’s work, the Great Law can be read by individuals, used in schools to supplement the Tuscarora language and culture curriculum, and discussed in various community organizations.

“The translations foster a sense of belonging and ownership of our knowledge and ways,” he says. “The creation of this document gives my community the means to restart the process of the intergenerational transmission of our knowledge as Haudenosaunee people. It also demonstrates to all Indigenous communities that even though we may have lost many of our elders who have taken much of their knowledge with them, it is still possible to begin again on the path that they have set out for us.”

Impact times 10
This sharing of knowledge for the betterment of Native communities is core among the 10 fellows, as each, like Montgomery, is cultivating resources and tools and disseminating them in ways that are creating positive change.

  • Clarence Cruz (Khaayay) (Ohkay Owingeh – Tewa), a traditional potter and assistant professor at the University of New Mexico, is documenting past and present potters of Tewa and Ohkay Owingeh heritage to help people appreciate the contributions of Pueblo potters.
  • Dorene Day (Ojibwe Anishinabe) is recovering traditions and practices around birth and reproductive rights by creating greater access to traditional knowledge on Lifeways for Indigenous women through convenings, recordings, and resources.
  • Lisa Yellow Luger (Standing Rock Sioux), a tribal justice specialist, is outlining and designing a quality, culturally-appropriate model of what a traditional justice system could look like for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, rooted in the values, customs, and traditions of the Standing Rock people.
  • Trisha L. Moquino (Cochiti/Kewa/Ohkay Owingeh), an Indigenous educator and guide and co-Founder of Keres Learning Center, is developing and contributing to the Philosophy of Indigenous Education, a program of the Indigenous Montessori Institute (IMI), by researching and writing on Indigenous Early Childhood Development through an anti-bias/anti-racism lens.
  • Corine Pearce (Redwood Valley Little River Band of Pomo Indians), a basket weaver, artist, and environmental steward, and one of five remaining basket weavers in her area is growing the number of traditional basket makers by teaching, revising, and expanding her book and creating a video series on instructional basket weaving.
  • Hanna Agasuuq Sholl (Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak, Alaska), a Sugpiaq (Alutiiq) artist and culture bearer, is developing collections of Alutiiq cultural objects for the purpose of expanding, sharing, and celebrating Ancestral Alutiiq knowledge and stories.
  • Lloyd Harold Kumulāʻau Sing Jr. (Native Hawaiian), a traditional mixed-media artist and cultural practitioner, is creating a community of ʻieʻie basketry weavers who will revitalize this practice and teach the greater Hawaiian community. During this time of COVID-19, he has continued to pursue his passion in weaving and traditional Hawaiian wood carving, providing hope and relief through sharing Hawaiian cultural arts via online webinars and educational videos.
  • X̱ʼunei Lance Twitchell (Tlingit, Haida, Yupʼik, Sami), an Indigenous language teacher, is creating a Native language revitalization kit to be used by other Indigenous peoples that summarizes how to replicate best practices in their own communities.
  • Finally, Peter Williams (Yup’ik), an artist and activist, is doing work that challenges anti-Native policy, the lingering colonial mindset of divine right to rule America’s original inhabitants, and the role that mindset has in climate change and ecological collapse threatening Indigenous peoples and the natural world we depend on.

Looking ahead
These inaugural fellows are advancing their work and strengthening their communities. This year they’ve met regularly to network, form a community of practice, and learn from each other and other Indigenous leaders and experts in a variety of knowledge fields. They are exploring concepts of survival and resilience and – based on their first-hand experience in pivoting their projects through a pandemic – they are sharing ways future generations can thrive through challenging times.

Henry Luce Foundation Vice President Sean Buffington says the fellowship is indeed an investment in the future of Native communities. “People who are making new knowledge or passing on knowledge from previous generations are crucially important to the strength and the vitality of any community, and knowledge leadership is a component of that. It’s been a real honor to be able to work with these leaders.”

To learn more about the Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship, visit here.