- Intense Dreaming:Theories, Narratives, and Our Search for Home
we are at the launching place of a journey of words and spaces coming together for a time outside of time yet remarkably not outside of words not indeed with in them and yet somehow of themPeter Cole, Coyote and Raven Go Canoeing
who says what is real. . . .Dian Million, The Highway
In Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, Maori scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith called upon us to demand Indigenous research projects that reflect "a shift . . . between being reviewed as research objects and . . . becoming our own researchers." 1 Even now, ten years after Smith's groundbreaking 1999 work, the vision of a Native American studies or Indigenous studies intellectually empowered by Indigenous concerns within academia remains controversial. American Indian studies claimed a space to interrogate Western disciplinary epistemologies utilizing Indigenous ways of knowing. This epistemological struggle has, not surprisingly, been that: a struggle. As I write in 2010, we understand that our continuing desire to bring Indigenous community-based ways of knowing into dialogue with Western research paradigms is fraught with difficulty. Western universities often resist, implicitly or covertly, the oral knowledge and language production of our communities, and, as Jace Weaver once pointed out, Western academic discourse [End Page 313] continues to monopolize our conversations. 2 In this essay I revisit the once-urgent demand within Indigenism to decolonialize our minds, the demand by Indigenous scholars to reaffirm, construct, and act from Indigenous subjectivities. It is an increasingly critical issue I believe again haunts the halls of American Indian and Indigenous studies. Thus, I look at the political stakes and epistemological issues that are inherent in this position.
What is our particular experience? What are the relations of our knowing? What and who does our acts of making meaning serve? In my original career as a poet, I experienced dreaming as an activity that led to further searches for meaning. Poems sometimes presented to me in dreamlike states, and the knowledge they produced often generated a richer understanding, surprising conceptual leaps. My work felt like an ethical ongoing interactive conversation/activity with myself and my community as I went about my work in the Portland Urban Indian Council and certainly later as a political organizer. Much later, I thought of Hartwig Isernhagen's conversation with Jeannette Armstrong in 1994. Speaking of the master Okanogan storyteller Harry Robinson, these literary scholars had characterized his way of knowing, "his aims in the creation of meaning," as
giving preference to implication (rather than information), to the work as a source of varied meanings (rather than its momentary reception in terms of this or that message), to personal growth as a series of stages of perception (rather than the accumulation of knowledge), to holism (rather than compartmentalization), to interpretive power (rather than utilitarian use), to meaning as orientation (rather than meaning as a tool, or as access to social power). 3
Armstrong and Isernhagen go on to discuss the weight of such a view of the creation of meaning in the midst of an increasingly technological academy, an academy definitely bent on knowledge as a tool and access to social power and as a capitalist commodity. I was dedicated to dreaming, my first language was poetry, intensely creating meaning where my personal growth did seem to echo Harry Robinson's "growth as a series of stages of perception." Imagining was definitely a powerful activity that helped me change the paradigms, the scope of what I saw, since this kind of "dreaming" transforms the dreamer. Thus, I use the word dreaming in the title of this essay in many senses. Dreaming to me [End Page 314] is the effort to make sense of relations in the worlds we live, dreaming and empathizing intensely our relations with past and present and the future without the boundaries of linear time. Dreaming is a communicative sacred activity. Dreaming often allows us to creatively sidestep all the neat little boxes that obscure larger relations and syntheses of imagination. I also believe that dreaming, theory, narrative, and critical thinking are not exclusive of each other. They form different ways of knowing, and I will ask that...