The guest lecture that will stick with me after this course is over is the one about the Cheslatta Carrier First Nation. Part of that comes from how passionate the professor who spoke was about his experience with that nation. He clearly had strong feelings about their situation and hearing how he had spent years of his life focused on preserving their language and mapping their land was particularly interesting.
That discussion, while very specific to the particularities of the Cheslatta’s land rights and the hydroelectric dam project, illuminated some larger ideas as well. My initial reaction to his experience was that of discomfort. I was skeptical of the implications of this white, educated, American man intervening in this society in such a way that in some ways mirrored colonial relationships between indigenous people and white colonists. His clearly emotional relationships that he’s built over the years obviously benefit him and his work, and the cynical part of me recognizes that he is going to monetize his experience with them through his upcoming book.
However, I felt like he addressed a lot of those concerns with humility in his discussion. He admitted that not everyone in the Cheslatta nation felt comfortable with him integrating himself. Despite that, I think it was clear by the end of the presentation that he was able to provide a concrete good with his work there.
His discussion about the symbolism and meaning of place as it related to the burial grounds was thought-provoking. That, in combination with the readings for that week, led me to think of places in a new way. I have never had those types of spiritual relationships to places, but it was illuminating to learn and understand how for some people places have agency.
As for insights I gained while blogging, I think the main one is that no country is very clear cut. I would not say that I have a complete knowledge of Turkey after reading about it for a couple of months. In fact, I think this blogging project helped me see how places are unknowable in a lot of ways. You can move somewhere new, live there for several years, and still not fully understand that country in a complete or accurate way. And I think the same goes for places you grew up in as well. Your knowledge of a place is filtered through your experience in a way that dilutes absolute truth. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just should humble you into realizing how much you don’t and will never know.