It was almost a year ago that I attended the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education, held on the campus of Kapiʻolani Community College in Oahu.
This was a beautiful but rather surreal experience for a number of reasons. First and most obvious, the muggy heat of Oahu was a bit much for me after a winter in the arctic. …not so much that I wouldn’t want to go again, but, yes there was a day or two that had me longing for the air conditioning of my room. Second, I haven’t attended many academic conferences for some time. So, it felt odd to be back in that mix and listening to the sort of papers I remember from days long past and ambitions long since set aside. As usual, the panels were a fair mix of dull to amazing with plenty of kinda-both happening as well, which is exactly as I would expect it to be.
I remember sitting in one of the conference panels and thinking something about the whole conference really bothered me. At first, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but then I realized how much of a hassle it had been moving from one panel to the next. Everyone had been rushing around pretty quickly. They were not quite pushy, but folks had definitely been moving with a purpose, …almost a vengeance. It wasn’t just that this was unpleasant, which would make it a lot like a lot of other conferences. What bothered me was just how uncharacteristic it felt, given the participants. What had bothered me, I realized, was that I wasn’t really accustomed to seeing indigenous people proceeding with such reckless abandon through a schedule. That’s when it donned on me that we were not on Indian time. We weren’t even close. The panels for this conference had been scheduled so tight, you had to leave early or arrive late to a panel in most cases. Being good scholars, people were getting the job done, but the end result was an indigenous gathering with a sense of time better suited to caricatures of German culture than Native anything. This is what had seemed incongruous to me, and I couldn’t help but chuckle when I realized it.
Hell, in Barrow, we don’t even think of it as a native thing, because the rest of us are the same way. What sociolinguists call “Indian time”, we would call “Barrow Time” up here. If an event begins at 8, that’s means 9ish, and even then, don’t be surprised if things actually start around 10. But Barrow Time isn’t just a sense that start times are iffy; it’s also a sense that the people present count more than the clocks. Events proceed when a certain critical mass of people have arrived, said their greetings and settled in comfortably.
…and that’s when we’re in a hurry.
The bottom line is that this conference did NOT have the usual leisurely pace that I’ve grown to expect from indigenous communities. I suppose this could have been a reflection of the limited samples I’ve experienced in my own lifetime. I still think it far more likely that the difference in behavior could be attributed the conference schedule. Left to their own devices, I can’t help thinking some of these folks would have proceeded much more slowly, a lot more deliberately, and in the process gotten to know each other a bit better.
It was outside on the campus of the college where the tone of the conference seemed most fitting, what with people milling around, chatting, and taking in the entertainment. This is where each of the communities present really represented themselves best. At one point, there was a mini-powwow out on the grass, and of course the Maori kept storming the stage to perform a haka. A Sami lady sang a lovely song in the opening ceremonies, but I’m a right bastard for leaving my camera in its case at that particular moment. Ainu held a wonderful round dance toward the end of the conference, and you can almost tell how great it was from the film. …almost.
At some point I snuck downtown to capture some of the street art. A trip to Punahou School and a visit with a friend out on the coast rounded out he trip nicely. Anyway, here are some photos and videos.
Unfortunately, I only captured a small portion of the performances. A lot of coolness just didn’t quite make it through my lens. I thought I’d share what I can here now, because some of it really was kind of fun.
(You may click to embiggen)
Let’s start with a few general pictures.
A Small Selection of Performers.
A Youth group from Australia. (As I recall this dance had to do with the introduction of European honey-bees into Australia. …the most salient difference between them and the local variety being the presence of a barbed stinger.)
Let’s finish it off with that round dance I mentioned earlier.