Recognizing the concept of equity enshrined in human rights dialogues, Indigenous communities align with the understanding that all humans and non-humans are unique, necessary, and adaptable. This understanding establishes an equity of engagement involving all beings regardless of physical or mental differences. However, Western models of individual, self, and community involving designations such as "normal," "disabled," and "valued" continue to embrace dualistic hierarchies that reduce beings with specific differences to the position of inferior Other. By continuing to use Western models to structure "disability dialogues," such discussions also embrace competitive and individualistic binary hierarchies, devaluing one's abilities while emphasizing the abilities one lacks. Such a structure places the definition of self outside of the individual and inhibits possible discussions involving equality. To promote equality, the conversation can no longer be controlled by those in the hierarchically superior, competitive, and individualistically designated position. 2 This paper will endeavor to change the dialogue by exploring the features and implications of hierarchical binaries and Western constructs of individualism and competition involving disability/ability discussions. The paper will then turn to Indigenous constructs of difference that focus on interdependence, relationship, and wellness. While there are no essentialist or universal constructs regarding Indigenous approaches to disability, wellness, or community, these unique communities do share similarities involving difference that can engage Western hierarchical binaries and offer a potential way around the Western paradox involving binary hierarchies and equality. 3
Western Constructs Influencing "Disability" Dialogue
The paradox of the binary hierarchy originates in Western philosophies of the "ideal" going back beyond Plato (Greek). The understanding is that there is an "ideal" or "perfect form" of all things. So, there is a perfect form of a horse or a human or a triangle. It is not important for this discussion to understand where these ideals are located as the theories differ. It is rather the embeddedness of the ideal that is important to Western thought. The construction of the ideal gave rise to concepts such as telos, 4 which in turn became entwined with concepts of evolution. 5 As Davis (American) notes, between 1840 and 1860 the terms "normal," "normalcy," and "normality" entered the modern lexicon as a means of defining the "ideal body," often equated with the "divine body" (2010, p. 4). Davis attributes the modern use of "normal" to the rise of statistics, which allowed the construction of normal and abnormal categories. While he states that the use of "normal" becomes equated with "average," that which is constructed as average tends to be politically assigned to the bourgeoisie as well as to socially approved characteristics such as reason, male, and "healthy" bodies. What failed to fit into the "normal" category was placed into the "abnormal" category, which itself became connected to inferior, grotesque, and even evil. As human physical and mental normalcy became scientifically mapped and labeled, eugenics became the acceptable way to control and eliminate defects. This ideology continues to portray "villains …[as] physically abnormal: scarred, deformed, or mutilated" (p. 13). The Other in any form, including physical or mental differences or inhabiting a non-Western culture or even those deemed to have unacceptable behaviors, have become categorized as "abnormal".
Barnes (English) notes that "there is sufficient historical and anthropological evidence to show that there is no universal approach to disability" (2010, p. 20). To illustrate his discussion, he traces issues of "disability" from Greece and the Old Testament 6 through the Middle Ages and the Malleus Maleficarum in 1487 into post-industrialization. What is clear from his discussion is that the intertwining of science and religion reinforced modern constructs of what is normal and what is abnormal in nature and in humans. Barnes notes that Darwin's "survival of the fittest" became the foundation for Social Darwinism used by eugenics movements and continues to inspire laws and policies that separate the abnormal, allow for their abortion, and often cause social invisibility (pp. 25-31). It becomes clear that Davis is correct in his assessment
That the very term that permeates our contemporary life-the normal-is a configuration that arises in a particular historical moment. It is part of a notion of progress, of industrialization…The hegemony of normalcy are profound and extend into the very heart of cultural production (1995, p. 49).
In addition to the above, theories of disability are often divided into medical and social models. However, as medical issues such as health and illness are socially defined and Western societies operate on designations of healthy and ill institutions, economies, and social stratification, separating these two model types appears to be largely an abstraction. Corker and Shakespeare (English, English) examine modern and post-modern constructions of disability in which "meta-narratives, or all-encompassing and totalizing narratives, that are built on an operational code of binary, 'either/or' thought, are…central to modernism…which perceive and classify [medical models of] disability in terms of…deviance, lack and tragedy (2002, p. 2). According to Corker and Shakespeare, such modernist ideals promoted the "rational and independent" self over the "irrational or dependent" self. Such dialogue then created the need to distinguish impairment from disability. Disability becomes defined as "socially created, or constructed on top of impairment, and places the explanation of its changing character in the social and economic structure and culture of the society in which it is found" (p. 3). As Corker and Shakespeare contend, post-modern constructs, being built on the post-structuralist movement, requires that individuals are "embedded in a complex network of social relations…[and] that the modernism's focus on the individual as an autonomous agent needs to be deconstructed, contested and troubled" (p. 3)
[W]hen 'normativism' is privileged, 'disability' becomes a derivative, cultural arrangement that imposes on the taken-for-granted, natural status of the 'normal'. This strategy for revealing the underpinnings of a particular binary opposition is called deconstruction. Derrida argues that we are always within a binary logic and, whenever we try to break out of its stranglehold, we reinscribe its very basis (p. 7).
Corker and Shakespeare note that in the attempts by scholars to diversify and include a "plurality of bodies" or an "intersectional" approach, there remains a "struggle for inclusion" or what Spivak (Indian) calls a "cognitive failure of all claims to knowledge" leading to discussions of "the subaltern" (p. 11). One could adopt Merleau-Ponty's (French) phenomenological construction that places the emphasis on what each perceives recognizing that each perceives from a unique positioning. However, Merleau-Ponty does not escape the idea of "normal" and "abnormal" perception. As can be seen from this brief discussion, the social model for disability is tied to social constructs and, while post-modern treatments acknowledge the diversity of culture and social organization and treatment of able/disable, they do not address the foundational binary hierarchy. Indeed, this social model appears locked within Derrida's (French) paradox in which he states that when attempting to diversify one tends to replicate underlying logical constructs.
In focusing on the medical model, one becomes quickly enmeshed in the biomedical descriptions of normalcy. "Biomedicine not only promotes a distinctive way of describing what a body is and investigating how it does what it does; it also accords special status to certain forms of embodiment and certain ways of knowing embodiment" (Scully 2002, p. 53). Scully (English) further notes that there "is only one, or very limited number, of 'valid' embodiments (p. 53). Accordingly, Scully recognizes the medical model's orientation to control or eliminate deviations from the "normal". Scully argues that what is often missed in this "molecular" model is that there is a subjective nature to biomedicine. While it claims objectivity, and so makes it easier for many to find comfort in this model, there are underlying assumptions involving normalcy that are entirely subjective. What seems clear is that "both the medical model and the social model seek to explain disability universally and end up creating totalizing meta-historical narratives that exclude important dimensions of disabled peoples' lives and of their knowledge. The global experience of disabled people is too complex to be rendered within one unity model or set of ideas (Corker et al. 2002, 15).
For Stone (English), the general issue in disability research, as with all research, is that one gets what one is looking for because the questions, research, and interpretations exist within a specific framework. According to Stone, "[u]nderstanding how a culture (society, state) perceives the body/mind and its variations has proved a useful starting point in disability research" (2001, p. 54). The issue then becomes one of personhood and the lived experience and how research and dialogue can occur. It should be recognized however, that Stone still references the binary mind/body distinction.
Honoring the lived experience and giving an examination of United Nations (UN) disability policies, Priestley (English) recounts the historical policy adoptions. While the information is certainly informative and useful, Priestley emphasizes the Western assumption that independent living is superior to dependent living. This article illuminates the hidden agenda in Western disability dialogues that "overcoming", "reducing", or "eliminating" impairments is the goal so that each individual becomes independent. As Priestley states, "Independent Living is about the whole of life and it encompasses everything" (2001, p. 10). It is clear that Priestley is focused on Western cultures/societies/states and so the reference to independent living is a legitimate goal for these communities but is not necessarily applicable to non-Western communities.
However, the discussion continues to ignore the logical hierarchical binary imposed. As a result, Western disability discussions tend to concentrate on "solving or overcoming" the impairments (Clare (American) 2017). Western constructs then assert independence as the primary means of "solving or overcoming" the "problem", which establishes the lived experience as individual rather than communal and often uses competition as the essential motivator. Discussions tend to praise individuals who have "overcome" their disabilities and not engage those who continue to struggle, which is problematic as a large number of disabilities are chronic and cannot be "overcome" either by sheer will, a "can do" attitude, or current medical practices. Failure to "solve" the problem or to make it disappear from the public eye, and so live independently, places the individual in the "failed", "broken", "inferior", or "weak" position. Such designations in research tend to involve outsider rather than insider knowledge of impairment, giving control of the conversation to non-impaired individuals in societies and governments. For this reason, Wendell (Unknown) reminds readers that, should one live long enough, disability will be everyone's lived experience (2008).
While there is no possibility to clearly establish why Western dialogues continue to dichotomize terms such as "abled" and "disabled", there are several logical components that help to support, require, and maintain this status quo. As noted above, researchers organize the dialogue within their framework. Being trained in Western philosophy, the appropriate place to begin would be with Western language base assumptions and logical argumentation. In this context, Western assumptions involving dualism and dichotomy come to the front. 7 According to Waters (Seminole), Western ontology (the study of being/existing) establishes "conceptual categories…[that] signify a discrete (limited and bounded) binary dualist worldview" (2004, p. 98). Waters further notes that "the Euro-American binary…empowered and facilitated the misinterpretations of the Indigenous nondiscrete [non-limited, non-bounded] binary dualist worldview" (2004, p. 98). 8 The discrete binary embeddedness reinforces the categorization of ideas such as "white/black, "developed/underdeveloped," "advantaged/disadvantaged," "normal/abnormal," or "abled/disabled." While often understanding at some level that such categorization actuality involves a continuum, much of the dialogue remains focused on the discrete binary creating equality and definitional obstacles.
For example, it is recognized that there is a difference between someone needing glasses and someone with no vision, it remains unclear when impaired eyesight becomes a disability. Some researchers and advocates argue that designation of "impairment/disability" should be determined by the individual. However, this simply exacerbates the definitional issues. Such definitional dilemmas expose the individual/community dichotomous paradox that requires designations of disability to function for both government and individuals. Such definitional difficulties may be a primary reason for the continued use of discrete binaries. Paradoxically, such binaries encourage political and social biases based on preferential positioning and outsider categorization.
Binaries do not of necessity entail hierarchical positioning. However, when formulated within Western normative language patterns, such designations reinforce the idea that one term or position is superior, and the other term or position is inferior, allowing biases and prejudices to infiltrate dialogues. Given this valuing, Western hierarchical positioning referencing white, developed, advantaged, normal, and abled represents the preferential position while of-color, underdeveloped, disadvantaged, abnormal, and disabled represent the inferior position. Paradoxically, Western logic does not allow all terms or positions to be equal in value: one must be superior, and one must be inferior. In other words, there must be a winner and a loser.
Tension between foundational concepts of hierarchical binaries as well as other aspects of Western epistemology, such as issues involving empirical "certainty", hide the subjectivity involved in the accuracy of preferential positions. 9 Accordingly, the inability to obtain empirical certainty means that disability designations cannot be approached, as is often implied in establishing discrete binaries, as indicating objective, absolute, or certainty in preferential positioning. Preferential positioning, involving empirical data, is rather a matter of probability stemming from perspective or cultural bias. Accordingly, there is no basis for attempts to extrapolate either designations or positional preferences beyond Western paradigms, or knowledge. Additionally, there is no way to logically assert a paradigm, or a culture that justifies an infringement on or an objective superiority to another paradigm, or culture. 10 For this, and other logical reasons, Western orientations involving mental and physical disabilities should be limited to Western paradigms, or cultures (Priestley, 2001; Corker et al., 2002).
Given the inequality supported by hierarchical binaries, dialogues involving "disadvantaged" and "disabled" must be reinvented to eliminate biased negative associations. As evidenced by Bell (African American), Western disability dialogues adhere to Western constructs and Western authorities creating what he calls "incestuous" discussions (1997, p. 377). Indeed, the embeddedness of the hierarchical binary itself works against inclusion and diversity as the assumption remains that Western epistemology (knowledge theories) is preferable, or has won, and Other epistemologies (knowledge theories) are inferior, or have lost. 11
Indigenous Constructs of Difference Foundations 12
My reasons for the first part of the article are twofold. First, I wish to anchor non-Indigenous readers in a familiar context. Second, I intend to allow an understanding to come into being that emphasizes the differences between Western and Indigenous constructs of reality and how these variations impact the lived experiences of individuals with differences. Before beginning, it is important to note that the term "difference" in no way necessitates a binary or a negativity in Indigenous language. "Different" does not carry any necessary relation to normal/abnormal, good/bad, or right/wrong. In part this is because of what Cajete (Tewa) refers to as the understanding that there is no "ideal" positioning as all things are in flux (2000, pp. 13-27). For Cajete, understanding that all things are in a constant state of change, there is no emphasis placed on any specific moment or state, as each is changing as soon as it is experienced. For this reason, there is also no "Absolute," "Certainty," or "Truth" in the way that modern Western knowledge theory often indicates. No person, group, or idea holds a place of dominance or superiority as there is an understanding that, should such a position be gained, it will instantly change. Reality is then a matter of positioning and relationship, which constantly change and are only understood subjectively. The objectivity of Western knowledge holds no sway, as it can never be the case that objects, people, or ideas are completely detatched from the universe, or other beings. So, all lived experiences are matters of relationship.
A second piece of understanding is that Indigenous people tend to primarily focus on Spirit. While having various philosophies of mind/body/spirit, and sometimes emotions, these are largely understood as interactive with attention to spirit being of primary importance as it is what creates the relationships that establish reality. Cajete's Native Science: natural laws of interdependence, has helped many non-Indigenous students understand Indigenous ways of interacting with objects, beings, and ideas. For Cajete, Spirit comes from the Creator and exists in all things. This is not a Western construct of animism but is an understanding of interdependence and animation in all things, including ideas. According to Tauli-Corpuz (Filipino), "The belief that every living thing has a soul (ab-abí-ik) is a central feature of Igorot traditional religion. The living can communicate with the spirits of dead people, plants, and animals through mediums" (2001, p. 286). An individual's spirit is then what Locust (Cherokee) claims places an individual in relationship to all things. This is not to claim that spirit is stagnant; rather spirit is dynamic and involves the consequences of an individual's choices, thoughts, and actions relating to all other beings in the universe, including spirits and what Westerner's might call "alternative dimensions" (Lovern et al. 2013, 33-55).
Coming to understand that all things are in constant flux and exist as relational to all other things, the dynamic of engagement must be one of respect, reciprocity, and perspective. As Wilson (Cree) discusses in Research Is Ceremony: Indigenous research methods, Indigenous people research as they live, incorporating their ontology (manner of being in the world) and epistemology (manner of knowledge regarding the world), which are experienced rather differently than that of the Western knowledge and ways of being (2008). 13 As Wilson discusses, respect, reciprocity, and perspective, require that lived experiences, as well as research, be understood as requiring proper protocol, equality, and intimacy. 14 Wilson indicates that in the Cree language, as with many Indigenous languages, "many more verbs are used than nouns. Objects themselves are not named; rather what they might be used for is described" (p. 73). Wilson notes that each being is attached to other beings and that is the way Indigenous people interact, describe, and research the world. As circumstances change, so do the protocols and relationships. In this way, the universe is experienced as animate, not inanimate, requiring that knowledge is everchanging.
According to Hēnare (Māori) "[i]f I were asked to say in two words how to sum up Māori philosophy, the answer would be humanism and reciprocity" (2001, p. 197). "Philosophically, Māori people do not see themselves as separate from nature, humanity, and the natural world, being direct descendants of Earth Mother" (p. 202). Additionally, there is "an ordered world of reciprocity, a 'generative relation' that exists between individual human hearts and minds, as well as between human beings and matter" (p. 205). Finally, Hēnare explains that there is a "general system for regulating human behavior…kinship…compassion…hospitality…[and] reciprocity…There is not a hierarchy of ethics: rather, this begins in the center of the spiral and together with the…[previous] values, constitutes a Pacific Polynesian view of holism and way of linking humanity and environment in a relationship of reciprocity and respect" (p. 213).
For example, the first version of this work involved my relationship with the editors who asked me to write this article, the Indigenous knowledge with which I am familiar, and Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals that are now and will be in relationship to this work. There are responsibilities to these relationships, including to the ideas presented. To take seriously the understanding of Spirit and reciprocity that involves these relationships, requires a serious attempt to honor and respect each relationship. So, when peer reviewer and editor comments were added, the project moved forward, and such movement required changes. As the relationships grew and changed, the paper also had to grow and change. For this reason, I have spent more time on some foundational Indigenous ideas that may not be familiar to Western scholars and laity.
Part of Indigenous methodology is that it be done by and for Indigenous peoples, although this does not require that non-Indigenous scholars be excluded. It is rather about relationship and completing the work with "a good heart." 15 In writing scholarly articles, Indigenous people are never alone; they carry all their relationships with them and all the responsibilities stemming from those relationships. Honoring these relationships requires flexibility of information and attention to contextual ideas that assist readers in coming to understand Indigenous perspectives and methodologies, which stems from Indigenous traditions and lived experiences and so is often carried out, if not stated, in Indigenous scholarship. As one "hunts" the living ideas, relationships evolve and so too must scholarship.
Several outcomes stem from the above contextual information, as well as other related understandings that have not been mentioned. One outcome is that individuals recognize the relational aspect of knowledge and experience, which involves an individual subjectivity. This subjectivity allows for different knowledge involving different people and different knowledge at different times and in different places. Truth, like all things, changes with each difference allowing no specific difference to hold a necessarily superior position to any other as Jojola (Pueblo of Isleta) notes in a discussion of identity (2004, pp. 87-96). For Jojola, individuals and existence can be understood to begin at a center that spirals outward according to interrelations and experiences. A second outcome is expressed by Waters in her work Language Matters: nondiscrete nonbinary dualism (2004, pp. 97-115). 16 Waters explains that the dualism in Indigenous language is nondiscrete, which mean it is changeable. As relations change and an individual's understanding changes, there is a flux in the lived experience. Objects, events, ideas, and people are not held to Western categorical organization. Like the categories themselves, all things can shift, flow, or migrate through idea and language positioning. As explained by Meyer (Hawaiian), "[k]nowledge that endures is spirit driven. It is a life force connected to all other life forces" (2008, p. 218).
The final outcome, to be discussed here, is one that often exacerbates Western scholars and laity misunderstanding of Indigenous knowledge. As Cajete points out, Indigenous minds are largely metaphoric in relation to events, ideas, and beings, which means that Indigenous people tend to think about knowledge and reality as multilayered or multidimensional (2000, p. 28-31). The result is the use of stories and what has often been described as the spiderweb approach to information. One story stands in relation to another and so on, with a potentially infinite relationship of stories, or information. Additionally, the need to relate all the information in the different stories and the different levels of understanding allows each individual to interpret the meaning according to the events, place, and relationships being experienced. While, for Westerners, this often seems a less efficient and more convoluted way to experience and express information, for Indigenous peoples, it is more accurate. From the Indigenous perspective, much is lost in understanding and wisdom when knowledge is made too simplistic or is too quickly examined.
Patterns in Indigenous Difference Understandings
Many Western readers and scholars may find this paper, itself, a rather tedious and twisting way to discuss disability. However, the route is designed to create a relationship and a context for understanding Indigenous modes of difference. Unlike independent societies, such as Western societies that emphasize individualism, competition, and hierarchy, interdependent societies, such as Indigenous ones, emphasize cooperation, relationship, and reciprocity ethics. 17 Body and mind differences are not given object or noun but are more likely discussed in verb form. Indeed, most Indigenous languages have no word for disabled or impaired and so the ideas and associations or relationships often do not have translations outside of the specific communities' language. As explained by Hēnare, "[t]here are problems associated with translating Māori terms into English, especially where Māori terms have multiple meanings. Typically, it is the context in which Māori terms are used that clarifies the metaphysical and spiritual intentions of the terms" (2001, p. 204). For example:
Māori vitalism can be suggested as the belief in an original singular source of life in which that life continues as a force that imbues and animates all forms and things of the cosmos. Accordingly, life itself cannot be reduced to matter or form, and the Māori thought life itself is independent from form (p. 204).
As there is no "ideal" person or way of existing, no human body or mind is necessarily preferential. Instead, differences in body and mind allow for differing relationships at all levels and allows for differing knowledge. For this reason, Indigenous peoples often talk of each person needing to teach or to learn, often both throughout one's life, and sometimes beyond body death. Differences in bodies or in minds allows for the expansion of knowledge beyond a single set of shared constructs or shared theories.
One could think about differences as talents. Some people have talents for singing, walking, and storytelling. Others may have talents for hearing, or thinking great thoughts, or for understanding environment and non-human beings. Each is valuable and each contributes to the functioning of society. The question of character is then a matter of how well an individual abides by the ethics of reciprocity and to what extent the individual abides by the responsibilities to all the relations. The emphasis is not on whether a person has physical or mental limitations, as it is understood that every being has limitations of some type. The emphasis for Indigenous peoples is how one upholds the responsibilities experienced in these relationships.
Consider the story of Piki Bread Woman (Hopi) as expressed by Carol Locust (Lovern et al. 2013, pp. 95-96). This woman was invaluable to her community as she made the best piki bread and was incredibly efficient at it. She was prized for her skill and her dedication to her craft. People came from miles around to watch her and celebrate her talent. At times, the woman was unable to get to the community baking place because she had severe back and hip differences, what Westerners would call deformity. At times, she needed help from the community to survive. She never had to ask for assistance as part of the reciprocity ethics is to help when needed without being required to ask. The relationship between the woman and her community extended to all non-human relations creating a complex network of knowledge, interaction, and equity of lived experience.
According to Myrvoll (Sámi), balance and wellness are unique to each community: "The understanding of health depends on the understanding of illness, and health-care systems are socially and culturally constructed and differ from culture to culture and society to society" (2015, p. 51). Both unwellness and treatment must accordingly involve social constructs and community.
In many Indigenous communities, it is often understood that differences result from failing to abide by relationship responsibilities, reciprocity, or respect. Self-caused differences are not interpreted as a failed individual, but rather a matter of unfortunate choices. 18 Reactions to these situations are not the same as Western interpretations. Situations that result in self-caused differences tend to be viewed with upset for the choices made, but not a necessary rejection of the individual. Community relationships will, then, appear often strange or lacking in justice from a Western perspective. Indigenous approaches to interactions focuses on the relationships involved in the situation, both human and non-human. Community members will attempt to re-establish balance in the individual and the individual's relations through reciprocity and community determinations.
As indicated above, balance is the focus rather than blame or guilt. Bringing the individual to balance with the situation is not necessarily an individual endeavor. Balance, also called harmony or beauty, involves all the relations and may include ceremonies, rituals, and objects. Balance may also involve medicine people, various groupings within the community, and non-human or spiritual beings. While it is sometimes hoped that individuals can overcome differences (such as illnesses or results of accidents), it is not a requirement for living in balance with the differences. As there is no ideal human positioning or natural way of being, each individual/community must work to achieve balance regardless of talents. With chronic issues or permanent situations, the person remains an equal part of the community with responsibilities, reciprocity, and respect. The individual is judged, regardless of difference, by whether relationship requirements are maintained to the best of the individual's ability. It is understood that responsibilities, for example, must align with talents and not with areas where one may lack talents. In other words, the individual is defined by talents rather than by a lack of talent.
The Dagara context provides an example of balance orientation and difference in Indigenous Africa. Somé (Dagara) notes that for many Indigenous in Africa, illness, including mental and emotional, can be the precursor to "a better and brighter life" if these imbalances are treated with an understanding of the relationship to spirit (1998, p. 77). Balance is then related to community as "being in community leads to a healthy sense of belonging, greater generosity, better distribution of resources, and a greater awareness of the needs of the self and the other" (p. 91).
In addition, it is understood that differences require community assistance and that such assistance should not need to be requested. Instead, with respect and according to reciprocity, assistance to others should be given when needed, individuals should not have to ask. This is part of the communal relationship. Since everyone experiences multiple differences throughout a lifetime, such events are not unique or separate from all other community experiences. According to Somé,
In African indigenous culture, just as there is a high respect for artists and healers, there is a similar respect for the person who is experiencing a psychological [or physical] crisis. This crisis is seen as the result of an intense interaction with the Other World, making the person think and act crazily. Resolving this crisis, in an indigenous community, results in releasing that person's gifts to the community—the very gifts won through the person's intense dealings with Spirit…The difference is that in the modern world, errant behavior in a person is regarded as a personal problem, concerning only that individual. The possibility that there is a larger meaning to be found in a person's experiences, which might translate to something meaningful for that person's community, is rarely considered (p. 97).
In an indigenous community, each person is precious. No one is born on this earth without a reason, a special purpose. Failure or inability to perform one's function in the village places a person in a constant state of crisis. So, crises from either of these two sources-embodiment of a new spirit wanting to emerge, and the impossibility of doing what one came into the village to do-must be addressed by the community (p. 100).
Final Thoughts and Responses
Attempting to discuss Western constructs of disability and Indigenous constructs of difference is not intended to claim any position as preferable. It is only to establish that there are various perspectives on understanding existence and what lived experiences of beings involve. In many ways Indigenous understandings can be seen as having overlap or similarities with Western constructs of phenomenology, but that too is often an avoided area of study because of its complexity and the difficulty of subjectivity in translating experience to language. From my perspective, however, eliminating the binary hierarchy when dealing with differences allows for the possibility of equality in treatment and personhood often missing in Western communities. 19 One of the questions asked by the peer reviewers of this journal involved the relationship of this difference discussion with cultural appropriation. I admit that this took some thought, discussions with other Indigenous scholars and individuals, and orienting to the relationship of these two concepts. For those interested in this topic, I recommend a reading of Tsosie's (Yaqui) "Reclaiming Native Stories: An Essay on the Cultural Appropriation and Cultural Rights". It is widely recognized that cultural appropriation of Indigenous objects, rituals, lands, ideas, and ways of being is inappropriate. One should receive permission from the specific community from whence these came. The authenticity of placement and context, or what we have been calling relationship must be maintained. If I am interpreting the reviewers' concerns correctly, it is the use of intellectual property, which is discussed by Tsosie, that is of concern in relation to this discussion of disability/difference. To this end, I think there are two aspects to consider.
The first aspect deals with the possibility of learning from different cultures and different knowledges and ways of being. One would not want to "act Indigenous" in terms of taking on rites, rituals, or ways of being Indigenous with respect to difference experience or involvement. However, it is legitimate to see Western and Indigenous cultural constructs in a dialogue relationship with the ability to use constructs, theories, and ideas to move forward or understand alternative perspectives. So, growth or a change of relationship in terms of disability by using a non-binary, non-hierarchical perspective is not the same as appropriating Indigenous cultures.
The second aspect involves scholarly material. Indigenous scholars, as well as non-Indigenous scholars, understand that scholarship that appears in journals, books, or other media is open to critique and use. Academia has what can be called an implied consent when research is placed in the academic community. As long as proper citation is included and one does not use another person's ideas or research as one's own, there is no cultural appropriation. It is the case that non-Indigenous scholars or readers will have a different relationship to the ideas of an Indigenous scholars or writers' ideas, but such relationships are foundational in Indigenous methodology. So long as responsibility, reciprocity, and respect are adhered to, which in this case aligns with academic professionalism, consent is given for the discussion of the ideas.
The journey of this project and the relationship with the editors, readers, and ideas has been one of reciprocity as I have had to adjust to the various needs and responsibilities to the different parties including the ideas themselves. While many readers may claim that little time was spent in the discussion of Indigenous constructs of difference and equality, I would respond that the entire work is about just that and each discussed concept is necessary in coming to understand the context of difference in Indigenous communities. A great deal has been said and could be said on the topic. However, at this point it is required methodologically to move into silence to allow for the subjective understanding of the material for each reader and for each reader to examine their relations to the ideas.
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It should be noted that my degrees are in philosophy and so I am not limited to social science methodologies. This allows for interdisciplinary, or multi-methodological, research, which involves Indigenous methodologies.
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Much as discussions of disadvantage and race require the examination of advantage and whiteness, disability must examine "abledness."
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It cannot be stated strongly enough that each Indigenous community has its own unique knowledge, traditions, languages, and understandings of wellness and unwellness. I am not attempting to either universalize or essentialize any aspect of Indigeneity. However, there are patterns and similarities that exist in global Indigenous communities. It is these "overlaps" that this article addresses, while acknowledging the importance of understanding that each Indigenous community varies from all others even while these patterns can be observed.
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Telos is Aristotle's concept that things are attempting to gain perfection.
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It is understood that the theories of evolution did not necessitate a movement towards telos. However, when constructed alongside Christianity, evolution and telos are often conflated by non-scholars.
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It should be noted that the Old Testament belongs to Christian tradition and should not be conflated with the Hebrew Bible.
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It is true that Western logic does not entirely embrace the binary and allows for differing empirical and modal options. However, less logically familiar academic areas, along with general Western communities, often fall prey to the less complex logical binary.
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For more detail on her argument, one should read her entire work. For this paper, it is enough to note that Euro-American and Indigenous ontologies are significantly different.
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Philosophical tensions beginning with Hume (1961) and moving through the verifiability principle, and into late-modern philosophy and issues of epistemological certainty should be consulted for more information, including Wittgenstein (1969).
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For more advanced discussions Husserl (1970), Habermas (1996), and Bourdieu (1991) are useful resources. Coherence theories offer greater understanding of why binaries should not be universalized.
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Willinsky (1998) offers a provocative discussion on how differencing occurs.
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The reader may also notice that there is a "voice change" or a change in syntax as I move into a discussion of Indigenous ideology. This is necessary as Indigenous languages are significantly different in their emphasis on the verbs, relationships, and individual/group experiences. Additionally, it must be understood that many Indigenous concepts defy translation into Western languages, making the discussion more complex than non-Indigenous readers typically recognize. This is not a judgement as the reverse is also the case.
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Additional Indigenous methodologies can be found in Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies (Denzin et al. 2008), Indigenizing the Academy (Mihesuah et al. 2004), Indigenous Philosophies and Critical Education (Sefa Dei ed. 2011), Decolonizing Methodologies (Smith 2013) and Indigenous Traditions and Ecology (2001).
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It is important to note that each Indigenous community will define these according to their traditions.
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One can think of the good heart as Cajete describes "The Hunter of Good Heart" (2000, pp. 158-165).
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One can think of discrete dualism as bounded, or specifically divided, categories. Nondiscrete dualism would then recognize differences, but these would be fluid and changeable.
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Reciprocity ethics requires a more complex discussion but can be understood to require both non-harm and positive assistance to all relations, human and non-human.
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For example, American Indian thought: philosophical essays (Waters, ed. 2004), Global Indigenous Communities: historical and contemporary issues in Indigeneity (Lovern 2021), Indigenous Traditions and Ecology: the interbeing of cosmology and community (Deloria Jr. and Lytle 1983), Justice as Phoenix: Traditional Indigenous Law, Restorative Justice, and the Collapse of the State (Zion 2006), Native Americans and the Criminal Justice System (Ross and Gould, eds. 2015), pp. 51-65.
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These same problems can be seen in Indigenous colonized communities or Indigenous communities forced into assimilation with Western knowledge structures.
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