Kinship is a core issue for disabled and Indigenous people. Kin connections extend to land, air, water, and to other-than-human-beings, to spiritual practice, and to language. Kinship relations encourage a deep reciprocity, both obligation and receiving. When kinship is interrupted and distorted, or broken by external systems, the loss is grave and can lead to loss of other things—land, language, spirituality, and well-being. For Indigenous and disabled people, as with many others targeted by ableism, kinship ties (in the broadest sense of this term) provide vital resources to counter erasure. This is particularly evident in Pearl Yellow Old Woman-Healy's and Stacey Running Rabbit's reflections on parenting their disabled children based on Blackfoot teachings. And in the account by Adria L. Imada, parents and other kin differently frame disability, use Indigenous cultural ways of being to protect, preserve and/or reclaim their disabled kin, and seek to resist intrusions into Indigenous kinship. Understanding Indigeneity and disability through the framework of kinship, works in this section by Esther Akua Gymafi, Íris Morais Araújo, and Vivian Delchamps generate far-reaching insights into the philosophies and cultural practices and ideals that allow for different conceptualizations of what 'disability' is, what it means, and what significance it holds.
Violence against kinship and self-determination hem Indigenous and disabled pasts, present, and possible futures. As Devon Mihesuah (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma) and Anne Gregory each detail in their studies of institutionalization at the US federal Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, interlocking legal and medical practices of settler colonialism worked to dissolve kinship in Indigenous communities, created trauma and disability, and reached across generations to the current day.
The collective pieces invite us to consider:
- How relations with land, water, air, plants and non-human animals, as well as with ancestors, shape understandings and experiences of bodyminded difference.
- Varied ways that kinship has provided opportunities to counter attacks on Indigeneity and disability.
- Varied ways that kinship has been used to justify taking Indigenous and disabled people—and many others—from their kin communities.
Engaging with these essays collectively, what do you notice about kinship, Indigeneity, and disability? About the forces that shape relations? And what other ways might kinship help us address the pressing issues of our time?