Where are all the Girls and Indigenous People at IGSA@ND?

in Girlhood Studies
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  • 1 Saskatoon, Canada
  • | 2 Young Indigenous Women's Utopia Group, Canada
  • | 3 Young Indigenous Women's Utopia Group, Canada
  • | 4 University of Windsor, Canada catherine.vanner@uwindsor.ca
  • | 5 York University, Canada flicker@yorku.ca
  • | 6 Educator and community scholar, Canada jaltenberg@gscs.ca
  • | 7 Indigenous feminist scholar, Canada kdwutt@gmail.com

Abstract

We adopt an autoethnographic approach to share critical reflections from the Young Indigenous Women's Utopia girls’ group about our experiences attending the 2019 International Girlhood Studies Association conference at the University of Notre Dame (IGSA@ND). Moments of inspiration included sharing our work and connecting with local Indigenous youth. Challenging moments included feeling isolated and excluded since the only girls present at the conference were Indigenous people in colonial spaces. We conclude with reflection questions and recommendations to help future conference organizers and participants think through the politics and possibilities of meaningful expanded stakeholder inclusion at academic meetings.

For the last four years, The Young Indigenous Women's Utopia group (YIWU) has been studying and challenging gendered colonial violence using art, ceremony, and traditional Indigenous ways of knowing (Kovach 2009; Wilson 2008). This community-based participatory action research project focuses on history, culture, and community while resisting oppression, promoting resilience, intervening in cycles of violence, and imagining more hopeful futures. While sharing the work of the YIWU at the IGSA@ND conference was enriching and exciting, it was also challenging. We use an autoethnographic and conversational storytelling method to describe our experience with the intention of sparking conversations about the role of (diverse Indigenous) girls and community scholars in girlhood scholarship. Our reflections are intended to provoke future conference organizers and participants to consider the politics of, and opportunities for, meaningful stakeholder inclusion.

Young Indigenous Women's Utopia (YIWU)

YIWU is a field site of the transnational research project Networks for Change: Girl-led ‘From the Ground Up’ Policy Making to Address Sexual Violence in Canada and South Africa,1 that supports participatory approaches to confronting violence directed at Indigenous girls. YIWU was founded by Kari-Dawn Wuttunee, a nêhiyaw-iskwêw woman from Red Pheasant First Nation. She wanted to use Indigenous ways of knowing to challenge gender-based violence (GBV) by fostering the collective strengths, imagination, and love of her younger sisters (Wuttunee et al. 2019). Kari partnered with Jennifer Altenberg, a Michif schoolteacher, in 2017. Together, they became community scholars, facilitators, and mentors for a group of Indigenous teenage girls who range in age from 12 to 17.

The group meets regularly to engage in cultural and artistic creation activities, including producing films and photographic essays (Altenberg et al. 2018), red ribbon skirts as an act of resistance (Wuttunee et al. 2019), and an anthology (Young Indigenous Women's Utopia 2019). YIWU have also participated in inter-provincial knowledge-sharing gatherings. While the girls come from diverse First Nations and family backgrounds, they share the experience of being Indigenous teens and “a stifling vulnerability to gender-based and colonial violence” (Wuttunee et al. 2019: 64). Throughout this journey, they have been supported by Sarah Flicker, a white Jewish settler professor at York University. Their work takes place in Treaty 6, the Traditional Homeland of the Métis People, which is also known as Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

YIWU's work has coincided with national conversations about reconciliation between settler Canadians and First Nations, Métis, and Inuit (FNMI) peoples in Canada. The national Truth and Reconciliation Commission report (2015) outlined the devastating historical legacy of the Indian Residential School system and made recommendations for change. However, genocidal colonial and gender-based violence toward FNMI people continues in new and pervasive forms (National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls 2019).

Preparing for and Attending the Conference

Prior to IGSA@ND, the YIWU group participated in a large gathering entitled Circles Within Circles that brought together nearly 100 girl activists, researchers, non-profit organizations, policymakers, and artists from around the world. The event culminated in developing collaboratively the Girlfesto,2 a manifesto-type document centered on the experiences and perspectives of girls to address GBV (Gonick et al. 2020; Vanner et al. 2019). Addressed to decision-makers, the Girlfesto demands systemic, social, and behavioral change to end sex- and gender-based violence. It communicates the severity of the problem, the urgent need to act, and the importance of listening to girls. The Girlfesto urges stakeholders to “be curious, thoughtful, engaged, open, supportive, and generous in hearing the voices of girls and young women [and to] create safe spaces for girls and young women in all ecologies.” It concludes by emphasizing “the value of girl-led and young women-led dialogue and learning opportunities” (Participatory Cultures Lab 2018: 2). The Girlfesto's creators demand representation, voice, and agency for girls in all relevant spaces and want the document widely circulated. We searched for places to realize this vision. At first glance, the IGSA@ND conference—squarely focused on the study of girlhood—seemed an ideal venue. We hoped the conference would be a place where girls and scholars of girlhood would exchange knowledge and learn from each other, so we submitted an abstract. We also submitted an abstract focused on how the YIWU project wrestled with iterative notions of consent. As a project committed to decolonizing transnational feminist girlhood research, YIWU wanted to underscore the importance of creating opportunities for Indigenous girls to strategize and practice negotiating the terms of their involvement in research (see YIWU et al. 2020). To our delight, both abstracts were accepted (see Altenberg et al. 2019; Flicker et al. 2019).

Preparation for the conference involved practical, intellectual, and logistical considerations. The team engaged Catherine Vanner, a white settler scholar then working as a postdoctoral research fellow, to assist. Given the financial constraints that limited our ability to bring the whole group to the conference, the YIWU selected teen group members Jessica McNab (from George Gordon First Nation) and Cindy Moccasin (from Saulteaux Lake First Nation) to represent them. Catherine and Jenn worked with Cindy and Jessica to prepare their Girlfesto presentation. They rehearsed until the girls were confident with their respective parts and roles. Sarah worked with Jenn and Kari on the ethics presentation. Draft presentations were shared with the entire YIWU group for approval (and consent). Letters from the conference organizers and parents/guardians of the girls were obtained to facilitate travel.

Our team wanted the girl presenters to have an engaging and influential experience at IGSA@ND. We explored the possibilities for connecting with other youth and engaging in reciprocal capacity building. Cindy and Jessica were interested in sharing their knowledge of cellphilming (see YIWU et al. 2020), a practice during which people make videos on mobile devices to respond to specific research prompts (MacEntee et al. 2016). Catherine approached the conference organizers to explore what activities were being planned for girls and what opportunities there might be for connecting with local Indigenous girls. They informed us that the YIWU would likely be the only girls presenting at the conference. After careful discussion, we decided to travel anyway; it was important to honor the girl-led spirit of our collaborations.

The conference organizers connected us to a youth worker from the nearby Pokagon Band of Potawatomi and provided space, supplies, and logistical support for a meeting with young people from their community. Cindy and Jessica facilitated a cellphilm workshop for a few Pokagon youth. They screened their award-winning short cellphilm that explores places where they experience violence (such as streets, malls, and police stations) and offers a utopic vision for reclaiming those spaces. Then, they supported the Pokagan youth to create their own digital media about racism and resilience. In reciprocity, the Pokagon crew spontaneously took our team onto the land to see their reserve and learn more about the local context.

The conference organizers invited YIWU to screen the cellphilms for all participants during the final lunch. Coincidentally, the screenings took place after a heated debate about race, representation, and the future of IGSA. Perhaps partly because of this preceding conversation, the presentation generated extreme interest among attendees, resulting in a rush of people congratulating our group. This attention proved overwhelming for Jessica and Cindy.

Methodology

Storytelling is an integral form of knowledge-sharing in many Indigenous cultures. After the IGSA conference, we felt that we had a story to tell. Margaret Kovach, a scholar of Nêhiyaw and Saulteaux ancestry, describes stories as relational research, constituting both method and meaning. She writes that, “[b]y listening intently to one another, story as method elevates the research from an extractive exercise serving the fragmentation of knowledge to a holistic endeavour that situates research firmly within the nest of relationship” (2009: 98–99). Kovach (2010) suggests that a conversational method is congruent with Indigenous oral traditions and its potential for relational, purposeful (particularly with a decolonizing aim), flexible, collaborative, dialogic, and reflexive characteristics. To tell our story, we used a conversational and autoethnographic approach to enable each of us to reflect on our individual and shared experiences in a space rooted in our relationships of support.

As a critical feminist methodology, autoethnography challenges notions of objectivity and blurs the lines between researcher and subject to re-envision studies of oppression and resistance (Fine 2006). We apply a form of autoethnography to “come to name, know, and interpret personal and cultural experience” (Adams et al. 2015: 2). Following traditions of autoethnography that apply conversational methods among scholars and activists, such as those used by Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (2016), we facilitated a series of reflexive conversations. We chose this format to flatten hierarchies of knowledge and experience, provide a meaningful opportunity for those unaccustomed to the conventions of the academy to participate, and decolonize our approach (Battiste 2013). It was important for us that the distinct voices of girls and Indigenous community scholars be heard.

Approximately one year after the conference, we gathered virtually from different locations across Canada. These meetings were preceded by an email exchange to collaboratively establish questions to guide our discussions.

Why did we want to go to the conference? What were we excited about?

What were the best parts? What were the hardest parts?

Why did we want to write this paper? What lessons did we want to share?

What could future conference organizers do to make the space more welcoming to girls and Indigenous peoples?

We began with a call that focused primarily on the perspectives of Jessica and Cindy. The adults on the team (Jennifer, Kari, Sarah, and Catherine) had a subsequent discussion that focused on their experiences as facilitators and mobilizers of girls’ knowledge. The conversations took place over Skype, were recorded, transcribed, and inductively analyzed. Initial themes and analyses were shared and validated by all members of the writing team. Drawing on Flicker and Nixon (2018), we used a collaborative writing process whereby different members iteratively revised sections with input from the entire team. We offer a merged transcript of our combined conversations, with some light editing to enhance coherence.

Results/Reflections

Why Did We Want to Go to the Conference? What Were We Excited about?

Jessica: Well, it's not in Canada so letting people know [about our work] from a different country just seemed really cool.

Cindy: I wanted to be the one to share about the work we do, and why it's important.

Jenn: I wanted the girls to experience an international conference. I didn't know what to expect. It felt exciting to share the good work that the girls had been producing. I was curious because Notre Dame, who was hosting the conference, is such a prestigious university!

Sarah: I was excited to meet a conference full of like-minded people who are also working with girls.

Catherine: I was really excited to share the Girlfesto. I really wanted to mobilize the girls’ ability to do that.

What Kind of Planning Did We Do to Prepare?

Jessica: To prepare, we made a PowerPoint. We focused mainly on our presentation for the Pokagon youth because we thought there were going to be more young people.

Catherine: I remember reaching out to organizers, asking them, ‘How many young people are going to be at this conference? What sorts of things do you have organized for girls?’ I'm very glad that we did that because we learned that nothing was planned [at that time for girls’ involvement]. So that was [our] first inkling that this was going to be a conference about girls and not for girls. But they were supportive, and we wouldn't have been able to have the activities with the Pokagon band youth if they hadn't put us in touch and logistically supported getting that going.

Sarah: So, it was kind of on us to even create the space and opportunity. It was not their original intention?

Catherine: I don't know. Jessica and Cindy seemed to be representatives of two different categories of people—youth and Indigenous people—who seemed very excluded from the space. I think there was already tension at the conference about a lack of racial or ethnic diversity, but not much conversation about the absence of girls. I remember your saying, Sarah, ‘There should be Beyoncé blaring! There should be girl culture here.’

Sarah: Yeah, I was surprised. Maybe partly because I work so much in HIV—and in the HIV world you would never have a conference without people living with HIV there. The ‘nothing about us without us’ principle is central. I'd never been to a girlhood meeting before and was floored by the absence. I mean, girls are not hard to find. With HIV, there is stigma, barriers, there are all these things you must put in place. But girls are everywhere!

What Were the Best Parts of the Conference?

Jessica: The cellphilm workshop went well. I really liked it. And I think they [Pokagan youth] did too. It was pretty good to know that other people around were experiencing the same types of things as we are.

Catherine: I felt a huge sense of accomplishment at what we had done, by bringing the girls, having them share the work they've done, and felt such enormous pride in seeing them deliver their pieces. It had been a lot of work to prepare for, so seeing that part come together was very, very satisfying.

Cindy: I think they liked it. I think it was inspiring. Also, going to the reserve and meeting new people was a highlight. They made us feel very welcome. Is that fair to say?

Kari: I think the workshopping and going out to Pokagon was the best part. Being out, land based, community based: that fills up our cup.

Jenn: We brought tobacco to offer the Pokagan youth, which is a special part of our protocol. Tobacco is a way to open a dialogue and conversation and to thank them because we were visitors on their territory. And something that is super powerful and special in our culture, Métis culture. They also gave us very special gifts. Do you remember what kind of gifts they gave us? Earrings that are made out of quill work, and some baskets, right? So, in our culture we call that gift giving, and very often when you go to another territory you either bring gifts from your territory or other medicines. And that goes back hundreds and hundreds and thousands of years and that's how our people did business. And we exchanged with each other. I think that's important for us to remember too. It's not meant to be flashy or even planned. I think it's in the spirit of generosity that Indigenous people are very thoughtful and loving and giving and welcoming. Like almost instantly after meeting [their youth leader], the space felt better, the space felt safer. [Jessica and Cindy add, ‘Yeah.’] For me anyways as an Indigenous woman. she made us feel safer in that space. And then visiting the reserve and learning about the territory, I felt we took home powerful knowledge, sacred teachings from community.

What Were the Hardest Parts of the Conference?

Cindy: I think for me it was talking. I have anxiety. It was hard for me to talk and be there. Like being at the microphone.

Kari: It always seems like a constant struggle to share where we are coming from. The lunch time event, where we showed our cellphilm was the most dramatic obviously. When I go back, when I think about it, I still get anxiety about it. I was happy in the sense that the girls got to go up there, even though they were shy, they were still really good. Seeing people respond to their message brings tears to my eyes. Seeing how they understand what young people of color go through and coming to a forum like this is really intense and they were so brave and courageous to do that. I was just so proud of them. But what happened afterwards was totally unexpected. Everyone, all these strangers, rushed at us to congratulate us and Jessica had a panic attack. You could see the fright in her eyes. So that was really intense. It was too much emotion, it was too intense, I felt like we should have known better.

Sarah: Why do you think you had that total overwhelming panic?

Jessica: We were scared, being around all those people, it was very uncomfortable.

Sarah: I remember, too, you guys talking about people looking you in the eyes and that was particularly hard in terms of not following cultural protocol?

Jessica: Yeah. In our Cree culture tradition, it's kind of taken as rude to look somebody in the eyes; it's almost like challenging them.

Cindy: Most elders just say to not look somebody in the eyes. I honestly never really knew why. But I knew when I was learning about it my Kookum3 was very serious.

Sarah: Yeah. I think that is an important thing to share in terms of cross-cultural learning. I bet most people had no appreciation for that and had no idea they were causing you anxiety. Because in Western contexts looking people in the eye is a sign of respect! So, everyone was unintentionally making everything worse.

Jenn: Or harder, or overwhelming. Do you remember what we did when we went upstairs to that room, when we got away from all the commotion? When we went back upstairs to ground us?

Cindy: We talked about how we felt.

Jenn: Yeah. What else did we do? That we weren't supposed to?

Jessica: Smudge.4

Jenn: We smudged again, right. And then that helped you kind of come down from that anxious feeling, right? ’Cause you were like hyperventilating, and crying.

Jessica: I was having a panic attack.

Kari: I feel like we could have somehow tried to have that not happen and tried to mitigate the circumstances in some way, so the girls never felt like they were harmed or came through that experience unscathed. I get anxiety about it because what if that happens again? We don't want them to have bad experiences.

Catherine: I kept thinking, ‘What have we done, by bringing the girls into a space that wasn't quite ready for them?’ They made such an amazing contribution, but at what cost to them?

Jenn: I think it has to do with how we create the space. Everybody was a stranger. The girls were so isolated that whole weekend, and we should have known better, but we wanted to showcase their work. And they did say they wanted to speak back. So, it was kind of like, ‘How could we have set that up differently?’

Catherine: Yeah. It comes back to the fact that they were the only girls there at a conference where it was all about adults who study girls. Right before was the presentation where there was a big debate about representation and inclusion on the board. [I think] those two things really came together to create an environment where the girls’ presentation spoke to those two gaps in a way that had people seize on them in frenzied excitement about what this could mean for the field and the conference.

Kari: It was also noticeable to me that all the people who did rush up to us afterwards were all white women. There were no women of color who came up to us and rushed us. And I remember that distinctly. For me it speaks to the dynamic in the room and the tension that was there before. The missed opportunity that I felt afterwards in not being able to connect with other academics who might have been working with racialized youth and young people and understanding what their practices looked like. I was hoping to have more conversations like that.

Jenn: Using an anti-oppressive lens, for me as a community scholar, supporting girls—it was really disheartening how few girls and Indigenous people there were. That was a bummer. And all the colonial pressures that I felt—like the no smudging or ceremony. I also felt like I had to protect the girls in some kind of way because it felt like they became the ‘fishbowl’ and that makes me feel really uncomfortable. I just didn't realize how white, Irish, Catholic Notre Dame is. It was like you could breathe it in.

Sarah: Yeah, it was unfortunate that you guys even got racially targeted by the local taxi driver! I mean, that could happen anywhere, but it just added to everything.

Why Did We Want to Write This Paper?

Jessica: So more youth can be involved.

Cindy: We wanted to create change.

Jessica: I thought it sounded cool like when you guys said that we're going to be authors of a paper.

Jenn: So, a new experience.

Cindy and Jessica: Yeah.

Jenn: A challenge? Something that could challenge us to expand some of our skills?

Cindy and Jessica: Yeah.

Jenn: I want to write with the girls. And I want to experience what that looks like. I want to engage with them about what it is like to write a paper collaboratively. The only reason I'm doing this is because I want the girls to have those skills. When we look at what our methodologies are, how we are engaging with girls, why this work is important, it is not about us going to conferences and writing papers. It is about us giving girls power and giving girls tools they need to navigate through these oppressive schools and cities and malls.

What Could Future Conference Organizers Do to Make the Space More Welcoming to Girls and Indigenous Peoples?

Cindy: Involve more youth.

Jessica. Yeah, and make sure we have a place to smudge.

Cindy: Better snacks. [everyone laughs]

Sarah: One question I have is how does this association theorize girlhood? What does it mean to have an association that studies girlhood and why? I'm guessing it's not about biology or ovaries. I'm guessing it's about theories of exclusion and centering experiences of marginality, so how do we ensure equity across various dimension[s] of difference—like race, ethnicity, class? What does it mean to build deep equity on all levels (not just for white feminists)?

Kari: I think that's beautiful. If we are putting forward recommendations, we need to ask: ‘What could a governance structure look like? How do we respect self-determination as one of our guiding principles of our work?’ As Indigenous people, we are constantly being asked to participate and consult. But by the time non-Indigenous people get comfortable with our recommendations, we often lose the willingness to participate. Because it's disrespectful, at the end of the day, to be asked our opinion but then not act on the advice. So, there need to be more young women! They could even have a youth on their board. Why not?

Sarah: A young person on their board, and maybe on their organizing committee, and maybe even a track that is youth (or girls+ friendly to make room for non-binary folk), or at least a few panels that include girls presenting to girl audiences so there is a critical mass.

Jenn: I'd also like to see them find ways to appropriately engage with the Indigenous community. There wasn't any Indigenous space. Somebody needs to start looking into how to properly engage with the Indigenous community and their tribal nation within their institution.

Sarah: Maybe part of the recommendation is deeply acknowledging the Indigenous territory and peoples and communities where you are holding a conference and going beyond a land acknowledgment and finding meaningful engagements in those histories.

Jenn: These institutions need to do more. We need real people, real elders to hold space for us and with us so it doesn't feel so lonely.

Sarah: If they want diversity and we want girl presence, it needs to be embedded in the call for the conference from the very beginning—like ‘We welcome girls’ participation, we have scholarships for this, we will have fun activities where they can meet girls in the community’ and build it right in, from the very beginning and it could follow through to the conference and all the way through. Local girls wouldn't be hard to find. It would have been cool if one afternoon we visited girl groups in the city, or a girls’ school, or a girl cultural performance.

Catherine: But then also provide them the support. Just getting our workshop together was a lot of administrative work. I loved all the ideas that you talked about, Sarah, but all of that comes with a lot of work. They would need to hire somebody to be in charge of making those things happen.

Sarah: That's a good point, making sure that they have the resources in place to do it.

Catherine: That's what strikes me when listening to Cindy and Jessica describe what was most meaningful to them about the conference and connecting with the Pokagon band youth. None of that was planned by the conference organizers. [If] Jessica and Cindy hadn't been there, the entire conference would have zero girls at it, even though, as you point out, it was about girls. If you want to have a girls’ studies conference that resonates with girls, you need to expand upon those components. It shouldn't be the participants organizing, it should be something the conference organizers are doing. Would you girls agree with that?

Cindy and Jessica: Yeah.

Sarah: That was resounding.

Jenn: Unanimous!

Conclusion

The IGSA@ND conference provided our team with an unprecedented opportunity to share our work on an international stage and to engage in cross-cultural exchanges with young people from another Indigenous nation. While the conference organizers had not anticipated the logistical requests to accommodate Indigenous girls at the conference, they were enthusiastic and supportive. We were struck, however, by the absence of girls and the dearth of Indigenous people outside of our group. As identified in our conversation, our team experienced these absences in different ways: Jessica and Cindy described feeling highly visible and, at times, overwhelmed; and the adult team members felt protective and guilty for bringing the girls into an uncomfortable space. For Kari and Jenn, this was compounded by loneliness at being Indigenous women in a colonial space. Sarah and Catherine, as white academics, were much more included, yet felt upset and powerless to prevent their colleagues from experiencing harmful episodes. Further preparatory work identifying possible risks may have helped to mitigate alienation, anxiety, and cross-cultural communication challenges.

As scholars drawn to girlhood studies in part to redress pressing inequities, we are politically committed to including girls in all aspects of our work, centering their voices, and building their capacities to lead. Encouraging Indigenous girls’ narrative control is one key strategy for speaking back to pervasive colonial misrepresentation (Flicker et al. 2014). Additionally, it realizes our dedication to self-determination as outlined in the OCAP principles—the right of Indigenous communities to Own, Control, Access, and Possess information themselves (see Schnarch 2004). This ethic is supported by the robust evidence that meaningful youth engagement results in multiple programmatic and institutional benefits across sectors, and positive individual impacts for both youth and their adult allies (The Students Commission 2014). Following the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child (1991), we believe in young people's right to participation in all matters related to their own lives. Moreover, involving youth as co-researchers has the potential to enrich the relevance, authenticity, and accuracy of data (Flicker 2008). For instance, we attribute the remarkable global reach of the Girlfesto to its participatory origins. An academic meeting can be an opportunity for teen girls to both share, and learn more about, research that is about them. To realize this vision however, changes are necessary to accommodate their participation.

Members of other marginalized sectors (people living with HIV, mental health differences, and disabilities, for example) who have demanded the implementation of more inclusionary practices have had great success. Since 2006, the International AIDS Conference has featured a robust global youth track. Robb Travers and colleagues (2008) highlight the expertise of organizers of conferences and events linked to the Community Campus Partnerships for Health, International AIDS Society, and the American Public Health Association who actively “address community-relevant issues and typically draw large numbers of community participants to their events” (263). Their framework for community engagement highlights economic supports (such as scholarships and accessible fee structures), targets promotion materials, offers relevant pre-conference workshops, organizes community site visits, and creates dedicated streams or panels in which community expertise can be showcased. Similarly, Dmitry Khodyakov and colleagues (2014) describe the move from scientific meetings to community-partnered research conferences as involving community expertise in all aspects of program planning and execution.

As we turn our attention toward future girlhood studies meetings, questions regarding who will be welcome to participate, where, why, and how should be addressed (Cornwall 2008). Drawing on Sarah Switzer's (2018) work, we encourage girlhood studies conference organizers to think deeply about the meaningful inclusion and range of participatory opportunities offered to diverse groups of girls. Specifically, what would it mean to purposefully include groups of Black, Indigenous, and/or queer girls in the planning and execution of a conference on girlhoods? How can we take up Eve Tuck's (2013) call for deep participation that “invites people to help define the scope of discussion, the rules of engagement, and the structure of relationships” (11)? How might this enhance all our experiences?

We see substantive possibilities that could be created by shifting the focus of girlhood studies conferences from being about girls to being empowered by, for, and with girls. This follows recommendations from within the girls’ studies literature that scholarship about girls should include girls’ own voices (see Donna Maria Johnson and Alice Ginsburg 2015).

Our specific recommendations, following the literature described above and our reflections on IGSA and other conferences we have attended, include:

have girl representation on the IGSA board and conference organizing team, accompanied by support to enable meaningful participation;

organize dedicated streams, panels, and activities that include girl presenters and are targeted at a girl audience;

target promotion of the event to girl groups, with scholarships, transportation, and/or accessible fee structures to enable their participation;

organize community site visits to engage with local girl culture and activism;

focus on engaging diverse groups of girls, particularly Black, Indigenous, and queer girls;

provide an environment that embodies girl culture;

create space for ceremony;

deeply acknowledge the Indigenous territory through meaningful recognition of the land's Indigenous and colonial history;

involve local Indigenous community leaders in planning how to make the space safe for Indigenous participants; and

allocate sufficient human and financial resources to the planning and implementing of girl-centered and decolonizing initiatives.

We note the significant administrative investment that would be required to take up these suggestions, and the necessity of doing so in ways that carefully consider and mitigate risks. It may be necessary to start small (with perhaps one or two elements), innovate, and experiment over time. We hope that, by sharing our reflections, we encourage future organizers of scholarly events related to girlhood studies to involve girls—particularly girls of color and other marginalized groups—in conference planning and activities, so that all conference participants can engage in creating meaningful spaces and dialogues that not only discuss but also directly contribute to enhancing girls’ agency, empowerment, and decolonization.

Notes

1

Networks for Change and Well-being: Girl-led ‘From the Ground Up’ Policy Making to Address Sexual Violence in Canada and South Africa is a research study co-led by Dr. Claudia Mitchell and Dr. Relebohile Moletsane and funded by the International Development Research Centre and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

3

Kookum is the Cree word for grandmother.

4

Smudging is a traditional ceremony that involves the burning of sacred medicinal plants to purify, cleanse, heal, and remove negative energy from a person/space.

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  • Flicker, Sarah, Kari-Dawn Wuttunee, and Katie MacEntee. 2019. “Hoods, Sunglasses, and Signs: An Intersectional Analysis of How Young Indigenous Women Negotiated Consent During Cellphilm Research on Gender-Based Violence.” Paper presented at the International Girls Studies Association meeting (IGSA@ND), Notre Dame, IN. 28 February–2 March.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gonick, Marnina, Catherine Vanner, Anuradha Dugal, and Claudia Mitchell. 2020. “‘We Want Freedom Not Just Safety’: Biography of a Girlfesto as a Strategic Tool in Youth Activism.” Young 29 (2): 101118. https://doi.org/10.1177/1103308820937598.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Khodyakov, Dmitry, Esmerlda Pulido, Ana Ramos, and Elizabeth Dixon. 2014. “Community-Partnered Research Conference Model: The Experience of Community Partners in Care Study.” Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action 8 (1), 8397. https://doi.org/10.1353/cpr.2014.0008.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kovach, Margaret. 2009. Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations, and Contexts. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

  • Kovach, Margaret. 2010. “Conversation Method in Indigenous Research.” First Peoples Child & Family Review 5 (1): 4048. https://doi.org/10.7202/1069060ar.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Johnson, Donna Marie, and Alice E. Ginsberg. 2015. “Girls Studies: What's New?” In Difficult Dialogues about Twenty-First Century Girls, ed. Donna Marie Johnson and Alice E. Ginsburg, 115. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • MacEntee, Katie, Casey Burkholder, and Joshua Schwab-Cartas. 2016What's a Cellphilm? An Introduction.” In What's a Cellphilm? Integrating Mobile Phone Technology into Participatory Visual Research and Activism, ed. Katie MacEntee, Casey Burkholder, and Joshua Schwab-Cartas, 115. Rotterdam, NL: Sense Publishers.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. 2019. Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. https://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/final-report/

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Participatory Cultures Lab. 2018. Circles within Circles Girlfesto. Montreal: McGill University. https://pcleducation.wixsite.com/girlfesto/the-exhibition-1

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schnarch, Brian. 2004. “Ownership, Control, Access, and Possession (OCAP) or Self-Determination Applied to Research.” Journal of Aboriginal Health 1(1): 8095.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake. 2016. “Indigenous Resurgence and Co-Resistance.” Journal of the Critical Ethnic Studies Association 2 (2): 1934. https://doi.org/10.5749/jcritethnstud.2.2.0019.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • The Students Commission. 2014. Youth Engagement Literature Review. Summerside, PE: Pan-Canadian Joint Consortium for School Health. http://www.jcsh-cces.ca/ye-book/resources/JCSH_Lit_Review.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Switzer, Sarah. “Beyond the End or the Means: Co-Theorizing Engagement for HIV Programming and Service Provision,” (PhD diss., York University, 2018). https://yorkspace.library.yorku.ca/xmlui/handle/10315/35882

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Travers, Robb, Michael Wilson, Colleen McKay, Patricia O'Campo, Aileen Meagher, and Stephen W. Hwang. 2008. “Increasing Accessibility for Community Participants at Academic Conferences.” Progress in Community Health Partnerships 2: 257264. https://doi.org/10.1353/cpr.0.0033.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 2015. Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future. Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. https://nctr.ca/reports2.php

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tuck, Eve. 2013. “Locating the Hope in Bone-Deep Participation.” In We Saved the Best for You, ed. Tricia Kress and Robert Lake, 1114. Leiden, NL: Brill Sense.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Vanner, Catherine, Maria Ezcura Lucotti, Fatima Khan, Pamela Lamb, Claudia Mitchell, Milka Nyariro, Haleh Raissadat, and Hani Sadati. 2019. “Creating Circles: A Handbook for Art-Making with Young People to Address Gender-Based Violence.” Montreal: Participatory Cultures Lab, McGill University.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wilson, Shawn. 2008. Research is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods. Winnipeg, MB: Fernwood Publishing.

  • Wuttunee, Kari-Dawn, Jennifer Altenberg, and Sarah Flicker. 2019. “Kimihko Sîmpân Iskwêwisâkaya Êkwa Sihcikêwin Waniskâpicikêwin: Red Ribbon Skirts and Cultural Resurgence.” Girlhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 12 (3): 6379. https://doi.org/10.3167/ghs.2019.120307.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Young Indigenous Women's Utopia Group (YIWU), Katie MacEntee, Jennifer Altenburg, Sarah Flicker, and Kari Dawn Wuttunee. 2020. “Hoods, Sunglasses, and Signs: An Intersectional Analysis of How Young Indigenous Women Negotiated Consent During Cellphilm Research on Gender-Based Violence.” In Ethical Practice in Participatory Visual Research with Girls and Young Women: A Focus on Rurality, Indigeneity, and Transnationality, ed. Rehelobile Moletsane, Lisa Wiebesiek, A. Treffry-Goately and April Mandron. New York: Berghahn.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Young Indigenous Women's Utopia. 2019. Young Indigenous Women's Utopia. Treaty 6 Traditional Homeland of the Metis People. Self-published with support from York University, McGill University, and Networks for Change.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

Contributor Notes

The Young Indigenous Women‘s Utopia Group is an award-winning girl group located in Saskatoon that challenges gender-based and colonial violence using Indigenous and arts-based methods.

Cindy Moccasin is a proud member of the Young Indigenous Women's Utopia from Saulteaux First Nation.

Jessica Mcnab is a proud member of the Young Indigenous Women's Utopia from George Gordon First Nation.

Catherine Vanner (ORCID: 0000-0002-7303-942X) is a settler Canadian and an Assistant Professor of Educational Foundations at the University of Windsor. Email: catherine.vanner@uwindsor.ca

Sarah Flicker (ORCID: 0000-0001-6202-5519) is a settler Canadian and professor in the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change at York University. Email: Flicker@yorku.ca

Jennifer Altenberg is a Michif woman, educator, and community scholar. Email: JAltenberg@gscs.ca

Kari-Dawn Wuttunee is nêhiyaw-iskwêw Indigenous feminist from Red Pheasant Cree Nation. Email: kdwutt@gmail.com

Girlhood Studies

An Interdisciplinary Journal

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  • Altenberg, Jennifer, Kari-Dawn Wuttunee, Jessica Lynn McNab, Cindy Moccasin, and Catherine Vanner. 2019. “The Montebello Girlfesto: Girls from Around the World Demand Freedom from Gender-Based Violence.” Exhibit and presentation at the International Girls Studies Association meeting (IGSA@ND), Notre Dame, IN. 28 February–2 March.

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  • Battiste, Marie. 2013. Decolonizing Education: Nourishing the Learning Spirit. Saskatoon, SK: Purich Publishing.

  • Boylorn, Robin M., and Mark P. Orbe. 2014. Critical Autoethnography: Intersecting Cultural Identities in Everyday Life. Walnut Creek, CA: Routledge.

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  • Convention on the Rights of the Child. 1991. New York: United Nations.

  • Cornwall, Andrea. 2008. “Unpacking ‘Participation’: Models, Meanings and Practices.” Community Development Journal 43 (3): 269283. https://doi.org/.1093/cdj/bsn010.

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  • Fine, Michelle. 2006. “Bearing Witness: Methods for Researching Oppression and Resistance—A Textbook for Critical Research.” Social Justice Research 19 (1): 83108. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11211-006-0001-0.

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  • Flicker, Sarah. 2008. “Who Benefits from Community Based Participatory Research?Health Education & Behavior 35 (1): 7086. https://doi.org/10.1177/1090198105285927.

    • Crossref
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  • Flicker, Sarah, Jessica Danforth, Ciann Wilson, Vanessa Oliver, June Larkin, Jean-Paul Restoule, Claudia Mitchell, Erin Konsmo, Randy Jackson, and Tracey Prentice. 2014. “‘Because We Have Really Unique Art’: Decolonizing Research with Indigenous Youth Using the Arts.” International Journal of Indigenous Health 10 (1): 1634. https://journals.uvic.ca/index.php/ijih/article/view/13271

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  • Flicker, Sarah, and Stephanie Nixon. 2018. “Writing Peer-Reviewed Articles with Diverse Teams: Considerations for Novice Scholars Conducting Community-Engaged Research.” Health Promotion International 33 (1): 152161. https://doi.org/10.1093/heapro/daw059.

    • Search Google Scholar
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  • Flicker, Sarah, Kari-Dawn Wuttunee, and Katie MacEntee. 2019. “Hoods, Sunglasses, and Signs: An Intersectional Analysis of How Young Indigenous Women Negotiated Consent During Cellphilm Research on Gender-Based Violence.” Paper presented at the International Girls Studies Association meeting (IGSA@ND), Notre Dame, IN. 28 February–2 March.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gonick, Marnina, Catherine Vanner, Anuradha Dugal, and Claudia Mitchell. 2020. “‘We Want Freedom Not Just Safety’: Biography of a Girlfesto as a Strategic Tool in Youth Activism.” Young 29 (2): 101118. https://doi.org/10.1177/1103308820937598.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Khodyakov, Dmitry, Esmerlda Pulido, Ana Ramos, and Elizabeth Dixon. 2014. “Community-Partnered Research Conference Model: The Experience of Community Partners in Care Study.” Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action 8 (1), 8397. https://doi.org/10.1353/cpr.2014.0008.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kovach, Margaret. 2009. Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations, and Contexts. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

  • Kovach, Margaret. 2010. “Conversation Method in Indigenous Research.” First Peoples Child & Family Review 5 (1): 4048. https://doi.org/10.7202/1069060ar.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Johnson, Donna Marie, and Alice E. Ginsberg. 2015. “Girls Studies: What's New?” In Difficult Dialogues about Twenty-First Century Girls, ed. Donna Marie Johnson and Alice E. Ginsburg, 115. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • MacEntee, Katie, Casey Burkholder, and Joshua Schwab-Cartas. 2016What's a Cellphilm? An Introduction.” In What's a Cellphilm? Integrating Mobile Phone Technology into Participatory Visual Research and Activism, ed. Katie MacEntee, Casey Burkholder, and Joshua Schwab-Cartas, 115. Rotterdam, NL: Sense Publishers.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. 2019. Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. https://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/final-report/

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Participatory Cultures Lab. 2018. Circles within Circles Girlfesto. Montreal: McGill University. https://pcleducation.wixsite.com/girlfesto/the-exhibition-1

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schnarch, Brian. 2004. “Ownership, Control, Access, and Possession (OCAP) or Self-Determination Applied to Research.” Journal of Aboriginal Health 1(1): 8095.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake. 2016. “Indigenous Resurgence and Co-Resistance.” Journal of the Critical Ethnic Studies Association 2 (2): 1934. https://doi.org/10.5749/jcritethnstud.2.2.0019.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • The Students Commission. 2014. Youth Engagement Literature Review. Summerside, PE: Pan-Canadian Joint Consortium for School Health. http://www.jcsh-cces.ca/ye-book/resources/JCSH_Lit_Review.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Switzer, Sarah. “Beyond the End or the Means: Co-Theorizing Engagement for HIV Programming and Service Provision,” (PhD diss., York University, 2018). https://yorkspace.library.yorku.ca/xmlui/handle/10315/35882

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Travers, Robb, Michael Wilson, Colleen McKay, Patricia O'Campo, Aileen Meagher, and Stephen W. Hwang. 2008. “Increasing Accessibility for Community Participants at Academic Conferences.” Progress in Community Health Partnerships 2: 257264. https://doi.org/10.1353/cpr.0.0033.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 2015. Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future. Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. https://nctr.ca/reports2.php

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tuck, Eve. 2013. “Locating the Hope in Bone-Deep Participation.” In We Saved the Best for You, ed. Tricia Kress and Robert Lake, 1114. Leiden, NL: Brill Sense.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Vanner, Catherine, Maria Ezcura Lucotti, Fatima Khan, Pamela Lamb, Claudia Mitchell, Milka Nyariro, Haleh Raissadat, and Hani Sadati. 2019. “Creating Circles: A Handbook for Art-Making with Young People to Address Gender-Based Violence.” Montreal: Participatory Cultures Lab, McGill University.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wilson, Shawn. 2008. Research is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods. Winnipeg, MB: Fernwood Publishing.

  • Wuttunee, Kari-Dawn, Jennifer Altenberg, and Sarah Flicker. 2019. “Kimihko Sîmpân Iskwêwisâkaya Êkwa Sihcikêwin Waniskâpicikêwin: Red Ribbon Skirts and Cultural Resurgence.” Girlhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 12 (3): 6379. https://doi.org/10.3167/ghs.2019.120307.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Young Indigenous Women's Utopia Group (YIWU), Katie MacEntee, Jennifer Altenburg, Sarah Flicker, and Kari Dawn Wuttunee. 2020. “Hoods, Sunglasses, and Signs: An Intersectional Analysis of How Young Indigenous Women Negotiated Consent During Cellphilm Research on Gender-Based Violence.” In Ethical Practice in Participatory Visual Research with Girls and Young Women: A Focus on Rurality, Indigeneity, and Transnationality, ed. Rehelobile Moletsane, Lisa Wiebesiek, A. Treffry-Goately and April Mandron. New York: Berghahn.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Young Indigenous Women's Utopia. 2019. Young Indigenous Women's Utopia. Treaty 6 Traditional Homeland of the Metis People. Self-published with support from York University, McGill University, and Networks for Change.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

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