Author Archive for cjrichardson

What’s in a summer?

What’s in a summer?

I went home over the weekend, I met with several members of my speech community.

There was lots to talk about… And I realized, my IRB protocol might be a moot point.

After all, my Culturally Responsive Curriculum Development work (scheduled to take place at 1-4 pod sessions along the Klamath River basin this summer), must be responsive to the desires, hopes, dreams and BOUNDARIES of the speech community which has gifted me with a reason to come to grad school in the first place… My Karuk language.

If the community asks, then our curriculum and our work will be meticulously documented, for us alone.  There will be no publication in a journal or a magazine, no chapter in a book, no note about future scholarship in the works.

The needs of the many, are our needs.

As a Speech Community, we Karuks must be responsive to each other, and accountable to one another FIRST.


As a scholar, I wonder what it means to put my ‘scholarship’ on notice…

To talk to the field of scholarship in general, and say, “You are not the most important thing in my life.”  Who will take me more seriously because of this stance???

I suppose I ask this, because I can imagine those who will take me less seriously (I’ve met a few already).


Indigenous epistemologies provide a viable structure, from which Tribal and indigenous scholars are well positioned to explore, engage with, and discover many brilliant insights about the structure of our Heritage languages, functional pedagogy and SLA.  Working from behind tribal lines, we utilize new discoveries about ourselves and the world at large and continuously respond; adaptations help us continue to carve out a viable traditional existence in this 21st century world.

Of course, to be traditional and viable…  To be traditional, and viable…  To be traditional and viable, is not the same as being visible.

Through this process of adapting, surviving and respecting the speech community; we Karuks have earned the right as a community to embrace our Intellectual sovereignty and choose what we share with the world.

What can I do in a summer?

When I approach my research, I think, what can I do now that will help to secure a viable existence for the Karuk speech community members living seven generations from now???

This way of thinking reminds me of the work that has come before, the Karuks who have been revitalizing and reclaiming and resisting…

All I can do is contribute, my life to the cause.

Identity Medley

Week 1)

Native American “educational goals [are] profound—to produce competent, caring adults—and consequences for failure [are] equally profound.  The ultimate test of each human educational system is a people’s survival (Lomawaima, K. & McCarty, T.; To Remain An Indian, 2006).”

What is “Public Scholarship” in relation to educational paradigms in existence, and I do mean paradigmS.  During Discussion, I find myself feeling vulnerable.  I don’t mean to be a bull in a china shop, but I also can’t help feeling like a tea cup on a horse track…

“The listener/learner’s responsibility lies at the core of many, perhaps all, Indigenous theories of intellect…[students] often ask for advice.  ‘What should I do?’  The most common answer is ‘It’s up to you.’  You must shoulder the responsibility of putting lessons learned into operation.  You must work at solving the mystery (Lomawaima, K. & McCarty, T.; To Remain An Indian, 2006).”

I have spent the bulk of my life listening to my elders.  Striving to be a good person, a competent person.  As an NDN woman, that has meant many things to me.  Learn my language AND utilize it so that little NDNs get used to the sounds that may someday set them free.

Sometimes I run into old friends of the family, they tell me things like, “You know, when my Mom died, your Grandma was the one in the room with her.  She was holding her hand.”

How does a person like me, live up to the memory of such a fine human being as my Gram???  The answer is, I keep trying, and keep listening to my elders.  I keep going to community language classes, teaching children how to speak our language, and they keep listening…

“Many people feel the loss of [heritage] language[s], as the loss of personal history, a loss of identity…[to mitigate that loss] people are doing whatever they can.  They are… audio and video taping elders, and researching tapes and field notes from University archives (Hinton; Flutes of Fire, 1994).”

These are the things we do, to pay forward the respect our Grandmothers showed us, by virtue of their survival and survivance.  But, all the knowledge in the world is no good, when the Ivory tower says you are not qualified to KNOW what you KNOW.

So, sometimes, a good NDN must also ‘become’ a scholar.

What is this, ‘Public Scholar’ business???

“‘In the end everything we learn goes back to the community.  Why not start with the community in the first place?  Why not start with children?(2004, p.6)’  …[D]istinctions between ‘civic engagement’ and ‘education’ have blurred here; they are in this context almost synonymous (Patel, J., qtd. in Ramanathan; A Postcolonial Perspective In Applied Linguistics, 2013).”

I say, Indigenous world is filled with public scholars, but we don’t try to fit our lives under the umbrella of such a title (if we’ve ever even heard the phrase before, I hadn’t before coming to this seminar).  We strive to represent our Grandmothers, to the best of our ability, representing the best of our past as we move into an uncertain future with love in each step.  We pay forward the love we have been shown, and we rebuild these worlds we are Indigenous to, because somebody’s got to BUILD.



  • Lomawaima, K., McCarty, T. (2006). To Remain An Indian.  New York, NY, Teachers College Press.
  • Ramanathan, V. (2013). A Postcolonial Perspective In Applied Linguistics.  Blackwell Publishing.
  • Hinton, L. (1994). Flutes of Fire.  Berkeley, CA, Heyday Books. 



Week 2)

“In common usage, ‘middle class’ has been a metaphor for the white suburbs, but there has long been a deeper vision for which ‘middle class’ served as the respectable, Protestant, politically palatable face.  This vision was of a full political, economic, and cultural capability that would be in reach of more or less everyone through higher education and related public services.” –Quote from this week’s reading

One of my language masters said, when he was discussing Civil Rights Movements with other groups back in the 60’s— We had everything in common, right up until we had nothing in common.

I asked him what he meant, and he said something along the lines of, “They wanted all the things white people had that we didn’t have access too.  A good car, a good job, good schools, property.  We were fighting to be left alone.  We just wanted the right to EXIST as NATIVE people, on our land, drinking from our source.”

“[T]he question of minority difference—This question would inspire power to run a new archival errand… the link between the epistemological pressures brought about by social movements of the sixties and seventies and the rise of global capital’s interests in local differences lies in the academy.  The entrance of local cultures and differences into epistemological representation would also inspire and inform their entrance into law and commodification—into state and capital’s arenas of representation (Ferguson, R.; The Reorder of Things; pg.28).”

I was always told, we NDN’s are outlaws, because when the colonizers got here—

They made laws, and our lives and rights and world orders are “left out in the cold.”  Thus, we had to be Outlaws, because our existence fell outside of the scope of what Westerners considered to be a viable form of humanity.

First the new majority writes us out of LAW.  Then the academy attempts to write us out of HIStory.  Then, the leftist mainstream of the 60’s & 70’s embrace NDN difference; they use the language of our own civil rights movement against us by commodifying that language…  “Sovereignty” becomes a new way of returning NDN “autonomy,” which every NDN knows is just another way of saying– “One nation, under the thumb of another Nation.”

And, we bought into it hook line and sinker.

We agreed to have blood quantum be the source of tribal legitimacy, and we agreed to give up rights, customs, lands, siblings, cousins—

So happy were we to just be allowed to exist again, on paper, have a role number…

We signed our names to artifacts of paper genocide (that our grandchildren are now struggling to come to terms with)–

And, the Academy drafted the language.

How are you guys not HORRIFIED by the possibility of research???



Week 3)

It is my understanding that Indigenous groups don’t need to be right

(or righteous).

We are reciprocal in those things that we do (and do not do).

When we lend an ear, we expect to be heard.

Where we offer respect, we earn entitlement to respect.

When we have no food, we know where to go to harvest some, and if you have no food too-

we’ll share what we have, provided you have listened, respected, and offered up the object of “being right” in exchange for harmony.

The space of being “Right” should be held by ALL people at ALL times.

Love, and do what you will.


If you hurt someone, then you are wrong; you should make payment.


If you believe one thing, and I believe the opposite, but our behaviors hold us both in peace and reciprocity—

Then there is no sacrifice in the BUILDING of a RELATIONSHIP SPACE where we are both equally right and present (though, we are of differing perspectives).

“Andrea Smith explores what it means to produce scholarship for liberation and indigenous sovereignty from within the ‘academic-industrial complex.’  Smith argues that the current focus on ‘indigenous knowledges’ packages native studies as a commodity for sale in the academic marketplace, and calls for a more critical framework rooted in performativity rather than essentialized content.  Warning against decolonizing efforts that merely ‘multiculturalize’ an entrenched colonial academic system, Smith argues that more attention should be paid to the colonial structure of the academy in general, and the classroom in particular.  She ends the essay with a series of critical observations and strategies for transformative pedagogy, pointing out that ‘decolonization is not a thing that can be taught; it is a process we must practice, even in the classroom(A. Smith, qtd. in Sudbury & Okazawa-Rey; Activist Scholarship and the Neoliberal University after 9/11; pgs. 9-10).’ ”

How does a person like me, live up to the memory of such a fine human being as my Gram???  The answer is, I keep trying; keep listening to my elders.  I keep going to community language classes, teaching children how to speak our language, and they keep listening…

Through active listening, they have become scholars.  By being heard, I am a maker of knowledge.  We compose the public, the institution, the world.

In our world, responsible stewardship leads to responsible stewards.



Week 4)

The prompt for this week’s blog is, “Why are you here?”

I’ve asked myself that question every day, since the first day of fall quarter.  I came to U.C. Davis to ‘become’ something I already am; a competent educated Karuk woman who is well spoken and steps as lightly as she can on tired feet over the broken pavement of Indigenous life where it meets the Western world.


“Why are you here?”

The question itself feels like an accusation.

One of those questions projected onto people of color by the etic humanist who is so self-consciously humanitarian, they have forgotten to question how their words fall on the ears of actual humans; I am an actual human, áraar, one member of a marginalized population that has been traumatized, terrorized, poked, prodded and forcibly compartmentalized since first colonization.

(Still, we exist; we persist.)


“Why are you here?”

This question echoes through the past; I hear it in oral historical memory.

This question echoes into that future I cannot yet know, because I’m walking backwards

(a Karuk paradigm of time and space).

We find our way based on knowing where we’re coming from,

we can never know what comes next

(to persist/to exist, is to be brave/to exercise faith).


“Why are you here?”

My first instinct is not to say a word, because whoever’s asking the question might already have that one correct answer firmly rooted in their mind.

They ‘know’ who I am, have a statistical understanding of where I come from; such understandings contribute to their unspoken assumptions of where I will end up.

I have these understandings too.

#IdleNoMore, #ProtectOurSacredWaters, #AmINext,

#NativeLivesMatter, #NODAPL, #SaveOakFlat


“Why are you here?”

This question makes my emotionality hum like a strummed guitar.

I think of the family, and the people that I left behind, to come ‘receive’ an education…

What’s more, my oral historical recollection of severed community ties to homeland/tribe/reservation and community—

Broken families ground into the industrial/capitalist machine by American Indian Boarding Schools; my Grandmother’s stories of childhood, and how the only memories she ever talked to me about at length involved being home on the rivers

(that time before the NDN agents came, and stole her away).


“Why are you here?”


I am Indigenous.