Below the Radar Transcript

Episode 88: Decolonial Planning and Community Health — with Lyana Patrick

Speakers: Alex Abahmed, Am Johal, Lyana Patrick

Alex Abahmed  00:06
Hello listeners, I'm Alex Abahmed. With Below the Radar, a knowledge democracy podcast. Below the Radar is recorded on the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. On this episode of Below the Radar, our host Am Johal is joined by Lyana Patrick, Assistant Professor in SFU's Faculty of Health Sciences and a current researcher in residence with SFU's Community Engaged Research Initiative. They discuss Lyana's work at the intersection of community, health and justice, as well as her filmmaking and community engagement experience. I hope you enjoy the episode.

Am Johal  00:38
Hello, everyone. Welcome to Below the Radar. I'm really excited to be sitting here at 312 Main with Dr. Lyana Patrick. She's a faculty member, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences. Welcome, Lyana.

Lyana Patrick  00:53
Thank you, thank you for inviting me to be here.

Am Johal  00:57
Wondering if we can just begin, if you could introduce yourself a little bit.

Lyana Patrick  01:03
My name is Lyana and on my father's side I'm Ynka Dene, which in our language means people of the land. In most Indigenous languages, the way people refer to themselves has some sort of connection to the land. Another word for our people is Dakelh, which is a bit more of a contested term, but it means people who travel by water, so we're very connected to our waterways and our lands. That's in the north interior of British Columbia. I primarily grew up on Saik’uz territory, who is a neighbor of my dad's home community, which is the Stellat'en First Nation. I'm going to give a bit of an extended introduction here just to place myself so that people kind of understand why I do the work I do. I think that really sort of illuminates my areas of research, my interests, and my passions. So on my mom's side, I am Acadian and Scottish and she's from Cape Breton Island, an Acadie, which is kind of the Grand-Pré area of Nova Scotia. I spent a lot of time there as a child as well. And it's known as Unamaꞌki, Cape Breton Island. I always felt deep kind of ties to that area too, and in part because our families came over in the 1600s, but an uncle who's a genealogist also found Mi'kmaq ancestry. Although my uncle wasn't particularly interested in delving into that history, he was much more interested in the Acadian side of our family. So, you know, due to the Indian act, my mother actually gained Indian status when she married my father, which was the opposite from many of my cousins and other family members who lost status when their mothers married, non Indigenous men. But one of the things in our community is that we have retained more or less a clan system, and you inherit your clan system through your mother. So while my cousins may have lost Indian status, they retained their membership and their knowledge of the clan system. And I very much lost my knowledge of that clan system. So when my grandmother passed away in 2006, at her Potlatch, we sat down in the fog clan. I didn't understand the reasons for this, and I still don't fully understand the complexities of the clan system, but I do know that is part of our reintegration into the community. My dad is caribou clan, but that's through his mother, and the fog clan, was my grandmother's father's clan. So according to our rules and structures, this is how we would become part of that system again. I will often introduce myself as being from the fog clan, but it's all part of this really complex colonial history. And I think that really informed every single thing that I've done throughout my life.

Am Johal  04:17
It's a long kind of circuitous route to taking on an academic position. But you've had a whole set of lives leading up to that, including working in government, lived experience, many other things, you have a great interdisciplinary background. I know you did creative writing for your undergrad. But I am wondering if you can talk a little bit about your time leading into working for the government.

Lyana Patrick  04:43
Well, I suppose one of the common strands throughout all of this experience is the love of storytelling and writing.  I had initially wanted to be a journalist, that was what my training was at the University of Victoria and I did the co-op program, and worked for a newspaper. I actually ended up working for the native voice newspaper, which was the oldest native newspaper in Canada. Which was an incredible experience, especially because I was writing at it during what was known as the salmon wars, the fish wars, in the summer of 1993. And at the same time, I realized that journalism was not the path for me, I did not want to pursue that pathway. But I still love the storytelling, so as any good creative writing grad who can't find a job, I went to work for government, in their communications departments. I worked in the Treaty Negotiations office, and when I started, I was really hopeful about what was happening. You know, we're talking about coming out of the era of the Oka crisis, you know, when that sort of national solidarity, which we saw as well last year with the Wetʼsuwetʼen actions, really emerged as powerful force. And governments were recognizing that they needed to address their responsibility to a history that had produced, these conditions that people were facing, and displacement from their lands. So being a part of that, it made a lot of sense to me, because I wanted, with my storytelling, with my creative writing degree, with my history degree as well, I wanted to be a part of that change. I wanted to be a part of something that was really going to help our communities to move forward. I got very very disillusioned relatively quickly with those processes and with understanding kind of what the values were that were driving that work and what was kind of underpinning it, and how really at odds actually, government and or Indigenous nations were in terms of what the goals are, and how we get there. So I felt like my time in government helped me to see how those structures work and operate and the kinds of values that underpin them. I was starting to see that, because it really wasn't until my doctoral research that I sort of really started to see how embedded within policies and mechanisms and ways of doing things are these very particular, really, you know, what is white supremacy in action. The ways in which, you know, spaces and places are constructed for certain people and not for others. I didn't really have that kind of deeper understanding that I would have later, but I was starting to see that. And I was starting to grapple with that, and what that meant for my work. Eventually, I needed to find another way to work with communities. When I went in, I was in communications, then I got seconded to a treaty negotiation team, as a consultation manager. When I would go into the community, I always felt deeply uncomfortable and felt like I was sitting on the wrong side of the table. That the government had endless resources at its disposal, and, you know, the communities did not. I wondered why I was putting my energies towards a space that had so much, so I needed to leave.

Am Johal  08:03
You originally wanted to become a doctor.

Lyana Patrick  08:07
Yes. So that pathway, well, to understand that, I've been really reflecting on how I can provide a coherent description of why and how I do the different types of work that I do, but I have to say that I think there have been two things that have really propelled my research. The first thing is really common to all researchers, which is the desire to make sense of my world. The desire to understand why things are the way they are. I think that's why people go into research, they have a question or hypothesis, they observe things they want to know what the meaning is, or why things happen the way they do. So, what was happening after I left government, I did my master's degree, which just exploded my mind. Because I went to school, undergrad, in the early 90s, native studies programs were in existence, but it was really hard to find courses and programs to study. Trent comes to mind, there were some foreigners back east.  I took every course that I could, which was maybe four in history, and then that was it and a few advanced studies and that was about it. So when I did my master's degree, it was such an incredible education to connect what I was learning about, through my experience working in government, and really come to understand the historical, the political, the legal structures upon which these mechanisms were built. These directives that were happening at the treaty negotiation table, were really, built upon this kind of legal framework, which, [you know], I think the biggest mind blowing thing was that, it was really a fiction, it was really a construction. You know, this idea of crown sovereignty, this idea that the land had been relinquished, especially in the British Columbia context. And this was the whole reason for Treaty Negotiations, there was, for the most part, largely not treaties negotiated in British Columbia. But the fact of you know, crown sovereignty and authority over our lands is really something that happens, you know, in a far distant place with absolutely no connection to the many diverse complex nations that live here. So I think this, you know, all of these things were becoming really clear and apparent, through my cohort, through understanding their experiences, through seeing the connections to my own background and upbringing, and just the many kinds of people who've been thinking about these issues for a long time political theorists, so that was a very interdisciplinary education that I did with the Indigenous Governance Program. You know, we were studying law and public policy and history and, and sociology. So it was very intertwined. And trying to figure out what I was going to do with this happened at the same time that within my family, we were going through some really profound experiences, and very traumatic experiences, you know, very close family member was really suffering with what was known at the time, as concurrent disorders, maybe it still is, but had addictions and mental health issues. And so a lot of times my family returning to me to kind of help and figure out what to do, I guess, because I was doing my masters, and I thought, I'm doing my masters in Indigenous Governance. So I have no, I have no idea what we're supposed to do. And I started attending these family oriented sessions around concurrent disorders that brought together family members and physicians and community groups, to better understand, like, what this meant, and what was going on, and understanding the kind of psycho physiology as well. So they brought together, you know, direct lived experiences with what was actually like the brain chemistry and what was going on for people. And so I was taking that, and then I was actually marrying it up with what I was learning about colonization, about the ongoing impacts of these policies, and realizing that so much of what I was studying, you know, produced, these impacts, produce the social suffering, whereas I had grown up in a time when it was all about individual dysfunction. If you were native, and you were suffering, it was because you were dysfunctional. It was because you couldn't cope with a modern society, and there was something wrong with you and not wrong with the larger society. And I know that seems really basic. Now, in 2020, I think most young people saying this way. Yeah, but this was actually, you know, this was not apparent, this was not something that we were we were not raised to understand this, we're not raised to understand anything. So we just had to, I feel like me and my family, I can only speak to my own experience, were given little clues or given little bits and pieces of information. And we sort of had to put it together for ourselves. And we would talk to each other about it, when we would compare notes about our experiences, especially when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission came out, you know, we sort of understood my cousins and I, what our parents experiences were according to the payments that they got from this process. And the higher the payment, the more the abuse happens. So we had these little, but we didn't necessarily know exactly what had happened because it was too painful and too traumatizing to actually share that information, is too hard. So putting these pieces together, you know, I always believe in serendipity as well, because that year that I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life. And I finished my master's and all this stuff was happening, a medical school opened up in Prince George, back up in my home territory of the carrier people. And this is connected to the second thing that I think has always really driven my work, which is the desire to do something practical and useful. And I thought, well, what's more useful thing can you do then than be a doctor who actually understands, has some sense of this colonial history, this ongoing experience of our people, and to go and work in the communities and to bring those sensibilities to bear upon the health of individuals that understands the biology and has that training, Western medical training, but really firmly brings an Indigenous focus and perspective to it. So that drove me to, at the age of 31, go back to high school, basically, I went back and did math and physics and chemistry, and then I ended up at UBC, which I would recommend a smaller college if you're going to do your prereqs older age. But the classes of 200 didn't do me any favors. But that was really kind of what drove that. And I did end up actually applying to medical school and got an interview and was waitlisted and didn't make it in,  I think I was second on the waitlist when they filled class. My life could have been very different. And I was going to prepare, everybody said apply, you know, a second time, you know, you'll do it. And I just really, I had a lot of soul searching to do around whether that was actually going to be the pathway for me. And I decided that for a number of reasons, maybe if I'd been 10 years younger, maybe, you know, we need our medical warriors, we need our people in all aspects. But for myself fighting those battles, because I worked in the Faculty of Medicine as well, while I was doing my prereqs. And I saw the struggles of students and Indigenous instructors and residents. And it was a brutal, brutal struggle. That was the first time I heard this notion of microaggressions. I've never heard of this before, and really came to understand what those were. But I knew that I needed to work around community health in some way, I knew that that was going to be, you know, the pathway that was it was moving me along my path, and I just listened to it. And so that's why I thought a PhD would more immediately allow me to do the kind of work that I wanted to do.

Am Johal  15:55
Now, there was a period in which you were doing some research and community work in the Downtown Eastside, including with organization called Dudes. You can talk a little bit about that?

Lyana Patrick  16:05
Yeah, we just found out this morning, we got an article accepted, we wrote out our findings from our qualitative research, and it was accepted in a journal. I'm very excited, the world's gonna know, well the world? people who read this journal but hopefully the world. Well, so yeah, I did do work with these clubs, when I was doing my PhD, I was looking for work. And I came across this posting, I thought, this sounds sounds like me, this sounds perfect. And it didn't say that it was youth club, but I contacted them. And then I found out that it was and I was really excited, because I'd heard really good things about this program. And it's actually become a society now. And it's a model that I think is just so resonant with Indigenous communities. And it's really expanded. So in 2015, I joined the team to evaluate a three year portion of their life, and to see the impact that it had on men and on the community. And it really emerged from some very wise people who have been involved in working in the Downtown Eastside in the community for many years, and saw men coming in, sitting by themselves in the corner, you know, men dying alone, without a community around them. And so that was really the origins of Dudes club, was to provide a space for men to come together and to create community. And that was a huge finding from our evaluation of it was that, you know, sense of belonging, creation of community, creating a sense of purpose, and connection, are extremely important factors in the health and well being of Indigenous people, and probably all people, but did focus primarily Indigenous people. And I think really importantly too, it provides a safe place for men to consider notions of masculinity, consider what it means to grow up in a society that constructs really specific ideas about what it is to be a man. And to kind of start to break that down a little bit. I think that the motto, you know, to leave your armor at the door, that's one of the models of Dudes club, and it's really an important one, because people have their armor on for lots of good reasons to protect themselves to survive. But I think, you know, Dudes club has done this amazing job of providing a space where that doesn't necessarily have to happen. And we really found that that extended out onto the streets as well. The men, you know, after a couple of years, you know, there were men in those groups who knew a whole lot about how and taking care of their own health. And that information was filtering out onto the street, and they were sharing it. So there was this, you know, peer support process that I think also was a really, really important part of that work. Yeah, so that's, that's definitely a project that's really near and dear to my heart.

Am Johal  18:53
Another interesting piece I came across that I wasn't aware of before was related to work you did around Canada US border, we did a Fulbright, where you looked at the impact of borders with Indigenous communities. So maybe you can talk a little bit about that.

Lyana Patrick  19:09
Yeah, I'd love to. So, I mentioned earlier that I did the co-op program at UVic, the creative writing co-op, which I would highly recommend to students. It's just such an amazing thing to be able to kind of test out different areas that you might be interested in and you just never know. So one of my co-op turns was actually with a television show called North of 60. And some people of a certain age might know it, others may not. And, I was a writing intern and what an incredible experience that was to I was there for one season. And I kind of got to see many different aspects of working on a television series. But it really sparked my love of film and video and I was really interested in that as you know, another storytelling mode. So after North of 60, I was also thinking about, you know, how to incorporate film and video into my work. And in my master's, I interviewed filmmakers, and I wrote about the power of film, especially when it is coming from the community. Especially when the mode of filmmaking is really different than the kind of traditional standard structured film where you have, like, you know, one filmmaker coming in and telling their story and crafting it, constructing it from their perspective. You know, I was really thinking, what would it look like if the camera was? Should I wait a moment? [sirens]

Am Johal  20:38
Noise of the neighborhood.

Lyana Patrick  20:40
Great, perfect place to do this interview. I was interested in looking at how film could be mobilized to serve the needs of the community, rather than just the needs of one, of one filmmaker. And so I wrote in my master's thesis about some really interesting approaches to film, one in which the film was done, basically, for the community. It was not intended for public consumption. It was intended actually to be shared between youth and elders, they were elders being interviewed in their language, and it was intended for, I would argue more of a traditional storytelling structure where the person who's telling the story, it's meant for that person, right in that moment. And I think this is the tension in filmmaking, which is that, you know, our oral stories are very particular, the stories are told for the person who's sitting across from you, not necessarily to be, you know, frozen in time and distributed across a wide range. But I think, you know, we're kind of challenging these ideas by doing homework in a different way, and figuring out how those traditions can be kind of managed, and, and deployed to support our own Indigenous forms of storytelling. So that's to say that I ended up thinking about how I might do that work in the academic context. But I realized that I needed some training. So I actually ended up applying for a Fulbright Fellowship, and went down to the University of Washington for a year, and studied with a native voices Indigenous documentary program. And I have to admit, that was one of my favorite years, I have ever spent, because I got to hang out with a lot of Indigenous filmmakers, watch films and talk about films and just really immerse myself. It was a wonderful program. So through that I started developing this film called travels across the medicine line. And one of my mentors had actually suggested I think of books, I was thinking about what film I was going to make through this because we all make a film as part of the program. And so a mentor said, well, you know, the Canada US border is a really contentious place. And, you know, talked a little bit about how the history of its separation of Indigenous communities, so I was really interested in that. And it was only three years after the events of 911 happened. So that had really profoundly changed the experience of the border, because things had actually started to slowly change for the better for some Indigenous nations. They were actually starting to negotiate with the government to be able to pass back and forth across the border. And after 911, that was out the door, there was a hardening of that militarized separation. So initially, I kind of thought of this project as a really kind of a political project where I was going to be looking at that history, and that militarization and socio-political impacts of the border. But what actually emerged, and you know, I tried to really follow Indigenous principles and protocols as well, by reaching out to people that I knew, by visiting with people, you know, using kind of my networks and my links to tell the stories that people wanted to tell. And so through that process, I ended up meeting different people than I thought I was going to meet and telling different stories that I didn't think I was going to tell. But I think that through those stories, they do sort of illuminate the larger political and economic structures at play, just in really kind of unique ways. So just to give you an example of one of the stories I tell on that film is I spent some time at the Montana-Alberta border with the Blackfeet Nation. And I ended up spending time with The Peigan Institute, just this wonderful, amazing Blackfoot run school, that's all in their language and all structured around their philosophies and principles. And I interviewed teachers who were actually brought down from Alberta to teach in the Peigan Institute, because there were no language speakers in Montana at the time when the Institute opened, I think in the mid nineties. And part of that was because of the colonial history of erasure. And, and for various reasons, the language was able to be retained in Alberta. And so it kind of started this cross-border movement and, you know, different community members talked about not even realizing that they had family, that they had relatives, just you know, up the road in Canada. But through this process of revitalization of the language, they started to realize that they have these connections to this other place and that history started to become more revealed. And so It was a different story than I thought I was going to tell. But the reassertion of Indigenous, you know, sovereignty through repatriation of language and ceremony as well, people were sharing these different things across the border. And just the brilliance and the resilience and innovation of Indigenous peoples too, because I remember informally, I don't think this made it into the film, but I was talking to some young people, and they were like, yeah, when we go up, you know, to Alberta for different events or occasions, we'll grab, you know, these posters that are up about like Bible camp in Alberta, and we'll just show up to the border and be like where are you going? Bible camp and off they go, they let them go. So they're also like being really creative and resilient about how they're doing this. Because the fact is that that border remains, it remains as this, you know, colonial structure that still deeply impacts, you know, all of these communities. And those stories, like there's a million of them up and down the Canada-US border. Yeah, so that was an amazing experience. And my first effort to make a documentary film, and I swore I would never make another one again, because it was really hard. It took a long time.

Am Johal  26:08
Later on, you hide to do your doctorate in planning, and you've worked inside of government, and you certainly have a critique by this point through lived experience, your master's in Indigenous governance, to think of a profession that so tied with like a form of linear rationalism, connections to colonialism. You knew you were kind of walking into a space that you've clearly wanted to disrupt? And how did you find your way through that that structure? Because, you know, to get into urban questions, get into other areas from decolonial perspective, there's this whole role that the university plays and training people to work in cities that has particular orientations, let's just say,

Lyana Patrick  26:56
Yes. So, I don't think I would have actually stayed in planning if it hadn't been for a couple of conditions that were pretty unique to when I started at UBC. Again, serendipity, I ended up meeting the Director of the School of Planning, because she had actually hired my dad to do subtitles for a film she had done, and my dad writes in carrier syllabics, and she had done a film up at the my territory. So this was how I ended up meeting Leonie Sandercock, who was my supervisor for my PhD. And I had still intended at that point to go to medical school, and she said, well, if you don't do medical school, think about planning. And I thought, Oh, I have no idea what planning is. What is this planning? And so I actually ended up attending a few events, and it was funny, because I think I came into it with this sort of more radical idea. And then gradually, as it got winnowed down, I realized what a hugely colonial enterprise planning was. Because a book had come out called Unlearning The Colonial Cultures of Planning, and I thought that there was like an obvious scholarship around this, but there wasn't. That was actually one of the first books by Libby Porter an Australian scholar to kind of interrogate that history. And I was also invited to participate in an advisory to create an Indigenous community planning stream within the school. So and then I started looking at planning and thinking about, well I'm really interested in looking at community health and wellbeing. Planning really sort of seems to encapsulate all of these different daily sort of modes that are really about supporting the health and wellbeing of people, you know, everything from housing, to transportation, to the air we breathe, like all of these things, environmental planning. So that was what kind of drew me in, and then I think what really enabled me to stay, were the individuals, the people. You know, as we're talking about, we have had a conversation with someone earlier about, you know, there's some really good people that you can do work with, and that you can find support from, even when you're in a structure that is not set up really, for you to succeed if you have a critical stance towards what's happening. And I think that's in a way what, you know, with all academic institutions, you know, they can be pretty hostile to Indigenous ways of knowing and being. But I ended up working with some folks who were really, you know, wanted to create change, wanted to introduce these concepts and ideas and wanted to embed them in good ways, and I sort of looked at.  So the Indigenous community planning stream started the second year I was in my PhD. And I think that the struggles that we had with it, were really a part of trying something new or doing something new, as you will have with any endeavor that is introducing different, you know, ways of thinking about things. So it'll be you know, a long term project, but I just, I was really, really grateful for that stream. I was grateful for the students who came into it. I was grateful for the few allied faculty who were involved. And I drew a lot of strength from that. And then I drew a lot of strength from the community, folks that I was involved in, from Dudes club to my research partner. And all of those things helped me to stay connected and stay involved in it. Because I think if it weren't for any of that, there would be no place, you would feel really isolated and alien, you feel like a lone voice. And up until my defense day, there were times that I very much felt like people didn't really see how the work that I was doing was planning work, because I was working with an organization that helps people in the justice system. And I was like talking about public health and the history of public health, even though public health and planning are intimately connected, they co-evolved as disciplines, I think it was just really hard. And then on top of that, looking at urban community planning, because planning as a academic pursuit has been around for a while, Indigenous planning and tribal planning in the United States. There's a fairly long history of some decades, maybe four decades of scholarship around that. But what has been a huge ellipsis is urban folks. So that was one of my big motivating factors in my work, was to start to break down. But I think our colonially constructed divides between urban and rural, this dichotomies that get reproduced to really benefit colonial policies and practices. Just like I talked about the beginning, about that status, you know, removing status, giving status. It's all very strategic, really intended to remove people from their lands, and their identities, from their really strong connections. And that's very much the history of urbanization. And the reality of the experiences of urban Indigenous people are that they are not all profoundly disconnected. It's a spectrum of experience. And some people are some people cannot return to home communities. But there are other people who do maintain those connections and have always maintained those connections. So, so I really wanted to sort of parse into that and hold planning accountable for its role in dispossessing Indigenous peoples from their lands, through these supposedly value free bylaws and covenants and mechanisms that they used to create space, as what Glen Coulthard called urbs nullius, right, the urban space as this open and empty land ready to be settled and, and made coherent through buildings and codes and bylaws and things like that. So I was bringing these pieces together, to sort of create this picture of Indigenous community planning in an urban context. And I felt like, at times like a crazy person, because I didn't feel like I had colleagues that were really excited about this or wanted to enter into dialogue with you necessarily about it. And you know, how could a community of drug users in the Downtown Eastside be considered community. I was actually asked that, how can you possibly consider that a community of people? So, I had a lot of pushback. But what kept my sanity, and what kept me feeling balanced was really yeah, the incredible students and colleagues that I had. I was able to have these really productive conversations with and who, you know, offer different pieces of guidance and things to consider throughout my journey. So it was it was hard but it was,

Am Johal  33:34
So, doing all of this work, you've maintained the film practice, in fact, you have two films about to be streamed at the Vancouver International Film Festival. Can you talk a little bit about that part of the work that you do? Obviously, it's interconnected and intertwined, but it's also circulating in the world in a different type of way.

Lyana Patrick  33:54
Yeah. I am so honored to have these films be shown. I always kind of maintained my hands and video work mostly in an educational context. I did videos in the Faculty of Medicine, I did some videos with the First Peoples Heritage, Language and Culture Council, and when I met a colleague in planning, she was part of my cohort that started with me in the PhD. program, Jessica Hallenbeck, I started doing a lot more film, video work, because she has a company called Lantern Films. And so I started collaborating with them, and you know, earlier, I was describing different models, different ways of working, and that's what I've always been interested in. I always justify not going into film more by by saying that I don't think I could work within those structures. I feel like it might be just an excuse now, but I think there's some truth there that I just, I want to be collaborative, I want to be community oriented, I want to ensure that where possible ownership of these stories and materials resides with the people themselves, resides with the community, you know, that the notion of reciprocity and respect and those kinds of values that are embedded within, for example, things like what we call OCAP principles, Ownership, Control, Access and Possession. I really feel that that's the starting point for how you should do your work. And, but in film, there's this expectation that you maintain this creative control, that you have your vision. But, I felt with the work of Lantern, that there could be both. That you could have a creative vision, and you could work collaboratively. And so I was really, really honored to be asked to participate in a series of short films that lunch, and we're producing through knowledge network that were a part of BC 150. Which is very ironic, right, that I am participating in this, but what we decided to do was to make these 10 short films. I was involved in three of them, that looked beyond the facade, that was the title of the theme. So it's really looking at buildings and looking at the stories behind these buildings. So we did one on the Tomahawk restaurant in North Vancouver. Yeah, I did one on Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship center, and which is one of the ones showing at VIFF. And then I did one called the Train Station, which is the most personal and most connected to my own life and experience. And this does seem to happen, I put ideas out, and I don't intend them to be about me, but somehow, it comes around, and it's okay because it's really important that as an Indigenous filmmaker, I share my own story and embed myself in things. You know, it's expected as part of that process I think of reciprocity that we acknowledge that we're not kind of an objective outsider, we are a part of what we're doing. So, yeah, so the the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre story, also firmly ties to my research, because it's really about the development of urban governance structures. So the Friendship Center Movement is, of course, a really, really important cross-country, it's a national coalition of organizations that developed in really unique in different ways, depending on you know, where you were in Canada, but starting about the 1950s. There were institutions that were meant to actually initially to, to integrate Indigenous peoples into, assimilate into non Indigenous urban society. And that didn't work, surprisingly enough. And this Friendship Centers actually started to develop their own unique programming and their own unique approaches to community development. And I characterize that as early community planning. So I was really interested to do this story about the Vancouver Friendship Center, which the building where it's at now is actually a main club way back in the day. And it's a very different space now.  And then the other story about the train station, started out with a picture, a photograph of me in 1974 or 1975, at the train station at the residential school. So I think a little known story, maybe people don't realize, but children were brought to residential schools, by train, as well as other means. And so we thought, this, you know, could be one of the stories that we tell, and I did try to find somebody to tell their story. And I did get a lot of feedback, I got different stories, but I didn't find anybody who's willing to publicly share their story. And I understand why, because that's a really hard history. And then I was telling Jess Jessica Hollenbeck that the story about my grandmother, who used to walk those tracks on weekends to visit my dad. And she walked the 10 kilometers, you know, from our village to the residential school, to visit him and would bring food. And, and my dad credits that with saving his life. Many years ago, I interviewed my dad about his experiences as a residential school. And he said to me, at that point, like 95% of his class had died, that he'd gone to school with and that was another clue. You know, like, our families who dropped these clues, and I was like, Why? Why is that? And you know, that profound? You know, that's what residential schools do. They profoundly disconnected children from their families, from each other, the boys and girls couldn't even, couldn't talk to the sisters, you know, they were on the girls side. So it wasn't even just within the nation. It was within direct immediate families. And, and I always knew that there was this distance, but I never understood why and where that had come from. And I realized how fortunate my dad was, it was a huge protective factor that his mother would come to see him. And he didn't go to school until he was nine years old. So you know, he had all of those years in the community to be a Yinka Dene boy and the freedom and everything associated with that. And that was another huge factor in terms of his survival and his ability, you know, to kind of go on and assume a leadership position in our community. So that's like the story, it's an animated two minutes film that just sort of captures a lot in a short period of time. I've been kind of, I guess, honing my craft over the years through these different projects. And, and I'm about to embark on feature length. So this is pretty incredible, pretty incredible. I was mentioning to somebody the other day that back when I was doing my Masters, at one point on my committee, I had a filmmaker named Christine Welsh who's a Métis filmmaker. And I remember thinking at the time, I think that's what I would love to do be an academic, do my research and make films. And the fact that I'm able to do these many years later, is very humbling. Frankly, it's just it's, yeah, it's amazing.

Am Johal  40:39
You are a busy person, my goodness. Now, your role as a faculty member in Health Sciences, what areas of research are you looking at right now? And I think one of the questions I'd also have is sort of, in the kind of really immersive, community-engaged research that you do with communities that you have long standing relationships with, communities let you in and they tell you stories. And at some point, there's an ethics of what part of the story do you tell, and what part of the story, don't you tell? I can remember working on a book with a friend of mine, gowing up to Fort Mac, and going into communities where people share all sorts of stories. And this question of like, what part of that story is for you to share back to the public, and which part isn't. Was kind of editing and thinking through of how you think about that part of your work?

Lyana Patrick  41:37
Yeah, yeah. I think there are two parts of that question. But so on that piece about how do you know what to share? I think, for me, the key to that is having with my doctoral work, I had a community advisory committee. And I mean, for many years, when I was working, for example, in the Division of Aboriginal People's health at UBC, I was at UBC for about 15 years in a range of different capacities. I was actually through that work able to participate on a lot of different research opportunities. And it was always really, really important to have that iterative process, to have those deep community connections, to establish the trust, to establish the relationships, to know, so that the community knows you're coming back. That you're not being instructed, you're not just taking it away. And these are hard things, these are hard things, in these I know, these are things that I'm going to have to really figure out in the coming years. I feel like I've been really fortunate to be able to go back, to have the resources to go back, to have the time. Because that's what it's really about, it's really about having the time to build the relationships to report back to. You know, to do the knowledge gathering, and then to bring it back to the community and get that reaction and get that feedback and then to revise it, and if you have to go back again. And, so that's a huge challenge in a colonial institution that has timelines on research, and you need to produce results, you need to produce reports, you need to do things in a, you know, a bounded length of time. I mean, my PhD took eight years, in part because I was just doing all that work. And I know that we don't always have the luxury of that. But I think that from the very beginning of the process, you have to as an Indigenous researcher, I have to, have a really clear talk about expectations, about consent, you know, that piece of consent that has to be, it's not just a one time thing. It's like, a continuous and ongoing process. So that as things change, as conditions in the community change, as even members of the advisory change, you're ensuring that you're meeting those community needs, and that you're sharing what needs to be shared what's appropriate. So it's, it's really embedded, continuous, ongoing work, and you have to be flexible, and responsive. As a researcher, I do think this is some of the hardest advice for people. It's hard work. I remember in my film studies, I wanted to have a consent process where people would consent to every image, every frame that I used, and people said do not do that. Indigenous filmmaker said, do not have a that, you will never get a film made. And so I think, you know, there's there's sort of a pendulum because in my master's, everything went to the community, all the material, I would turn to everything, but then I had nothing to I mean, I had to, and it's fine. Like I think that's that's okay, it's good, but negotiating some form of sharing that is ethical and appropriate and it is going to benefit everybody I think is a good way to do that work. It's not an all or nothing kind of approach. Yeah, so I really do believe in embedding within research agreements, like how is this going to benefit and give back. So one of the pieces of work I'm doing right now is, I have a partnership with the Skookum Lab out in Surrey, who are part of the Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee. It's just amazing to me, because when I approached them about doing some health research, because I want to develop my relationships out in Surrey, was an area just a place that I realized, like, really, really, you know, hugely growing Indigenous community. And the programs and services are heavily concentrated in Vancouver, and there's a great need to understand what the needs are out in Surrey and to support greater growth and development there. And they were just coming into an annual cycle where they were deciding what they were going to be looking at for this coming year, and it was health. And one of the things that they wanted to look at, because a lot of their community members in preliminary or, you know, the research they've done so far have identified culture as being really important to their health. And that was a finding from my doctoral research, as well as that, you know, it's the title of it, it's from ceremony up, meaning, you know, that's kind of like the grassroots kind of level, that's where the good things happen. And that's what urban Indigenous community members talk a lot about, is the need for those connections. But, and so they were interested in what does that mean, you know, what does that mean? And I think that this really ties into a lot of my research in terms of breaking down those boundaries, like between urban and rural on reserve and off reserve, because there are reserved communities out there. And they share often the teachings with folks. And, you know, what does it look like to practice your culture, and what are the many dynamic ways that urban Indigenous peoples do that, whether it's within their own cultural context, or within the people whose lands, you know, we are an uninvited guest. So it's an opportunity for me to sort of delve more deeply into the complexities of that and to kind of parse that out. And that's what they want, you know, in talking with my community partners, they want to know that. So again, I'm really grateful to be able to kind of partner up and do that work. So I'm focused a lot on that. And then to further break down this divide between urban and rural. I'm doing some work, hopefully, up with my community, we have an ecosystem restoration plan that came out of the 2018 wildfires, which destroyed a huge swath of our territory, they are burned down. But the force of the fires was so intense that they figured that there were some plants that actually will not take root, again, because of the nature of the heat of those flames. So there's some, you know, big questions in there. And part of this restoration plan is to re insert cultural values on the land. But I think some of those cultural values are really about return to land as well. How do we facilitate our reoccupation of those lands from wherever we are, whether we're here in Vancouver, or Prince George, or, in whatever places. How can we feed this ecological restoration into our political and social ends, you know, which is to occupy our lands again, and to assert our rights or responsibilities really, into those lands. So I'm working with a team at SFU, who are looking at fire ecology and looking at traditional medicines, and, you know, hoping to kind of feed some of my work into that. And then this other film project that I'm working on, which is a feature length film. We'll hopefully actually document some of that work, some of that restoration work, because the documentary will look at the impacts of a massive dam project that flooded out a huge area of carrier territory, and that affected our salmon along the Nechako river and our white sturgeon populations. Our salmon are in danger or destroyed it and then the white sturgeon are endangered. And, and so part of that is looking at those traumatic and ongoing impacts, but also how communities are practicing resurgence or resilience and doing those kinds of things like, the ecosystem restoration plan, and there's a guardianship program, and, and how we've always maintained these connections, even in, you know, the most apocalyptic of times. We've retained those connections. So it's all tying together, it's all of a piece. So it is a lot of work. But it's I think the interconnections are such that I don't have to completely shift gears entirely, because I think they all really kind of weave together and inform each other in a nice way.

Am Johal  49:22
So that's got to be pretty busy being both professor and filmmaker, but I understand that through my research that you're also involved in a band called Saltlicks, can you come clean on this project?

Lyana Patrick  49:36
Oh, my goodness. Yeah. The best part of my week. really, truly? Well, two things when I talked about those things that helped me get through the PhD. The Saltlicks was absolutely one of them. In fact, I think one of our other members May Ferrales, she thanked us all in her dissertation as did I also thanked them. Thanks and my dedication. And it's the wonderful, wonderful thing to make music. Do you make music?

Am Johal  50:06
No, I don't. But because I post a podcast on SoundCloud. The first thing that comes up, it lists me as a musician through some weierd algorithm. So people have asked me about it and I don't have anything to say back.

Lyana Patrick  50:22
Yeah. Well, when I was at North of 60, actually, we, it was filmed in Bragg Creek, Alberta, standing for the Northwest Territories. And we lived in Calgary, and I went to a party one time, and they were, you know, jamming in the basement and somebody was like, Oh, you want to like hop on the drums. And I'm like, I've never played the drums before. So I hopped on the drums, and they taught me a few things, and I was doing it,  and then they started playing to what I was doing. And I just thought, this is the most amazing thing ever. And so I went back to Victoria and got a jam space and was practicing, but I never found my people. You know, I was really a part of the punk scene and the metal scene and Victoria back in the heyday. And, and I went to, you know, many, many, many shows, but I just, I didn't find people who were at the same place that I was to make music. But so along comes the Saltlicks and all of us or, you know, at various times during our PhDs, you know, some of us have families, and so we're kind of, we just were in a similar place. And the criteria was that you couldn't know how to play an instrument or having minimal, minimal contact with playing instruments. So that really took the pressure off as well. But I think we all loved it so much and that feeling of jamming together, of, you know, actually having fun, and we did have recordings right at the end, we just peel off into this laughter of joy. Because we've just nailed it. We've done this amazing thing. So yeah, it does my heart and soul a lot of good to play music. So yeah, I'm a drummer. I am a drummer and I love it.

Am Johal  51:52
Thank you so much for joining us on Below the Radar. I'm just so happy that you're a colleague at SFU and I look forward to working and collaborating with you and whatever way in the future. So

Lyana Patrick  52:04
Thank you so much. It's been an honor to share some of my stories and thank you for the invitation, and I look forward to working with you too.

Alex Abahmed  52:16
Below the Radar is a knowledge democracy podcast produced by sF SFU's Vancity Office of Community Engagement. Thank you for listening to our conversation with Lyana. Patrick, read more about her work and SFU's Community Engaged Research Initiative at the links in the show notes. Thanks again for listening and we'll see you next time on Below the Radar.

Transcript auto-generated by and edited by the Below the Radar team.
November 10, 2020

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