One interesting aspect about working with both the Canadian Studies Center and the Native Voices Program at the University of Washington is the unique perspective that indigenous research brings to the whole concept of “border.” Within Canadian Studies, cross-border research and education is vital to our role within the university and our mission as an international studies center. Within Native Voices and Indigenous Studies, however, the whole concept of border tends to get turned on its head. For many First Nations and Native American communities and individuals, the US-Canadian border is an historic and continuing reminder of the decimating separations it brought into their lives.
A new Native Voices production has caused us to think about the border and its devastating effects upon the lives of Native peoples in Canada and the US. Graduate student in Native Voices, Francine Swift (Port Gamble S’Klallam), recently completed a thesis project about her community and their historic lands. Her community, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Nation, live on a reservation of 1,340 acres near Kingston, Washington. They are a small tribe, consisting of about 1,100 members. But historically, they belonged to a vast nation, which extended from central British Columbia through northwestern Oregon and the interior Fraser and Columbia River basins. For centuries, S’Klallam individuals, families, and communities would freely move about their territories. Francine’s motivation for creating her film was to be able to tell young people in her community the vast scope of their homelands, not just the borders created by the Canadian and US governments.