PROFile: Adopting Indigenous philosophy

Dr. Jacqueline Romanow, associate professor, Department of Indigenous Studies

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Prior to completing her PhD, Romanow finished a master’s in economics and then worked with a tribal council on economic development. From there, she went into consulting with First Nations in Manitoba and across Canada.

During this time, she worked on the Framework Agreement Initiative (FAI), an attempt to negotiate self-government for First Nations in Manitoba.

“Government negotiators already had a pre-determined package, so (they weren’t) fair negotiations. They wanted to hand over jurisdiction without any capability for First Nations to generate revenue,” Romanow says.

The FAI’s final report was published in February 1999. The initiative did not go forward. Romanow says the creation of the reserve system and the separation of Indigenous peoples from natural resources contributed to the self-government initiative’s failure.

“Without land, how can you generate revenue? You don’t want a government that is completely dependent on transfer payments,” Romanow says.

Frustrated with the Canadian government’s unfair negotiations with First Nations, Romanow turned her interest to property rights in other countries. Specifically, she focused on cases before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, studying state barriers to the implementation of Court decisions for Indigenous property rights in Ecuador, Nicaragua and Colombia.

Those human-rights cases were part of Romanow’s fieldwork while she completed her PhD in political studies (international relations) at Queen’s University.

Romanow is Métis and grew up just north of Winnipeg in the Red River Settlement, specifically in the Lockport area. She is involved in an upcoming national two-day conference in June 2022 that will look into how universities can respond to the Calls for Justice coming out of the 2019 Final Report into missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people (MMIWG2S).

“The main idea of the conference is (about) how can we solve this problem? Why are Indigenous women being overlooked? We can’t let this report continue to be ignored,” Romanow says.

What is the best thing about your work?

“I didn’t grow up with a lot of role models. I can tell the Indigenous female students I’m teaching right now can relate to me. It makes them feel their own realm of the possible.”

What do you like to do in your spare time?

“During the pandemic, I’ve taken up dancing, and I made jewellery. I read and listen to audiobooks. With my son, we watch a lot of basketball.”

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

“I believe in Indigenous philosophy and ontologies. They’re more egalitarian and built on cooperation. I believe (Indigenous ontologies) are a better grounding for the world. Western philosophy is built on this notion of hierarchy. It creates a certain economy and culture.”

Published in Volume 76, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 31, 2022)

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