CHEYANNE CONNELL, MA
PhD Student | Artist
Ja aa haanach’e
My name is Cheyanne Connell. I am Dunne-Za Cree of the Brown family of West Moberly First Nations and am a Doctoral Student in Socio-Cultural and Indigenous Anthropologist at the University of British Columbia. My PhD research looks at the relationship between Dunne-Za Cree identity-making and traditional language. Broadly, my research interest is in contemporary Indigenous identity-making and expectations of traditional identity performance.
2021, Master of Art, Anthropology
2019, Bachelor of Arts, Hons. with Distinction, Anthropology
Since 2019, my research has focused on ‘urban’ Indigeneity in Japan and North America, exploring questions and experiences of Ainu identity-making, community and (non)belonging. My BA Honours thesis, titled “Decolonizing Urban Indigenous Studies: Defining and Redefining Indigeneity,” is an exploration and critique of the use of the diaspora model in framing urban Indigenous peoples, experiences and livelihoods. I argue the need for a more inclusive framework that speaks to the diversity of urban Indigenous peoples, given that many of them, especially in Canada: 1) still reside on (urban) ancestral land and are therefore not displaced; 2) have little to no connection to a non-urban traditional homeland and as a result, may feel little to no cultural loss; and 3) live in places where recognized traditional territories are often either only a fraction of or not at all one’s ancestral lands, thus, showing that homeland-making can and does occur outside of ancestral lands. From this, I suggest the need to recognize and meaningfully engage with urban Indigenous experience and livelihoods as being authentically Indigenous and not of an inherent cultural, traditional, and land deficit.
For my MA thesis, titled “Precarious Indigeneity: Ainu Identity-Making in [Digital] North America and its rootedness in North American Indigenous Experience,” I explore Ainu identity-making in North America and through digital spaces. I argue that whereas Ainu identity-making of those who grew up and live in Japan is primarily rooted in Ainu in Japan discourses, American Ainu identity-making is largely informed by and rooted in North American Indigenous discourses. With this comes unique North American-based experiences and anxieties of culture appropriation, identity gatekeeping, and Indigenous authenticity. I aim to provide a way to reimagine Ainu identity-making that speaks to some of the realities of learning what it means to be Ainu and Indigenous in present day, and as a multiethnic, digitally connected individual and community at a distance from traditional lands but still 'at home.'
My PhD builds off this research, but shifts focus to my own community of West Moberly First Nations (WMFN). My aim is to develop and advance academic and public understanding of multifaceted identity performance among Indigenous youth and community. With a particular focus on the movement towards language revitalization, this ethnographic project will work collaboratively with my own community of WMFN in northeastern British Columbia, Canada to employ Indigenous research methods and perspective to advance knowledge on the realities of being Indigenous in Canada and as part of a global, digitally connected society. It in part asks: How do local and global Indigenous community members influence, inspire, and disrupt each other’s identity-making processes? As an urban Indigenous woman myself, this project will offer first-hand and community-driven insights into the contemporary realities of being and becoming Indigenous when registered in a First Nations community of diverse and geographically dispersed members. Through my research, I mainly hope to contribute to a more inclusive and diverse understanding and respect for the multifaceted ways in which Indigeneity is learned, grown, and expressed, and the role traditional language and other cultural practices play in identity-making.
Aside from academics, I enjoy making art, which you can read about on the here.