Image: Andrea Vogel


I spent many hours in June transcribing an interview with a particular Upper Nicola Elder.
Even though I had been there on the video call when the interview occurred, it was by listening many, many times, that I began to pick up on new things she said each time. There was so much there! I also felt like I kind of knew the Elder a bit better, like I had spent time with her, even though it was through pause-and-play on a zoom recording, while constantly re-configuring a Phillips transcription foot pedal.

Later that month, Brendan and I were “co-weavers” for a zoom call with the same Elder. Since we can’t all be talking on a zoom call, the ILRU team would choose two people to speak with the knowledge keeper, to weave the conversation. In our case, we came up with a detailed plan of what questions we wanted to ask, based on a particular story, and with a particular larger research question in mind. We were nervous, and even had a plan for what kind of role we would each play – one person making sure we touched on the relevant questions, and one person focused on catching the conversation flow.

And it did flow! For all the nerves, the conversation was so fruitful! Everyone present on the video call came out learning about legal process and leadership, gathering insights pertinent to the community, and to the research. All this, while also learning about ourselves- when to have the courage to step up and when to have the humility to step down.

Image: meetings with the team on Zoom
One interesting dynamic was that we – Brendan and myself – are both young people, who are sponges for wise words that can guide our paths. We are also fairly steeped in academia –or, as we now call it, “book learning” — and have a lot of un-learning to do. The Elder knew exactly how to work with that.

We came out of the interview thankful that it didn’t bomb, and elated that the flow felt so good; it was all so personal, yet so perfectly tied to the research goal. Of course, with that came a certain level of pride, as this was our first shot at leading an interview. But it didn’t take more than one listen through of the recording, and a little bit of reflection to realize that it was not us, but the Elder had been the one leading the interview the whole time.

She had a deep personal commitment to the themes in the narrative. She clearly enjoyed working with young people. She brought the discussion home to the research question, and in so doing, grounded it back on the territory, where she was situated while zooming with us in different locations.

I say this not to disparage our eager student efforts, but to recognize that we were components of something bigger. The ingredients were there, and she a master at making the interview session exactly what it needed to be. So, without further ado, a recipe for a nourishing interview:

While I would love to write out the recipe for the perfect interview, I was never the cook, and I am not sure I can tell you how to recreate it. I’m just glad to have been an ingredient.