On Our Terms

On Our Terms is a video project grounded in storytelling of commonly used DEAI terms like decolonization, consultation, and healing. Words like these regularly show up in mission statements, social media captions, and speeches, but it can be hard to parse the meaning or intention behind them. Instead of telling you what these words mean to us, we wanted to turn to our community to see how these concepts show up in their lives.

We interviewed 12 people about what 10 different words mean to them. What does decolonization look like? How has cultural erasure impacted your life? Where is the line between celebration and appropriation? Through personal stories and unique perspectives, these videos present a nuanced collage of how people understand these words and invite viewers to reflect on their own definitions.

We are incredibly grateful to all the participants who shared their stories, ideas, and time with us.

Quyana/Thank you,

Aaron McCanna and Timothy Kenney, Producers

Land Acknowledgments
Cultural Erasure
Cultural Erasure with Yellowash


This project took co-creators Aaron McCanna and Timothy Kenney two years to produce and involved many different phases. To hear more about how this process evolved over that time and their reflections on how it went, please read this interview transcript below where they dive into all the details that made this project possible.

interview transcript

We hope that these videos will spark reflection and further conversation about how these terms are used and understood. If you're interested, here are some discussion questions to dive deeper into these concepts by yourself or with your community. 

discussion questions

What words are included? 

We discussed 10 words. Those words are Decolonization, Museums, Land Acknowledgments, Consultation, Reciprocity, Colonization, Diversity, Healing, Celebration, Cultural Erasure. These words were chosen by a group of Burke staff to represent the wide range of work museums and other institutions do everyday.  

How many people were interviewed? 

We interviewed 12 people. Some are current and former Burke staff members. Others are students and staff on the larger University of Washington campus. Others were completely unrelated to the Burke Museum and UW.  

Did the participants get paid? 


Can I use these videos for my class/project/organization/etc? 

Please email BurkePR@uw.edu with your ideas. 

Why didn’t you interview _________? 

These videos were never intended to be exhaustive, and there are countless people we would have loved to interview. For further information, please reach out to us at BurkePR@uw.edu

Who supported this project? 

On Our Terms was generously supported by the Hugh and Jane Ferguson Foundation and the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe.  

Participant Bios

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Eric Alipio

Eric Alipio (he/him) was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area to a Diné mother and a Filipino father. Eric arrived in Seattle, Washington in 2016 to attend the University of Washington, where he earned his BA in English and minor in Art History. Here, he began his journey in and fostered his passion for community building, community organizing, and social justice.  

Since graduation in 2020, Eric continued to work closely with the American Indian community in Seattle by working for a local Native-owned small business. In addition to this work, he continued to seek opportunities for involvement and artistic activism outside of his job. By 2023, Eric’s involvement includes work such as a featured author for local newspaper and local government, a selected design partner for major park renovation in Seattle, and a selected workgroup member for a regional government workgroup.

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Jessica Rubenacker

Jessica Rubenacker is currently the Director of Exhibits at the Wing Luke Museum where she and her team develop exhibits with community. She returned to the museum after managing the City of Redmond’s Arts Program. Jessica also teaches museum interpretation through the University of Washington Museology Graduate Program and serves as vice president of the Washington Museum Association Board. She identifies as mixed Filipina American and finds joy in tending to her houseplants and garden in the summer and sharing those plants with others.   

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Justice McNeeley

Justice McNeeley (she/her) is the Repatriation Coordinator and Assistant Registrar for the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. She is Iñupiaq and navigates her work through her lived experiences as a mixed Native, being of both Irish and Mexican ancestry as well. Justice has an academic background in indigenous archaeology and museum studies, with a focus on decolonization, indigenous sovereignties, and repatriation. She enjoys visiting her family in Alaska, being in community, and tasting food from around the world. 

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Mary Jane Topash

Mary Jane Topash (she/her), Tulalip Tribes, is the Assistant Director of Cultural Education Initiatives at the Burke Museum. She has a well-rounded approach to sharing Tribal history with lived experience, education, and professional work. She graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Anthropology and American Indian Studies and achieved her Master of Arts from from the University of Washington Bothell in Cultural Studies. Mary Jane has worked in informal education in the museum field for over 12 years, focusing on Coast Salish Tribal history. Her work focuses on decolonial practices, equity and inclusion, informal teaching, anti-stereotyping, and anti-appropriation. She served as co-chair to the Burke Museum’s Equity and Inclusion Committee for multiple terms and serves on UW’s Friends of the Educational Opportunity Board for the last five years. 

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Mercedes Luna

Mercedes Luna (Tlingit) is the Associate Director for Advancement at the University of Washington School of Nursing. In her work as a fundraiser, Mercedes is passionate about changing the field of philanthropy to create a more equitable and just future for the next generation. She most recently served as Director of Individual Giving at the Wing Luke Museum. In her role, she worked alongside Executive leadership to strategize, develop, and grow the museum's donor and community-centered fundraising and membership strategy. 

As a fourth-generation Seattleite, Yonsei (fourth-generation Japanese), Filipino American, and enrolled member of the Tlingit tribe, her mixed heritage fuels her, and she is proud to volunteer and support her local communities and cultural preservation efforts. Mercedes serves on the Board of Trustees of Look, Listen and Learn TV and on the Pulling Together Committee of Friends of Waterfront Seattle. 

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Muindi Fanuel Muindi

Muindi Fanuel Muindi is a performance artist, philosopher, and poet, with Lacustrine Bantu roots in the Montane Rift Forests in Eastern Congo and the Mara Wetlands in Tanzania. He is the author of six books of experimental poetry and prose. In his role as Senior Program Manager at the Office of Global Affairs at the University of Washington, Muindi launched the Worlds of Difference initiative and the Activating the Third University project — efforts to investigate, address, and redress the role that the global research universities play in the reproduction of global hierarchies of race, gender, class, and geography.

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Polly Olsen

Polly Olsen’s life passion and commitment is to bridge communities through educational opportunities, relationships/consultation, and research that focuses on improving the quality of life for underserved people. She is a proud Yakama Tribal member, and currently works at the Burke Museum as the Tribal Liaison and Director of DEAI and Decolonization. Her work is focused on creating healing partnerships through care and consideration. She is established within a network of beautiful Indigenous communities, academic institutions, government systems, and national organizations. Polly honors the traditional and cultural protocols while developing projects that will benefit tribal communities, workforce development, and leadership. 

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Rachael Gurwan Tamngin

Rachael Gurwan Tamngin began her journey at Burke Museum over a decade ago as an undergraduate student who was part of the Pacific Islander research group named Research Family that strives to build decolonial spaces within the Burke Museum. Rachael is from the village of Meruur in Yap, Federated States of Micronesia. She is currently a fourth-year graduate student at the University of Washington in the Sociocultural Anthropology PhD program and works as a research assistant at the Burke Museum within the Oceania cultural collections. Outside of the Burke Museum, Rachael works closely with Pacific Islander leaders and community organizations around health and well-being of Pacific Islanders in the greater Seattle area and in Micronesia. She aims to use her education to navigate institutions that are not readily accessible to Pacific Islander communities in order to provide more resources and opportunities.

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Roldy Aguero Ablao

Roldy Aguero Ablao is a queer mixed CHamoru artist and cultural practitioner from the island of Guåhan. He is inspired by the stories and myths of the Oceania, weaving in themes of memory and renewal as an underlying foundation for his practice. He began his career at the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience in Seattle, working in exhibitions and education and then sailed towards the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, creating on-site and digital experiences. Currently, Roldy is freelancing and utilizing his work to give back to his community through arts, education, performance, and drag. He has dabbled in various media — from photography, sculpture, floral design, paper arts, film, and fashion. 

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Ron Eng

Ron Eng is the Invertebrate Paleontology & Mineralogy Collections Manager at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. Ron has been at the Burke Museum for 32 years and has worked at university museums for more than 44 years. Prior to being at the Burke Museum, he was the Curatorial Associate in the Department of Invertebrate Paleontology of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University. Ron’s first museum position was Senior Museum Assistant in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology of the Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University. Ron is originally from Boston and grew up in Boston Chinatown. Ron enjoys exploring the mountains, forests and waterways of the Pacific Northwest, and has found this region to be an ideal place to raise his son and daughter.

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Sarah Gould

Sarah Gould (they/he/she) is a Two-Spirit poet and visual artist hailing from the Nez Perce Tribe and Yakama Nation. They recently earned their BA in English Creative Writing and American Indian Studies from the University of Washington. Growing up on the reservation, Sarah predominantly channels their lived experiences through written word, taking inspiration from elder storytellers and contemporary Native authors. Passionate about Native representation in literature and media, Sarah is an advocate for accurate portrayals of Indigenous characters as told by Indigenous voices. The myriad stories consistently overlooked and misrepresented motivate Sarah in uplifting these oppressed narratives.

As a Seattle resident, Sarah Gould has been invited to perform their poetry about being queer and Native for events hosted by Indigenize Productions. Other works of theirs have been heard at various Native youth conferences across Indian Country. Look forward to more poetry to be shared by Sarah in the coming months. 

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Davis Washines/Yellowash

Davis Washines/Yellowash (Yakama Nation), retired from law enforcement in 2014 after 30+ years of service, including three terms as Chief of Police for the Yakama Nation and after serving on the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. He has served on the Executive Board of the Yakama Tribal Council and on Yakama General Council as Executive Chairman. As a youth educator, he directed the Yakama Nation Youth Summer Camp for several years and was a paraprofessional and middle school guidance counselor for the Wapato School District, as well as a Yakama language instructor at the high school.

His current position is a Government Relations Liaison in the Yakama Nation DNR Fisheries Resource Program's Superfund Section. He is on the Board of Trustees for Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences and on the Native American Advisory Board as Vice-Chairman for the Burke Museum at the University of Washington. Yellowash is called upon in the tribal communities of the region to conduct traditional ceremonies because of his knowledge of his native language, culture, and oral traditional history of Native people, land, and natural resources. He also carries the Oglala Lakota name of "Yello-Wash-Tay" bestowed by a Lakota elder at Crazy Horse School, Pine Ridge, SD, in 1995 at a traditional gathering. 

Production Credits

Produced by Aaron McCanna and Timothy Kenney

Editing Assistance from Daniel Hickey

Production Assistance from Rowe Redick and Lora Starr

Project sponsored by the Snoqualmie Tribe and The Hugh and Jane Ferguson Foundation