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Decolonization: A Resource for Indigenous Solidarity

Decolonization is not a metaphor.

We cannot separate decolonization from Indigenous resistance and sovereignty, the interconnection between humans and nature, and our responsibility to maintain stewardship and relationship with the land.

Movement toward decolonization and Indigenization includes:

  • Literally Locate Yourself

We must Locate ourselves in relationship and responsibility to:

  • The lands and waters we exist on, and from, and with.

  • The Original, living Indigenous peoples that belong to those lands.

  • Our impact on the natural environment, ecosystems, and lives of Indigenous wildlife.

  • The ancestors of the lands we are on, including people, plants, animals, minerals, waters...

Here's how:

1) Ask yourself, who are the Indigenous peoples that belong to, and have always been responsible for the Lands:

  • You were born on

  • You live on

  • You work on

  • You vacation/play on

An excellent resource for learning whose territories you are in:

2) Concern yourself with these questions:

  • What is their hxstory?

  • What languages do they speak?

  • What are their cultural practices and protocols?

  • How am I complicit in, and/or responsible for their dispossession, displacement, disenfranchisement, and oppression due to settler colonialism?

  • What are my responsibilities, and what is expected of me by sovereign Indigenous Nations as a settler or displaced Indigenous visitor/guest/settler on the lands that they belong to, and that I am occupying?

  • What are the needs of the environment, wildlife, and ecosystems here?

  • How does my presence and lifestyle impact all of the above, and what do I need to do better?

3) If this is the first time you are thinking about this, ask yourself why? What might have led to not knowing? How does the colonial system support your ignorance, and what has caused you to not consider it.

"Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn't fit in with the core belief."

- Frantz Fanon

"Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn't fit in with the core belief."                                                    - Frantz Fanon

4) Learn what actions can you take to ensure that others, especially young people can know the answers, as well as how to ask more questions like these?

  • Learn Indigenous hxstories, current events, and realities

Colonialism has not ended. Hxstory is written by the oppressor.

Seek and accept the truth. No - the actual truth.

Let go of colonial attachments to Knowing and Being Right, commit to learning and humility.

"Neocolonialism in the form of resource extraction, state-funded control of Indigenous communities, lack of recognition of traditional leadership and governance systems, lack of support from settler communities when corporations work hand in hand with government"

- Melina Laboucan Massimo - Redx

  • Follow Indigenous media and artists

Consider Indigenous perspectives on every issue.​

Spend time learning online and at the library, and attend public Indigenous-led events, performances, art shows, readings, panels, and rallies (etc.)

Note: If you are in the u.s., follow canadian media too because we have much more thorough Indigenous coverage.

Remember colonialism affects Indigenous people across constructed, settler borders.

  • Privately and publicly acknowledge the first two points.

But beware of performativity.

Back it up with action and make it meaningful by:

  • seeking actual permission to be there, to practice your trade, art, religious event (etc), or to hold your event from the local Nations

If you on treaty territory, know what the treaty agreements are and respect them.

Do it when you are speaking, posting, publishing, meeting, or holding events or ceremony. Put it in your bio and your email signature. Do it on vacation, do it at work, do it when you are with your family, or with friends, especially those who “don’t want to hear it”.

Remember that what ever burden you are taking on in vocalizing these realities, is a photocopy, of a photocopy, of a photocopy of the burden Indigenous people have been carrying since first contact.

  • Believe and respect Indigenous perspectives and ways of knowing and doing

Modern science is often just catching up to Indigenous knowledge.

Indigenous ways of knowing are deep, and ancient, and current, and relevant, and accurate, and most often, very, very different than ways and practices that colonizers and colonized thinkers know how to expect or respect.

Indigenous peoples have always:

  • eaten organic and cruelty free

  • been zero waste

  • practiced mindfulness and meditation

  • known women and sacred life givers are boss

  • understood gender way beyond any binarized construction

  • lifted two spirit people up in sacred and venerated roles

  • practiced disability justice and body sovereignty

  • known that melanin, or lack there of it, had no inherent value one way or the other (other than protection from the sun)

  • had complex social and political structures

  • practiced universal health care

  • known how to use natural medicine

  • understood and practiced mathematics and science including chemistry, physics, astronomy, medicine, midwifery, biology, including botany, ecology, zoology...

  • as well as intricate and masterful methods of engineering, design, construction, nautical and land navigation, farming and agriculture, leadership, philosophy, psychology, art, music, dance, theatre, creation, spirituality and the sacred, sport and athleticism...

  • and the list goes on and on...

For thousands of years Indigenous firekeepers have regularly set small brush fires to renew growth and clear brush and create natural fireguards. In early/mid twentieth century, these practices were outlawed, paving the way for the massive mega-fires that are now becoming a yearly inevitability as soon as the hot weather sets in. Today, settler science is starting to catch up with Indigenous knowledge far too long after massive damage is already been done. Settlers are only now beginning to find “evidence” that land craves fire, and “forests have to be burnt to regenerate.”

Indigenous people have known for millennia that we are responsible for healing the traumas of our ancestors, (seven generations before us, and for setting the foundation for the seven generations to come). And only now does settler science understand that we inherit our grandmother’s trauma in our DNA.

Indigenous people know that smudging with sage smoke cleanses and strengthens us, and settler science now confirms that smudging literally kills bacteria in the air.

Indigenous people have always known that trees communicate with one another, and now botanists are proving that fir and birch trees communicate carbon levels and environmental changes to one another via a vast fungal web beneath the surface of the ground, even sending chemical resources to one another when something in the environment is blocking that resource.

  • Socially Locate Yourself

We must Socially Locate ourselves in relationship and responsibility to:

  • Our own ancestry, heritage, appearance, experiences, and complex, intersecting identities, penalties, and privileges particularly in this case with regard to the colonial project and to Indigenous nationhood.

  • Our impact on the lives of Indigenous peoples, flora, and fauna in the places where our existence has an impact, which is essentially everywhere on Mother Earth, especially if you are located on Turtle Island, which is an Indigenous name for what is colonially known as North America

  • And our impact on the lives of one another

This includes actively acknowledging your complicity in settler colonialism.

Who is a Settler? Are People of Colour settlers too?

“A 'settler' is someone whose culture/traditions do not originate in and are not embedded in the land upon which they live.

To be 'colonial' is to displace or remove the culture/traditions that are Indigenous to the land that one lives on or uses. One can be a settler without being colonial. One can be colonial without being a settler.”

  • Gerry Oleman St'at'imc Nation from Tsal'alh (Shalalth B.C.), Cultural Elder and Facilitator.

  • Unsettle Settler Colonialism

Indigenous land rights; settler reparations.

Post-colonial myth: settler colonial societies do not stop being colonial when political allegiance to the founding metropole is severed.

This section is largely taken from Global Social Theory:

1. Settler colonizers “come to stay”:

  • Settler colonizers intend permanent occupation and assertion of sovereignty over Indigenous lands.

  • If you are on Turtle island, and you are not Indigenous, your presence here is contributing to, and benefitting from the colonial project.

2. Invasion is a structure, not an event, know that you are part of the long term structure:

  • Persists in the ongoing elimination of Indigenous populations.

  • Asserts state sovereignty and juridical control over their land.

3. Seeks its own Imaginary end. Don't get carried away by the Imaginary:

  • Aims to appear to have ended colonial power differentials in the form of a supreme and unchallenged settler state and people.

  • This is not a drive to decolonize, but rather an attempt to eliminate the challenges posed by Indigenous peoples’ claims to land by eliminating Indigenous peoples themselves and asserting false narratives and structures of settler belonging.

via - Global Social Theory

  • Practice integrity, courage, empathy

Decolonization takes courage. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the commitment to face our fear in order to do the thing anyway.

  • It takes the courage of Indigenous peoples to defend the lands, the waters, our cultures, our languages, our relations, and our very lives.

  • And it takes the courage of settlers to not only be honest about the ways they continue to perpetuate, benefit and profit from the settler colonial state, but to also confront and resist Empire by rejecting the dominance paradigm and respecting and following the leadership of Indigenous Nations that have been the stewards of these lands since time immemorial.

  • Unsettle Yourself

Learn the Indigenous and pre-colonial histories of your own ancestors

  • ​Learn and practice your ancestral cultures and ways if you can

  • Learn your ancestral languages if you can. No matter how much or how little you know, your ancestors will hear you. Language affects how we think, and changes our neural pathways

  • Address Guilt and Shame

Instead of guilt, access the outrage that you too have been manipulated for so long that you are only now learning about the ways you benefit from these oppressive systems.

Don't act out of guilt, don't wallow in shame. Instead, practice honesty, vulnerability, and compassion for yourself, and for others.

Seek connection, not isolation.

Remember that shame is a deliberate tool of colonial institutions and it serves to make us feel disconnected, disempowered and alone.

Instead of shame, access the courage to be honest about your mistakes and transgressions.

- Artwork by Ricardo Levins Morales

“If you have come to help me you are wasting our time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

  • This popular quote was crafted by a group of Aboriginal rights activists from Queensland, Australia in the 1970s. It is often attributed to Lila Watson, a member of the group, who insists that it was a collective endeavor. - via Ricardo Levins Morales

  • Reevaluate your values. Unlearn colonial ways of thinking and doing

Unconscious biases are based on learned value systems.

Values = unconscious ideas, attitudes assumptions and beliefs to which strong feelings are attached, and which influence our behaviour.

Values are the operation of decision making.

We tend to make decisions toward what we value, and away from what we don’t value.

Where do our values come from? What influences them?

Family, background, education, environment, spiritual or religious orientation, identity – inherited, chosen, and enforced, and exposure to other cultures, stories, and identities. If you live in a settler colonial state, your values and biases are pretty inevitably influenced by settler colonialism.

This slide from Karen Lincoln Michel's article, Maslow's Hierarchy Connected to Blackfoot Beliefs shows basic differences between Western and First Nations perspectives, as presented by University of Alberta professor Cathy Blackstock at the 2014 conference of the National Indian Child Welfare Association.

Colonialism relies on binaries for control, and thus, Indigenized values are inherently placed at odds with colonial values. Nuance threatens the systematization of identity and experience that colonialism heavily relies on in order to objectify all that is deemed Other.

Colonial vs Indigenous

Hierarchy vs Consensus

Individual vs Community