Category Archives: colonialism

Decolonization Workshop – Unist’ot’en Camp 2014

Got Land? Thank an Indian

Karuk Ancestral Territory

Settler Colonialism and the White Settler in the Karuk Ancestral Territory

By Laura Hurwitz, Humboldt Journal of Social Relations (Issue #36, 2014) [PDF]


From the time of European invasion of what now constitutes the United States, the settler colonial system has aimed to exterminate Indigenous Peoples and replace them with settlers on the land. While settler colonialism benefi ts the settler at the cost of the Indigenous, all life on Earth suffers from the continuation of this system. This research examines how white settlers living in the Karuk Ancestral Territory, located in Humboldt County, California, understand our role in the settler colonial system. The goal of this study is to begin a collective pursuit of a white settler ethic of accountability, which is a difficult task even in preliminary stages, as it requires the admission of being a beneficiary of and acco mplice to the vicious system of settler colonialism. This could bring about the loss of an already fragile identity and an insecure settler future. Yet settler society has a responsibility to face our role in the settler colonial system.


This article is written from the perspective of a white settler. For nearly two decades, I have lived in the Karuk Ancestral Territory, situated on the Klamath River in Humboldt County, California. Many of the people currently living in this place, both Indigenous and settler alike, are interested in living a sustainable lifestyle and surviving amongst the environmental, social, political, and economic uncertainty of the times. Here some bridges have been built between Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents and a somewhat cordial coexistence exists; nevertheless, tensions do stem from a settler colonial system that benefits one group of people at the expense of another. The acute awareness among members of the Karuk tribe of displacement from their ancestral territory can be read on the T-shirt of one Karuk elder: “Got Land ? Thank an Indian!”

I came to live in the Karuk Ancestral Territory in search of a better life, one that was not destructive to, but rather more connected with land and life. I did not realize I was moving to a place where Indigenous Peoples had remained in their aboriginal territory and retained connection to their traditional way of life, in spite of European invasion. Neither had I considered that the neighborhood in which I grew up was also occupied Indigenous land. In fact, growing up, I largely thought a bout Native Americans as a “thing” of the past. I learned in school, on television, in movies, through the media, and from accepted social discourse that the original people of North America no longer existed. As a child, I had a thick cardboard book that depicted a ball, a book, and an “Indian” together on the “things” page . My indoctrination to view Indigenous Peoples as less than human began quite early. This is no accident, but rather part of the justification of the settler colonial system.

In the first section of this paper, I carry out a review of existing literature regarding settler colonialism, the settler, white privilege, and white supremacism. Next I discuss the methods used to conduct this research. Thirdly, I unpack white settler identity and how settlers comprehend their position within the settler colonial system, which manifests itself as a complicit settler subject in the Karuk Ancestral Territory. In the concluding segment, I outline some unsettling ideas and situate the white settler in the complicated conundrum within movements for decolonization.

This research seeks to find a starting place from which to collectively pursue a white settler ethic of accountability—a difficult task, even in preliminary stages, as it requires the admission of being a beneficiary of and an accomplice to the vicious system of settler colonialism, and could bring about the loss of an already fragile identity and an insecure settler future. Settler society has a responsibility to acknowledge our role in the settler colonial system.

Click here to read the full article [PDF]…

Big Day For The Struggle Against Ongoing Colonialism

Originally posted on Profane Existence:

by Comrade Black

Today has been a big day for those interested in or involved in Indigenous resistance and anti-colonial struggle. It is also a good reminder of how much work remains to be done.

In an interesting symbolic gesture, the city council of Vancouver voted to formally acknowledge that the land which the city is built on is stolen Indigenous lands that remain unceded. This means that no settlement or land treaties were ever made for the territories; and that the city council is now recognizing the Indigenous people have never given up their sovereignty to the land which Vancouver now occupies. In many respects while this move is only a symbolic gesture, many consider it an important first step down the road to ending colonialism. Yet the mayor of the city went out of his way to make it clear the gesture was entirely symbolic and “wouldn’t effect…

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Confronting Our Colonialism

This video was presented on the unceded territory of the Secwepemc Nation, at the Thompson Rivers University Undergrad Research Conference on March 28, 2014. This video was created for an assignment for an Anthropology class called “Canadian Status/Treaty Indian Reserve Communities.”

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Settler Colonialism Primer

decolonize inverse
By Laura Hurwitz & Shawn Bourque, Unsettling Klamath River Coyuntura

Colonialism and Settler Colonialism

Colonialism is a system that occupies and usurps labor/land/resources from one group of people for the benefit of another.  Colonialism is derived from the Latin word Colonia.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, in the Roman Empire, “Colonia” was a “ farm,” “landed estate,” or “settlement” granted to Roman soldiers in hostile or newly conquered territories.

There are different types of colonial projects.  Exploitation colonialism involves a small amount of colonists whose main objective is to profit from the colonies resources and exploit Indigenous labor, usual exported to the metropole or “mother city” (think of the British in India).  Plantation colonies utilize a mix of exploitation and settler colonialism in different regions and areas.  In settler colonialism land, not labor, is key.  In this system, Indigenous Peoples are literally replaced by settlers. As Patrick Wolfe puts it:

Land is life—or, at least, land is necessary for life. Thus contests for land can be—indeed, often are—contests for life.

Indigenous Peoples are erased through out right genocide, assimilation and interbreeding (including rape).  In this process, racialized categories become important for perpetuating the system (see “Racial Formulation” section below).
Settlers are also different from other colonizers in that they are there to stay, unlike in other colonial systems where the colonizer returns to their home country after profiting.  Here, the land itself is the profit.  Another important concept in understanding this system is the idea that in settler colonialism, “invasion is a structure not an event.”  This means that settler colonialism is not just a vicious thing of the past, such as the gold rush, but exists as long as settlers are living on appropriated land and thus exists today.

Who is a Settler?

“There are no good settlers . . . There are no bad settlers . . . There are settlers.”
–Corey Snelgrove

Anyone not Indigenous, living in a settler colonial situation is a settler.  Therefore all non-Indigenous people living in what is today called the “U.S.” are settlers living on stolen land.  Settlers do not all benefit equally from settler colonialism.  Many people were brought to settler states as slaves, indentured servants, refugees, etc.  Race and class largely prefigure which settlers benefit the most from usurped Indigenous homelands.  But as the Unsettling Minnesota Source Book proclaims, “it is all of our responsibilities as settlers, especially those of us who descended from European colonizers, to challenge the systems of domination from which we benefit.”

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Photo by Angela GzowskiEvery day, aboriginal culture is borrowed, copied, dressed up or watered down. Is that art? Or is it stealing? Appropriation, it turns out, is all about the attitude.

By Samia Madwar, Up Here

Last fall, two exhibits opened in Montreal, both centred on aboriginal themes. Beat Nation, a multimedia presentation by aboriginal artists who’d mixed hip-hop culture with their own iconography, opened at the Museum of Modern Art on October 16. The next day—purely by unfortunate coincidence—the Museum of Fine Arts boutique unveiled Inukt, a new product line featuring aboriginally-flavoured clothing, accessories and homewares.

Beat Nation was an unapologetic, boundary-crossing exploration of tradition and modernity, and largely a critical success. Inukt was a confused, haphazard jumble, and a public relations disaster.

Like its mock, made-up name, few of Inukt’s products bear any resemblance to Inuit art. This April, the website advertised everything from T-shirts and tote bags to throw pillows and arm-chairs, adorned with portraits of random Plains Indian chiefs, bought from an online stock image gallery. Other T-shirts feature west-coast imagery—though the items themselves have Anishinaabe names. And then there are the “Eskimo doll” key-chains, miniature versions of embarrassing kitsch holdovers from a less sensitive time, their survivors now scattered across dusty thrift store shelves around the country. “The cultural mishmash here hurts my head,” wrote Chelsea Vowel, a Montreal-based Métis blogger.

Click here to read the full article…


White Settlers and Indigenous Solidarity: Confronting White Supremacy, Answering Decolonial Alliances

Tlalli Yaotl:

“If white people who practice Indigenous solidarity miss, or never consider these nuances when invoking “settler” status, I am concerned that we then leave its whiteness normalized and unchallenged within our theories and activism. Reflecting on this has led me to a number of questions about how white people embracing the singular or uniform term “settler” may obscure differences among non-natives and reinforce our formation by white supremacy. For instance, if white people self-define through an oppressor role with respect to Indigenous people, does our emphasis on this let us evade naming our oppressor roles with respect to peoples of color? Or, if we think that these latter roles are subsumed or explained by the term “settler,” do our analyses and actions then demonstrate how this is so?”

Originally posted on Decolonization:

White settlers who seek solidarity with Indigenous challenges to settler colonialism must confront how white supremacy shapes settler colonialism, our solidarity, and our lives. As a white person working in Canada and the United States to challenge racism and colonialism (in queer / trans politics, and solidarity activism) I am concerned that white people might embrace Indigenous solidarity in ways that evade our responsibilities to people of color and to their calls upon us to challenge all forms of white supremacy. This essay presents my responsibilities to theories and practices of decolonization that connect Indigenous and racialized peoples. I highlight historical studies by Indigenous and critical race scholars — notably, those bridging black and Indigenous studies — as they illuminate deep interlockings of white supremacy and settler colonialism. I call white settlers to become responsible to these, and related projects, so as to challenge the authority we might claim, or…

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Support Decolonizing Street Art! Anticolonial Street Artists Convergence

Decolonizing Street Art: Anticolonial Street Artists Convergence will take place in Montreal in August 2014. DSA aura lieu à Montréal en août 2014.

To support the convergence by donating, click here.

Decolonizing street art: Anti-colonial street artists convergence will take place at the end of august 2014. This project fosters the idea of bringing together street artists of indigenous and settler origins and build an artistic community of shared anticolonial values. The convergence will promote a type of street art that advocates the decolonization of Turtle Island and will remind the montrealers of the city’s colonial history. The artists, living across Canada and the USA, already focus part of their work on issues related to indigenous resistance such as environmental struggles against pipelines and mining and justice for missing and murdered native women.

Decolonizing street art : Anti-colonial street artists convergence will organize its activities around two different axes. The first artistic axe will bring together the street artists to create art pieces in the streets of Montreal. The works will differ in medium, subject and relationship to the public sphere. The second community axe will foster the idea of creating spaces to discuss political issues related to colonialism between the participants and organisms devoted to the urban native community of Montreal. There should also be activities specifically designed to involve the indigenous youth.

Le projet Decolonizing street art : Anti-colonial street artists convergence aura lieu à la fin du mois d’août 2014. Ce projet s’inscrit dans l’idée de réunir des artistes de rue autochtones et non-autochtones alliés afin de bâtir une communauté d’artistes partageant les mêmes valeurs anticoloniales. Il s’agit de représenter un art de la rue politique qui revendique un processus de décolonisation de nos relations sur l’Ile de la Tortue et qui permet de rappeler à la population montréalaise que cette ville s’est construite sur le territoire volé et non cédé de la Nation Kanien’keha :ka. Les démarches artistiques de ces artistes résidant au Canada et aux États-Unis s’articulent pour la plupart autour de l’activisme et abordent des thématiques de résistance autochtone comme les questions de territoires, les pipelines ou encore les femmes autochtones disparues et assassinées.

Decolonizing street art : Anti-colonial street artists convergence se développera autour de deux volets, soit un volet artistique et un volet communautaire. Le volet artistique comprendra les rencontres et les collaborations entre les artistes qui réaliseront différentes œuvres dans des lieux de la ville (murales, wheatpaste, etc).

Quant au volet communautaire, il prendra la forme de discussions et d’actions artistiques entre les artistes et des groupes communautaires qui viennent en aide aux communautés autochtones de la région montréalaise. Un travail de médiation culturelle avec des jeunes des centres jeunesses autochtones sera aussi développé. Il s’agira donc d’établir des liens de solidarité entre artistes provenant de différents milieux du street art et des regroupements communautaires locales.

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Pas D’Allies, Des Complices – “Accomplices Not Allies” now translated into Québécois French



Par Indigenous Action Media (4 mai 2014)
See original article in English
Traduction Christine Prat

Un point de vue et une provocation Autochtones

Cette provocation a pour but d’intervenir dans certaines tensions actuelles relatives au travail de solidarité/soutien, vu que les trajectoires actuelles sont contre-libératrices, de mon point de vue. Remerciements à DS à Phoenix pour les échanges qui ont conduit à ce pamphlet et à tous ceux qui ont fait des commentaires, posé des questions, exprimé des désaccords. N’imaginez pas que ceci s’adresse aux « jeunes alliés blancs de la classe moyenne », mais seulement aux activistes payés, aux organisations à but non lucratif, ou, comme l’a dit un ami, aux « anarchistes et étudiants à la mobilité tirant vers le bas. » Il y a beaucoup de soi-disant « alliés » dans la lutte pour les droits des migrants qui soutiennent la « réforme complète de l’immigration » qui intensifie la militarisation de territoires Autochtones.

Le complexe industriel de la ‘solidarité’ a été édifié par des activistes dont la carrière dépend des ‘problèmes’ auxquels ils travaillent. Ces capitalistes à but non lucratif font avancer leurs carrières au dépend des luttes qu’ils soutiennent ostensiblement. Ils travaillent souvent sous couvert de ‘la base’ ou de ‘la communauté’ et ne sont pas nécessairement liés à une organisation.
Ils construisent un pouvoir ou des capacités organisationnels ou individuels, et s’établissent confortablement au sommet de leur hiérarchie de l’oppression en s’efforçant de devenir les alliés ‘vedettes’ de la majorité des opprimés. Tandis que l’exploitation de la solidarité et du soutien n’est pas nouvelle, la marchandisation et l’exploitation de l’ ‘solidarité’ est une tendance montante dans l’industrie du militantisme.

Quiconque s’implique dans les luttes contre l’oppression et pour la libération collective a, à un moment ou à un autre, participé à des ateliers, lu des manifestes ou pris part à de profondes discussions sur comment être un ‘bon’ allié. Vous pouvez maintenant payer des centaines de dollars pour aller dans des instituts ésotériques vous procurer un certificat d’allié anti-oppression. Vous pouvez participer à des ateliers et recevoir un badge d’allié. Pour faire de la lutte une marchandise, il faut d’abord l’objectiver. C’est révélé par la façon dont les ‘problèmes’ sont ‘présentés’ et ‘étiquetés’. Quand la lutte est une marchandise, la ‘solidarité’ est une monnaie d’échange.

Etre un allié est aussi devenu une identité désincarnée, hors de toute compréhension ou soutien réels. Le terme ‘allié’ est devenu inefficace et vide de sens.

Complices, pas alliés
Nom : complice ; pluriel : complices
Une personne qui en aide une autre à commettre un crime.

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Decolonizing Street Art – Anti-Colonial Street Artists Convergence

Montréal, unceded territory
august 2014

Decolonizing street art: Anti-colonial street artists convergence fosters the idea of bringing together street artists of indigenous and settler origins and build an artistic community of shared anticolonial values. The convergence will promote a type of street art that advocates the decolonization of Turtle Island and will remind the montrealers of the city’s colonial history.

Le projet Decolonizing street art : Anti-colonial street artists convergence s’inscrit dans l’idée de réunir des artistes de rue autochtones et non-autochtones alliés afin de bâtir une communauté d’artistes partageant les mêmes valeurs anticoloniales. Il s’agit de représenter un art de la rue politique qui revendique un processus de décolonisation de nos relations sur l’Ile de la Tortue et qui permet de rappeler à la population montréalaise que cette ville s’est construite sur le territoire volé et non cédé.