Category Archives: Decolonization & Unsettling

Decolonizing the Mind: Healing Through Neurodecolonization and Mindfulness

A Talk by Dr. Michael Yellow Bird

Author, educator, medical social worker and citizen of the Arikara (Sahnish) and Hidatsa Nations in North Dakota, Michael Yellow Bird, MSW, Ph.D. works with indigenous communities, teaching about healing the trauma of colonialism. On January 24, 2014 he spoke about his experiences at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon, sharing his ideas about how to do go about doing this through techniques of mindfulness, thought and behavior which he refers to as neurodecolonization.

George Orwell pointed out those who control the language also control the people. In January 2010 KTIV News reported the death of one of the few remaining elders who still speak the Arikara language, Maude Starr.

Coming together: reclaiming memory and reconciling identity

Memorial in Algeria commemorates the struggle for independence against France. However, today, the Algerian government has adopted many of the ways of its former French colonizers. (Flickr/Asian Media)

By, Waging Nonviolence

Yesterday, thousands of youth boycotted the presidential elections in Algeria in protest of the likely success of an ailing president who is now in office for his fourth term. But ultimately, the roots of the protests ran much deeper: state institutions that uphold the status quo, an economy too reliant on oil exports, and the lack of economic and employment opportunities for the younger generations. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s National Liberation Front, which won the election even amongst rumors of fraud and the president’s own poor health, was once a political party that claimed liberation. Now, it has adopted many of the ways of the colonialist empire.

For me, a woman of color whose family, native to Algeria, left for France and later for the United States, the political state of Algeria is a reality that is complicated to sit with — and one that reminds me of the nuances of building a truly liberatory multiracial movement.

Sometimes I think it’s a miracle that my people have survived long enough to birth me. For years, imperialism and capitalism have attempted to exterminate us through colonization, militarism and forced economic development. Even as Algeria forced out the European settlers, decolonized our lands, and gained independence in July 1962, the dominant culture attempted to do away with our traditional heritage. The media demonized our people, casting all Arabs as dirty and dangerous. Imperialist nations have benefited just as much from colonialism and the theft of our lands as they have from the indoctrination of our minds through the erasure of our ancient ways, memories, traditions and cultures.

What my own history has taught me, as a person born at the intersections of colonized and settler culture, is that in today’s world being a person of color is complex. Our identities go beyond skin color or ethnicity, because the systems within which we exist and the oppressions they perpetuate are complex.

The complexities that have been used for generations to divide communities of color now also shed light on the journey ahead and begin to answer the questions of how we liberate our minds and how we begin the process of coming together. The mainstream culture has pitted our people against one another and left us fighting for crumbs from the master’s table. As people of color, we need to unite to fight back, whatever our class, gender or ethnicity may be. From there, we can genuinely talk about building a multiracial movement that includes those who’ve been on the margins for generations.

Click here to read the full article…

Post Colonialism?

Tlalli Yaotl:

The challenge around whiteness and decolonization is this: no matter how much people of european heritage decolonize ourselves into more “traditional” identities and relationships, white privilege and euro-centrism remain dominant paradigms – especially in so-called “america”.

Indigenous people and other people of color see that we still privilege from this system of white supremacy. In fact, because of white privilege, it is very possible that our movements of decolonization will be heard “louder” or given more emphasis than those of Native people on their own lands. This injustice will only create more hard feelings, and we must find the complicated path of remaining true to our own healing without further marginalizing others.”

Originally posted on Awakening the Horse People:

We must avoid a decolonization that feeds the white savior complex, and instead choose decolonization that dismantles whiteness altogether.

We must avoid a decolonization that feeds the white savior complex, and instead choose decolonization that dismantles whiteness altogether.

Since the recent Anti-Colonial Anarchism or Decolonization poster went viral I’ve been privileged, as the poster’s maker, to take part in several conversations it has provoked.  In multiple instances, I’ve seen statements from euro-american people who don’t like being called “white” and imagine a “post colonial” or “post decolonized” future.

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Anti-Colonial Anarchism vs Decolonization

Tlalli Yaotl:

From Awakening the Horse People:

“Recognizing many of the settlers engaging in this resistance identify as anarchists or dwell on an anti-colonial anarchist fringe, we ask you to consider how the pursuit of an anti-colonial consciousness can still allow settler moves to innocence – diversions and distractions that relieve settlers of feelings of guilt while concealing the need to give up land, power, and privilege.

When anti-colonial action is complete, there is no guarantee that the settler has learned any more about who he is, or where he comes from. The inner work to heal the spirit from historic traumas that allow and perpetuate colonization may not be engaged.

Decolonization creates the possibility for the settler to become something more – to heal Indigenous identity, story, and spirit and deconstruct the very source of colonizing thought.”

Originally posted on Awakening the Horse People:

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Many forms of resistance to colonialism and empire are necessary and important, and this poster should not be interpreted as dissuading those forms of solidarity and resistance. Nor should anti-colonial consciousness and decolonization be thought of as mutually exclusive forms of action.  They often co-exist as “named” movements side by side. This poster seeks to point out that they may not be equivalent, and there are some critical differences between the two.

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Why the term ‘settler’ needs to stick

By and , The Martlet

This semester, I’ve heard at least one person express their love for this land and their discomfort with the term “settler.” This individual did not see how the term applied to their situation and found it divisive and hurtful. They chalked up conflicts within indigenous-settler solidarity efforts to simple differences in cultures and worldviews.

The latter statement is fundamentally connected to the speaker’s discomfort with the term “settler.”

Simplifying these conflicts ignores and hides the ongoing colonial power dynamics that shape indigenous-settler relationships. This logic frames colonialism as historic, rather than an ongoing structure.

This is why the term “settler” is used: to denaturalize our — that is, all non-indigenous peoples’ — status on this land, to force colonialism into the forefront of our consciousness, to cause discomfort and force a reckoning with our inherited colonial status, to create the understanding and desire to embrace, demand and effect change.

“Settler” is a political and relational term describing our contemporary relationship to colonialism. It is not a racial signifier. Rather, it is a non-homogenous, spatial term signifying the fact that colonial settlement has never ceased. Colonial settlement is ongoing and it will remain so as long as we continue our implicit consent by remaining willfully oblivious to, or worse, actively and consciously defending, colonial power relations.

Dispossession, disconnection and destruction is the story of Canada. But it doesn’t have to be our future.

If we don’t acknowledge and understand our settler status, how will we work together, in solidarity and in practice, for a better future?

Of course, being called a settler or self-identifying as a settler doesn’t mean we understand this relationship — perhaps we never will fully understand the extent of it. Nor is it an end in itself. Unsettling is a longer and larger-than-life process involving the emotional, psychological and mental, but more importantly, the material.

We have inherited “settler” status because the structures of colonial domination remain to benefit us, whether you are first or eleventh generation on these lands (though these benefits flow unequally amongst us). Understanding this is the first step in creating new relationships based on peace and mutual respect — the first move towards producing the conditions for solidarity.

But this is only the first step.

The Nature and Centrality of Settler Colonialism in the U.S.

From De-Colonize L.A.

It’s impossible to understand the nature of the social, political and economic system in the United States without grasping the settler colonial nature of the state and society. The USA is and always has been an empire. Although European settlers and their descendants are the most privileged within the Empire, it is vital to remember that in an Empire, there are no citizens, only subjects.

Imperial privilege is one of a number of enforcement and compliance mechanisms for social control; those who are privileged have no rights, only privileges that can be revoked for disobedience, insufficient loyalty, identification with the oppressed, and other transgressions.

The basis of colonialism, particularly settler colonialism, and thus of racism, white supremacy and white-skin privilege, is the conquest of land and people. The US system in its entirety is built and based on the stolen lands of indigenous people, and the imposition of a system of private property in land, the demarcation of property lines, which laid the basis for the imperial state and the national borders.

Click here to read more…

Burn the Mission Down

missionBy Corine Fairbanks, American Indian Movement Southern California

Many people outside of California are not aware that in the fourth grade, the curriculum includes studying the California Mission System.  Little 4th graders run to the nearest Arts & Crafts store (Michael’s sells them in particular), to buy a styrofoam mission kit, that the student puts together and presents to the class.  The project is designed to teach about California history, quickly and inaccurately, educate about California Native Nations, and the relationship they had with the missions.  However, according to Alvin M. Josephy in his book 500 Nations, the history of the California tribes “was as close to genocide as any tribal people had faced, or would face, on the North American continent”.

In public schools, history books might skim over the fact that “Indians” were forced into labor. Rarely do they go into further detail as to how the Missions rivaled even the most horrific of concentration camps of fascist Germany. Professor of American Studies, David Stannard, states in his book American Holocaust  that Franciscan missions in California were known to be like “furnaces of death”.  Had the Padres been able to build a gas chamber, who is to say if they wouldn’t have gassed Natives that refused to meet building quotas, and those who revolted against the Padres, the Spanish military and the Colonizers?

A Franciscan missionary named Father Junipero Serra led a Spanish army up from Mexico and reached present-day San Diego to build the first mission in 1769.  It was Serra who built the first of 21 missions that eventually stretched from the southern tip of the Baja California to Sonoma, just north of San Francisco.  Missions, often built near presidios (military outposts), helped the surrounding pueblos to steal and develop pristine land.  Slave labor would then in turn exploit and export natural resources.

Spanish soldiers kidnapped Indians by the thousands. They were given Spanish names, dressed in blue uniforms, forced into slavery to build the missions and to work in the surrounding farms or pueblos, in which the church was generously compensated. They also were forced to care for livestock, tanned hides, and produced candles, bricks, tiles, shoes, saddles, soap and other necessities.

Many Native families have kept record of what life was like living in the missions by way oral history.  The missions imprisoned Natives in cramped quarters, with poor ventilation and bad sanitation, which encouraged the spread of disease.  Native Peoples were fed “gruel” and not allowed to hunt fish or gather their traditional foods.  The People were not allowed to speak their own language, sing, pray or practice ceremonies, nor were they able to keep their families intact. Children were separated from parents and housed in different quarters.  It was common for women and children to be raped and kept as sex slaves.  In her 2010 essay, “Rape is the Weapon, Story is the Cure,”   Professor Deborah Miranda (Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation), argues “that California Indian women still have not healed from the tragedy of Missionization, colonization, and the violence it inflicted on our bodies”.

“Escapees” were hunted down tortured (often branded like livestock), mutilated and killed to deter others from attempting the same.

“I think everyone, historians and Indians alike, agree that Missionization was a disaster for the Indians:  our estimated population numbers went from about one million to 15,000 in just under 200 years.  We lost almost all of our land, all of our natural resources (that provided food and shelter), many of us lost our language, religion, and communities.  Can you imagine if 8 out of every 10 people you know died from being taken over by another group of people who showed up in your town?  Diseases from Euro-Americans did so much damage that we almost didn’t survive.



The hardest part was losing our homelands.  The Missions made us move into the Missions, and sixty-five years later when the missions closed down, all of our land was taken by other non-Indian people, so we had nowhere to go, no way to feed ourselves.  Mexicans used Indians as free labor – for a meal and a place to sleep, Indians worked almost like slaves for the Mexican Ranchos.

The average baby born in a California mission only lived to be 7 or 8 years old; some disease or other would kill them.  Also, because of a Euro-American disease called syphilis, many Indian men and women could no longer have babies, so there were no new kids to replace the people who died.  Every time an old person died, it was like an entire library of knowledge, history and stories burned down.” —Dr. Deborah Miranda, Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation.

Beginning in 1775, many of the mission Indians began to revolt. Some 800 Ipai and Tipai Indians burned down the San Diego mission that year. The revolt was brutally put down by the Spanish soldiers, as were all of the revolts.  The revolt of San Gabriel Mission in 1785, was co-lead by a woman named Toypurina.  She was known to be a medicine woman and respected leader.  When she was caught, at her trial she was recorded as having said, “I hate the padres and all of you, for living here on my native soil, for trespassing upon the land of my forefathers and despoiling our tribal domains.”  Rebellions and uprisings were not unusual.  Another famous rebellion occurred at the Missions of Santa Inés, Mission Santa Barbara, and Mission La Purisima, known as the Chumash Revolt of 1824 .

Some people have argued that schools have lacked accurate educational materials and tools to teach about this period of time.  We argue that it is intentional. The way the curriculum is constructed in schools, it is part of a larger picture to invalidate and erase Indigenous existence. Rarely are Native people asked to participate and recount their history, unless it will evoke warm and fuzzy feelings, and reinforce the lies that the United States and Indian wars were one huge misunderstanding, a sorta, “you say, potato, I say patatoe,” kinda thing.  Where the Colonizers have been able to rewrite history, Hollywood fills in the blanks with technicolor stereotypes and myths.

“…non-Indian people had to convince us we were something other than what we were.  To kill our ancestors and take our lands, they had to define us a something less than human.  To colonize or exterminate a people you must first define them as a weed.  You must transform them from a person to a pestilence.  Once objectified, they can be killed without thought or remorse.  But this process is even more insidious…

Non Indian invaders created a caricature of the Indian.  They described us so often and so consistently over generations that we began to believe the lies ourselves and act in harmony with this view.  A lie told a thousand times often becomes the truth to those who tell it, to those who hear it, and to even those that the lie is about.” —Don Coyhis, Mohican Nation

Elementary Schools and the insistence to keep the Mission project in the curriculum nurture lies that the colonizers were benevolent father figures that came here by divine direction and divine right.  It primes school age children to keep swallowing lies that have roots with the Papal Bulls of the 15th century, which gave Christian explorers the right to claim any land that was not inhabited by Christians, to be “discovered”, claimed, and exploited.   The wounds of “historical trauma” are kept open and festering by not teaching about the REAL histories of these missions, and the atrocities that took place here on the west coast.

“Most importantly, it is about making connections between what happened THEN with the current conditions of California Indians (economic, educational, psychological, legal).  How many of the history books have you read actually do that?  or prepare students to think about these connections in their future?  How many texts used in the classroom contain the voices of California Indians?  How many texts teach children that Missionization was not good for Indians in any way, shape or form – not now, not then, not ever – and yet, the ideology behind Missionization continues to harm contemporary California Indians and the non-Indian children who grow up to be adults with no clue about that?

Southern California is covered in faux-Mission style buildings, red tile rooftops, tourist destinations that celebrate the Missions as cultural and civilizing successes.  The culture itself is deeply damaged by myths that celebrate Spanish/Mexican rule and thereby denigrate Native Californian lives and culture.  There is very little information available to the general public that even begins to question that mythology, let alone refute it.  This affects the efforts of Native Californians alive today in a multitude of damaging and negative ways.”  —Dr. Deborah Miranda, Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation

So if your fourth grader is instructed to build one of these styrofoam monstrosities, AIM Southern California offers a few suggestions to replace the current requirement:

1) Negotiate with teacher to have your child interview a California Native Tribal member- documenting oral history, past and present….(often these school lessons foster the myth that California Native people no longer exist. California Native people are hardly ever discussed in present tense, or if they are, the word “Casino” is often in the same sentence, and no, not all California Native Nations have casinos).

2) If Teacher is not willing to substitute lesson plan for above suggestion, and the student ABSOLUTELY has to build a styrofoam California “concentration camp,” then construct one that exhibits slave labor practices, horrible living conditions, and tortured women and children. Use fake blood to sprinkle about to represent the massive bloodshed that Padres and Spanish military perpetuated together and finally, be sure to include the mass graves sites that dead Natives were carelessly chucked into by the Padres.

3) After completing the mission project, invite family and friends over, and under adult supervision, (with plenty of water on hand) take a match and torch it! Celebrate the completion of this horrific assignment that has probably triggered “post traumatic stress disorder” like symptoms for your entire family. Please take pictures of your burning down the mission or better yet, YouTube it, so that we can all enjoy the spectacle!

Misssions and the California Mission system should not be regarded as a symbol of a golden era in California’s history. Missions should be regarded for what they were, as death camps- where people were enslaved, tortured and murdered.

-Corine Fairbanks
American Indian Movement
Southern California

(copywrite c.fairbanks 2014)

Reflections on the “Decolonization and Anarchism” Panel at the 2014 Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair

From Kurukshetra:

A few weeks ago was the annual Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair, which hosted a series of panels and workshops on various topics related to anarchism, anti-state and anti-capitalist organizing, and so on.  One of the panels was titled “Decolonization and Anarchism”, and whose purpose was to investigate the intersection of the decolonization struggle with the anarchist movement in the Bay Area.

What was noteworthy in and of itself was that the six panelists were all people of color–a rare event given that anarchism in the Bay Area seems (on the surface at least) to be dominated by White people.  I don’t think I remember ever attending an event related to anarchism in the Bay Area that was lead entirely by people of color.  The audience was also very large–at least a hundred people, if not more.

In general, the panel–which went on for about an hour and a half–was less about investigating the rigorous theoretical connections between decolonization and anarchism, than it was about the individual panelists talking about their own personal perspectives and experiences as revolutionary people of color.  There wasn’t much discussion about the practical steps around synthesizing the current anarchist movement with the theory and practice of decolonization that communities of color in the Bay are already engaging in, which was a bit disappointing; but it was still nice to hear something about the intersection, and the personal opinions of dedicated revolutionaries (even if the discussion was, in general, rather unstructured and somewhat scattered).

I want to emphasize that this reflection is heavily biased by my own preconceptions, and my own limited ability to take notes.  I took notes on what was interesting to me, and there are definitely subjects and issues that were brought up that I do not discuss here.  I might also mix up who said what, or even if certain arguments were said in the first place.  There is also a chance that I misinterpreted what was said–a consequence of both my own biases, as well as the unstructured and personal nature of the panel.

Ecological Limits and Indigenous-Diaspora Solidarity

The first person to talk was a man named Bryan.  He didn’t say much; he talked about how he personally was very interested in discussing and theorizing about the intersection of anarchism and decolonization, but also raised the question of whether there is an intersection in the first place, and the idea that perhaps anarchism was actually irrelevant to the decolonial struggle.

What really caught my interest was when he touched upon the idea that the ecological crisis is, in some ways, the ultimate limit of capitalism, and how this limit needs to be intimately tied with the struggle of indigenous peoples for their sovereignty and well-being.  He mentioned the connections between the struggles of First Nations in Canada against tar sands extraction, and the struggles of people in Richmond against the Chevron oil refinery.  I really appreciated this point, because the anti-carbon struggle in the Bay Area is something I have been investing a lot of energy into, and I really want to see more involvement of the radical community in this struggle (I’ve written a background piece about the nature of the oil industry in the Bay here, and a piece on the way that the struggle constitutes an anti-colonial struggle here).

Bryan also used the struggle in Richmond as a way to elaborate on the need for there to be more solidarity work between indigenous people, and people of the diaspora (immigrants).  There is a natural anti-colonial axis on which this solidarity could revolve around; both indigenous peoples, and people of the diaspora (especially Latin American and South-East Asian peoples) have suffered excessive amounts of violence at the hands of US colonialism and imperialism (and capitalism in general), and thus it makes sense for there to be closer solidarity work between the two groups of people.

But in addition, it was argued that ultimately the diaspora should be following the example and fulfilling the needs of indigenous people first, due to the fact that in the end, this land is their land.  I have mixed feelings about this idea; on one hand, of course we of the diaspora should be engaged in the struggle of indigenous people–but at the same time, we should recognize the very fluid nature of what constitutes indigeneity.  The Ohlone people–the nation which lived in what is now known as the Bay Area–are undeniably the original occupants of the region.  But what about the Mexican peoples who came in during the 17th and 18th century–who themselves tend to be a mix of Spanish and indigenous Central American descent?   And does the fact that Latin America in general is an irreversible result of Spanish imperial conquest render all Latin Americans in the United States as “diaspora” rather than “indigenous”?  And just to be clear, this isn’t to invalidate the idea of privileging indigenous struggle–just that the term “indigenous” is a term that is arguably fluid and confusing, and deserves much more discussion around.

I am personally very interested in seeing more collaboration between the diaspora and indigenous peoples.  I’m of South Asian descent, so I’m very clearly part of the diaspora; and I definitely see a strong parallel between the experiences of indigenous peoples in the Americas facing off against American colonialism, and the experience of South Asians under British occupation.  I see strong parallels between the cultural and linguistic dynamics of the two regions; both have incredibly diverse religious and cultural traditions, a wide variety of languages and dialectics, and general diversity within their own populations.  Indeed, it is arguably still a mistake to homogenize the two regions’ populations under the term “indigenous American” or “South Asian”, given the vast differences in internal history, politics, and practices.  But of course, the parallels have limits; while tens of millions of South Asians were killed under the British Raj, the devastation does not come close to the violence and destruction that resulted from the European invasion of the Americas.

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Death of Empire: Decolonizing Feminism(s)

Originally posted on Shades of Silence:

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Death of Empire:

Decolonizing Feminism(s)

By: Poesia

From our births, we are destined to be muxeristas–cultural carriers for the survival of our people(s). We came out of war zones and rebellions where self-defense is our decolonial methodologies. Descendants of fire-breathers and healers, children of the sun, seventh generation walking amongst the dead, we reflect our ancestors’ war chants as we face the future. With Circle A black & brown flags, drums and a conch, we lead the long walk out of 520 years of darkness and into sunrise. Their empire decays as we give light to the night.

From ashes to fire in each colorful stroke, out of a black hole I came, given breath in Zihuatanejo (Cihuatlán): Guerrero within the colonial nation-state of Mexico, alone I came into this world the same way I will go: bleeding, screaming and gasping to breathe light on the same earth walked…

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Veganism in the Occupied Territories: Anti-Colonialism and Animal Liberation

Originally posted on Dylan Powell:

Photo of a dead bird from the 2013 Tar Sands Healing Walk. Credit: Unknown

Photo of a dead bird from the 2013 Tar Sands Healing Walk. Credit: Unknown

Background

I’ve written about 50 versions of this in my head. An original working title was called “Guest Ethics: Veganism in the Occupied Territories.” I liked it for a while but then realized that talking about developing a “guest ethic” for settlers would be a problem. I decided on something that continued to place veganism on Turtle Island as being on occupied territory, while also presenting anti-colonialism and animal liberation as two distinct and important streams of theory and praxis that could potentially have over lapping and intersecting interests.

Aside from thinking about this issue, I’ve been living my experience as a settler raised on the Haldimand Tract since 1984. Born and raised in Port Maitland, On – where the mouth of the Grand River meets Lake Erie – I was made aware of that from…

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