Indigenous Peoples and the Politics of Water

Call for Submissions for a special issue of Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society:

“…we seek contributions that foreground critical historical, theoretical, and empirical approaches to understanding the politics of water. We contend that struggles over water figure centrally in salient concerns about self-determination, sovereignty, nationhood, autonomy, resistance, survival, and futurity that drive Indigenous political and intellectual work. In recent history, we have seen water assume a distinct and prominent role in Indigenous political formations. Recent examples range from the August 2015 Gold King Mine Spill, which dumped over three million gallons of toxic waste into the San Juan River and devastated Navajo farming communities in the northern part of the Navajo Nation to the continuing water struggles in California, and the water security issues that face First Nations peoples dealing with resource extraction in Canada. Indigenous peoples around the world are forced to formulate innovative and powerful responses to the contamination, exploitation, and theft of water, even as they are silenced or dismissed by genocidal schemes reproduced through legal, corporate, state, and academic means.

We also recognize that the politics of water is deeply intertwined with contemporary water security and policy issues that affect both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples around the world. The responses and efforts to control water in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities have been consistently designed to serve the imperatives of settler colonialism. Indigenous analyses of these global issues in water politics are key–whether at grassroots, institutional, or governmental levels– to challenging, refusing, and revising the violence of such imperatives and building a better future.

This special issue stages a timely intervention into this urgent state of affairs, focusing on how water is taken up in fields of power conditioned by settler colonialism, normative Indigenous nationalisms, (neo)liberalism, Indigenous resistance, and capitalism. As an undisciplinary, open access journal dedicated to material struggles for decolonization, Decolonization is uniquely positioned for convening a collection of articles concerned with the invigoration of efforts to decolonize the genocidal politics of water. We seek contributions that address the politics of water in any number of diverse historical, political, tribal, or regional contexts. We also seek a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds, including environmental science, social justice, policy, literary, grassroots, activist, historical, and artistic approaches. However, we seek contributions that are characteristically rich in theory, research, critique, and analysis. Whether articulated through a politics of refusal, a critique of water law, or engagement with Indigenous epistemologies, we also seek contributions that advance a sustained and critical engagement with the idea and practice of decolonization. While you may choose to employ existing decolonial frameworks in your manuscript, we also welcome arguments that challenge the appropriateness of decolonization as a framework for understanding/interpreting water politics. Given the dearth of critical writings about this subject, we envision this issue as a landmark source for critical Indigenous perspectives on water that will generate vibrant discussion well into the future. Join us!”


Download a shareable PDF of this Call for Submissions here:

The Politics of Water- Special Issue – Decolonization

Title: Indigenous Peoples and The Politics of Water

Editors: Melanie K. Yazzie (University of New Mexico) and Dr. Cutcha Risling Baldy (San Diego State University)

Abstracts Due: April 4, 2016

Submissions Due: August 31, 2016


Call for Submissions


[Feb 3, 2016] Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society invites articles from scholars, artists, activists, policy makers, and community members for a special issue of the journal exploring Indigenous peoples and the politics of water. Water is an ancient and sacred element of Indigenous epistemologies and ways of life. Water sustains, builds and inspires. In the contemporary context climate change, water security, and environmental destruction have captivated popular attention. A proliferation of scholarly and public works, as well as (inter)governmental working groups and summits, have emerged to address these interrelated issues. We acknowledge…

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Settlers in the Land: Decolonising Permaculture

David Pritchett explores how we can ‘read’ the cultural landscape and become more educated about the ‘invisible structures’ that exclude people from the land and from the wider permaculture movement.

“I am a settler in this land, too,” Randy says. We are sitting in a talking circle on the back porch of the farmhouse of Edith and Randy Woodley. This is the beginning of a day-long workshop on forest gardening at the Woodley’s 4-acre homestead. Before I taught about forest garden theory and practice, Randy insisted that we first talk about how we as people relate to the land. I’m glad he did.

Randy is a legal descendent of the Keetoowah Cherokee, while Edith, his wife, is a member of the Eastern Shoshone tribe. They both take their heritage seriously, and with equal gravity they recognize that the land on which they live and make a living belongs to the Kalapuya. When they purchased the homestead in disrepair, the first thing they did was visit the elders of the Grande Ronde, a reservation that is now the living place of many tribes of the Pacific Northwest dispossessed of their homelands. They asked how they could honor the Kalapuya people: “Plant huckleberries,” the elder said. And they did. Since then, Edith and Randy have worked hard to restore the farm, using permaculture principles and techniques as they learned, as well as growing vegetables and medicinal herbs with the methods of their own people.

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(De)Constructing Knowledge: Decolonization is not a metaphor

We Are Theorists highlights that marginalized people are experts in their own experience. Theory creates frameworks used to examine and explain social phenomena. Theory does not need to be inaccessible and use heavy academic jargon. It does not need to have been created by aging white male scholars to be legitimate knowledge production. Indeed, the lived experiences and reflections of marginalized people on their own oppression and worlds is theory in and of itself. If you would like to contribute a piece to We Are Theorists, please email

By Abaki Beck, POC Online Classroom

In order to further engage with the resources, the second Tuesday each month we’ll “deconstruct” one of the texts featured on POC Online Classroom. This month, we’re looking at Decolonization is not a metaphor by Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang.

Wait! Before we start, let’s quickly define “settler-colonialism,” since it is used frequently in this article. Unlike other forms of colonialism, settler-colonialism is when colonists come not only to exploit resources and people, but to stay and “create” a new nation. This makes decolonial practices in the United States and other settler-colonial nations unique, because the colonists will never leave and there will be no “post-colonial” United States. Patrick Wolfe, a well known settler-colonial theorist, argues that settler-colonialism is not a historic “event” (as we typically think of colonialism), but is instead a structure. Its violences permeate every aspect of American culture and politics.

To summarize the text in thirteen words: Land was taken, so decolonization does not occur until that land is returned. But what does it mean to do the work of decolonization? Does it mean centering indigenous knowledge or ways of being? How can land be “given back” in a settler-colonial nation, in which the settlers aren’t going anywhere? In this piece,Tuck and Yang address an issue that they see within discussions of decolonization: that it is often relegated to the metaphorical realm, enabling settlers to “move to innocence”.

For Tuck and Yang, decolonization is not just about privileging indigenous ideologies (see “decolonize our schools” and other expressions), it is quite literally about returning land and restoring indigenous relationships to that land. As they say, “critical consciousness does not translate into action that disrupts settler colonialism” (19). That is, even if an indigenous person is empowered, they are still in a “subordinate” position in a settler-society. More must be done than simply ensuring that indigenous people are “equal” within a society that thrives economically off of land stolen from them. This does not mean returning to “how things were” or attempting to rewrite history, but giving indigenous people agency and control over their homelands. Of course, many may argue that in a place like the United States this is not possible or even necessarily desirable. The authors emphasize that decolonization must be uncomfortable and indeed “unsettling.”

However, both white people and people of color can make “moves to innocence” that decenter indigenous peoples in these struggles and erase them in settler society, making decolonization even more difficult to attain. For white settlers, this often takes the form of “becoming” native (lowercase n). For example, it is a well known phenomena for settlers to claim indigenous heritage even if they do not have a familial or community connection (please see white people who are descended from “Cherokee royalty”). In addition, white people being adopted by/into Native American tribes is a common trope in U.S. literary history (please see Dances with Wolves or the Last of the Mohicans). Both of these work to erase actual indigenous people, instead replacing them with settlers who are somehow more “deserving” of being native than Natives are. This wanting to become and replace the Native is a very different racial construction in the U.S. than blackness. Because historically black people were property in the U.S., the authors argue that blackness is expansive, which brought about the historical “one drop rule.” Indigenous people in settler societies, however, are not “valuable” in the same way – in fact, they are a barrier to settlers access to land and thus must disappear.The erasure of indigenous people was/is both physical (through warfare, allotment, boarding schools, and other policies) and social (through adoption fantasies, settlers claiming Native heritage, etc.).

Because of these distinct racial formations, struggles for black versus indigenous racial justice movements cannot and should not be collapsed, or the specific marginalization of each community may be overlooked. The authors note that this often occurs in social justice settings, in which decolonization is placed under the umbrella of social justice or racial justice, even if the unique marginalization of indigenous people is not specifically addressed. This allows racial justice activists to “move to innocence;” to claim inclusivity even while they refuse to address their own privilege as settlers. Similarly, non-indigenous people of color can be complicit in settler-colonial structures of power. The authors note that people of color often express the need to “decolonize their minds,” even if they are not indigenous people. Tuck and Yang call this “colonial equivocation.” Colonial equivocation enables people of color to remove themselves from the position of settler, a position of power and dominance in U.S. society. As the authors note, “for many people of color, becoming a subordinate settler is an option even when becoming white is not” (18). They argue that diluting the word “colonization” by using it as a replacement for any kind of racial oppression works to further erase indigenous people.

As this text expresses, there is a lot of work to be done to decolonize the U.S. Though this piece is an obviously “academic” text, to me it is just as much about theory as it is about how to be an ally in decolonial struggles. It would be remiss of me not to mention that I did not agree with everything I read in the article. Even as an indigenous person who thinks myself to be very liberal, some points made by the authors made me slightly uncomfortable and seemed too “extreme” (I will not elaborate to allow readers to form their own opinions). However, I want to sit in this discomfort. This work will be challenging for indigenous people as much as it is for settlers and non-indigenous people of color. Because indigenous peoples and histories are so often left out and erased from school curriculum, policies, and other measurements of “existence” in U.S. society, work to decolonize and bring justice for indigenous peoples must be proactive, and in many ways, confrontational. By addressing some of the “moves to innocence” that Tuck and Yang discuss, decolonization becomes less daunting. When our society begins to recognize the worth, rights, and power of indigenous people, granting them the ability to control their lands and destiny becomes a more accessible idea, and perhaps even realistic.

Land Education

Kate McCoy is Associate Professor of Educational Foundations and affiliated faculty of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at SUNY New Paltz, NY, USA. Her scholarship focuses on qualitative research methods and representation, cultural studies of addiction and drug use, and historical and contemporary uses of drug-crop agriculture in colonial processes.  Eve Tuck is Associate Professor at the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada. Her scholarship focuses on the ethics of social science research and educational research, Indigenous social and political thought, decolonizing research methodologies and theories of change, and the consequences of neoliberal accountability policies on school completion.  Marcia McKenzie is Associate Professor of Educational Foundations and Director of the Sustainability Education Research Institute at University of Saskatchewan, Canada. Her scholarship focuses on the intersections of environment and education, educational policy and practice, youth identity and place, and the politics of social science research.Rethinking Pedagogies of Place from Indigenous, Postcolonial, and Decolonizing Perspectives

Edited by Kate McCoy, Eve Tuck, Marcia McKenzie

© 2016 – Routledge

This important book on Land Education offers critical analysis of the paths forward for education on Indigenous land. This analysis discusses the necessity of centring historical and current contexts of colonization in education on and in relation to land. In addition, contributors explore the intersections of environmentalism and Indigenous rights, in part inspired by the realisation that the specifics of geography and community matter for how environmental education can be engaged.

This edited volume suggests how place-based pedagogies can respond to issues of colonialism and Indigenous sovereignty. Through dynamic new empirical and conceptual studies, international contributors examine settler colonialism, Indigenous cosmologies, Indigenous land rights, and language as key aspects of Land Education. The book invites readers to rethink ‘pedagogies of place’ from various Indigenous, postcolonial, and decolonizing perspectives. This book was originally published as a special issue of Environmental Education Research.

Decolonising the English Language


Bad writers, and especially scientific, political, and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones.

– George Orwell, Politics and the English Language

Altho English is a Germanic language, only 26% of English words come from the proto-Germanic tongue. About 60% are from Romance languages, half being French and half being Latin. Many of these words are used in scientific, legal, aristocratic, or militaristic contexts.

The most widely-spoken language in the world is English, as seen in almost all fields of human behaviour, such as technology, politics, education, law, and mass media. How widely a language is spoken is a sign of the power of its native speakers. After the British Empire set English as the common language among the colonies, it became the world’s leading language of law, education, and commerce. In later years, American dominance in economics, trade, science and technology, transportation, and…

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Towards an Understanding of Cultural Appropriation in Rewilding

Rewild Or DieFrom Rewilding with Peter Michael Bauer

Dear White Rewilders,

I’m white too. Clearly. No hiding that fact. I have pale skin, blue eyes, and a lot of facial hair. If you are reading this, you are probably white too, as this letter is addressed to you, and the majority of the rewilding community is, at the time of this writing, white. While I (and maybe you) don’t identify as a white imperialist, or identify with “whiteness” at all, I live in a culture of white imperialism and I receive all the benefits of living as a white male in a white imperialist culture. As a white rewilder, I have often been accused of cultural appropriation by both Native and Non-Native people alike. Some of these accusations have been true and some false. The more I learn about appropriation, the more respectful and learned I have become. Rewilding is so important to me, and to our future, that I want to do whatever I can to create deeper connections between Native people and Non-Native people as we rewild. I’ve traversed this road for a while now and learned some things that can help us all work together more effectively. This is an open letter about cultural appropriation, how to avoid it, educate yourself on it, and learn from other cultures in a sincere and respectful way that will create collaborative partnerships. This isn’t a definitive guide. This is an intro to a never-ending conversation about this topic that we need to be having regularly.

[For those randomly reading this: Rewilding is a subcultural movement of people returning to, or attempting to re-create, pre-industrial, pre-agrarian cultures and lifeways of hunter-gatherers and/or horticultural societies. Rewilding takes inspiration from the most modern interpretations of prehistory provided by anthropology, archaeology, and ethnobiology. It is an anti-civilization critique that encourages the un-doing of empire and the culture of occupation. We believe that civilization (not to be conflated with civil societies) is inherently destructive, has caused the sixth mass extinction, and is currently in a state of long-term collapse. We are a niche within a niche within a niche. Here in the Americas, the dominant, popular culture continues to rob and mine Native Americans for everything they can, while continuing to treat them like they no longer exist, or only exist as historical stereotypes. It makes sense then, that if we want to rewild, to create sustainable cultures, to reclaim the inherent indigenousity that exists within everyone, that we need to create understanding between rewilders and the Native cultures that have lived here in this way for time immemorial. Most importantly we need to tread lightly and learn how to be respectful, and mutually beneficial as we rewild.]

I should make it clear right out that I am not speaking for Native people. I’m speaking along side them, and sharing what I have heard and learned from close friends and strangers alike. Native people speak for themselves, if you listen. However, they do get tired of having these conversations over and over again, so I thought I would address them from what I understand. Also, I’ve been told that white people tend to listen to other white people so it’s important for us to talk to each other about these issues as well.

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From Truth Telling to Land Return: 4 Ways White People Can Work for Indigenous Justice

By , Everyday Feminism

It’s important that when talking about Indigenous justice, we talk in specifics because of how colonization has impacted different Indigenous people in varied ways.

This article will focus on the context of colonization in what we now refer to as the United States, and it is informed by the activism and expertise of one Dakota person, Waziyatawin, Ph.D.

Thus, while there are surely ways that this article can inform activism outside of this context, it should be understood to be limited in this way.

In their seminal work linking Critical Race Theory to education entitled Toward a Critical Race Theory of Education, Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings and Dr. William F. Tate, IV explain how the United States is founded fundamentally on property rights rather than human rights.

If human rights were central to the constitution (rather than property rights), it would have been far more difficult for European colonists to continually legally justify slavery, genocide, and the theft of virtually every acre of land in North America.

Thus, the mark of success in the US constitutional system is ownership of property. Whether we’re talking abstract “assets” like stock, the ownership of people, or ownership of land, the longest-running “smart investment” for those legally and financially able to access it, property, drives wealth and prosperity in the US and most Western, capitalist societies.

As a result, any conversation about Indigenous justice threatens the positionality of all settlers — non-Indigenous people — because, in the words of Dr. Wazayatawin, “[W]ithin Indigenous worldviews, land is life. Colonization, in its fundamental sense, involved disconnecting [Indigenous people] from our homelands (so our homelands could be occupied by settlers instead).”

And in my experience, any time we start talking about land return or reparations, White folks (those settlers like myself for whom this property-based system was built) collectively freak out.

If we’re going to talk about what justice actually can and must look like, we have to start talking about the decentering of settler identities and people and about the recentering of Indigenous people and struggle — no matter how uncomfortable that may make us.

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Decolonizing Beauty: Revitalizing Internal and External forms of Indigenous Attraction



            Throughout Indigenous Feminisms courses, my participation was continuing my process of decolonizing. Although there were no specific articles in my reseaerch on Indigenous Beauty, I decided to write about this topic purely because Indigenous Beauty has been interpreted and presented throughout the course in many frames. Through Indigenous forms of beauty arrive factors that are external but more importantly, internal; a form in which it is not always tangible nor is it always universally uniformed to one community over another. Although beauty within the English language acknowledges that beauty contains various properties outside of a universal physical standard [1], the use of the English language cannot describe the way in which the definitions of attraction are empowering to individuals and groups because of intrigue and pleasure of its presence.

One of the most important words of resurgence used in the English language is “Decolonize”. In…

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Counter Columbus, Confront Colonialism, Capitalism & Climate Crisis

v28 n4 OCT-DEC 2015 frontBy Michael Novick, Anti-Racist Action-Los Angeles/People Against Racist Terror (ARA-LA/PART)

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the US Civil War and the triumph of incipient industrial capitalism over earlier, deeply-rooted mercantile and slave-based and land-based forms of capitalism. It set the stage for what is coming to be known as the “Anthropocene.” This is a period of bio-geological development in which human activity is shaping the atmospheric, oceanic and planetary ecological systems in ways that the pre-existing natural systems can no longer contain or accommodate. The consequences of the ensuing 15 decades of intensive exploitation of carbon-based energy resources for warfare, agribusiness, industrial production, and transportation are becoming increasingly undeniable.

We are facing a climatological catastrophe, global mass extinctions, and a possibly irreversible environmental transformation that will mark the end of the 10,000 year period, the Holocene, during which human civilization, based on agriculture, has developed. Global warming, ocean acidification, melting of polar ice, sea level rise, extreme weather events including super-storms, floods and droughts, may soon make the planet unrecognizable, and possibly uninhabitable for humans and thousands of other species whose physical evolution and life cycles cannot keep pace with these transformations.

It behooves us, if we have any hope of staving off such calamities, or of surviving them if and as they occur, to analyze the roots of the social, political and economic behaviors and practices that have brought them about. We must also understand and undo the reasons for the failures of previous efforts to transform human society.

To do so, we must look further back in time, first to the birth of capitalism as a particular form of class society and of exploitation of nature and of humanity within nature, further into the beginnings of history and class society, and then into the entirety of the geological and biological development of earth including the emergence of our species. Doing that in a page or so of this newspaper, 2000 words, is an ambitious goal, so bear with me if what follows is particularly dense. It is also, though I begin by quoting Marx, not going to be the typical “Marxist” presentation of what purports to be class analysis or dialectical and historical materialism, because that has proven insufficient.

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Enacting solidarity between displaced and dispossessed peoples: resistance-through-art in the prairies


by Zoe Todd

In recent weeks, Mi’kmaq leader Stephen Augustine has called upon Canada to open up its doors to refugees fleeing violence in Syria. According to the Cape Breton Post, Augustine urged a crowd at a pro-refugee rally to acknowledge the model that the Mi’kmaq set when refugees and immigrants came to the Maritimes over a period of hundreds of years. Augustine reminded the crowd that refugees, “need to come to North America and we need to welcome them in the way that Aboriginal People welcomed people to eastern Canada and to Canada in general.” And, as my friend Leila Sidi pointed out to me this week, Harsha Walia articulated, in a public Facebook post, the ongoing solidarity between Indigenous peoples here in Canada and those fleeing violence abroad. Heeding Augustine’s call to ‘open our doors’, and acknowledging the solidarity between Indigenous peoples and refugees that Walia…

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