Can We Recognize?

Awakening the Horse People

wehaveancestorsposterRecognition. Awareness. Attention. For so many people of European heritage, the process of decolonization begins with the deep recognition of some powerful understandings.

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5 responses to “Can We Recognize?

  1. While I appreciate your ideas, I feel as if your ideas, Awakening the Horse People, are taking up too much space here. I went to a workshop led by you or one of you recently and found it problematic in that it, like these blog posts, suggested that people of european descent should prioritize connecting to their ancestry before focusing on joining current struggles against ongoing colonization of extant indigenous peoples.

    Firstly, this prioritization of one action over another seems to set up a hierarchical framework for looking at decolonization, which itself is hypocritical since, as you say and I agree, it is all connected. Not to mention, to prioritize something that people of european descent can do one their own time is to de-prioritize the voices/requests of indigenous peoples. Recovering/reinventing indigenousness is not the same as being an ally. People of european descent cannot claim to be allies to indigenous peoples by somehow turning themselves into one. In fact, allyship is not theirs (ours) to claim at all. Wouldn’t it be nice if that were the case, but it’s not! To me, the suggestions of the workshop and these blog posts seem myopic.

    Please, leave room on this blog for the voices of people who are not of (indigenous) european descent. While I do appreciate many aspects of your analysis, I’ve seen 3 posts in a week from you here and I liked how this was a space that seemed to prioritize (currently?) indigenous voices. Thank you!

    • Perhaps Ana (Naomi) will respond to this, but I wanted to say that I am the one who has been reposting these texts, so I will address your concerns regarding space. Granted, the last two posts were reposted from Awakening the Horse People, but in reality, only 3 of 192 posts on this blog have come from that source. (As you point out, all three posts from this source have been rather recently, and this is because the project is very new, and thus far features very little actual material.) A handful of others have featured work by the same person, and there have been various other posts featuring non-indigenous/settler voices regarding decolonization. But by far, indigenous voices have been given priority and amplification here. However, that is also in part due to the lack of such material from non-indigenous voices, as the blog was established with the clear intention of exploring what decolonization from below looks like for all people, including settlers. Regardless, I acknowledge your call-out, and will make a greater effort to balance voices when reposting here. Thank you.

      (Also, as the only currently active admin on this blog, I am always looking for other folks who want to plug in and contribute. So if you’re interested in directly helping me balance the voices here, let me know and I can create a contributor account so you can log in and post! It’s an honor system, meaning if someone infiltrates and abuses they’ll just be removed. I also might make minor edits to posts, but only to correct blatant mistakes or make the formatting neater.)

  2. Thank you. I’m grateful for the feedback and discussion.

    I don’t think it’s problematic at all to suggest that people of european heritage emphasize their own decolonization before seeking out allyship in ongoing resistance struggles of Indigenous peoples. There are a few reasons I hold this belief.

    It is my understanding that much of the colonization in the world exists precisely because people of european heritage have lost their sense of Indigenous place and lifeway. We have forgotten what it means to be part of a living circle of life connected to a place. This forgetting, and the trauma that goes with it, seeks validation by spreading its misery far and wide. At the same time it reveals the key to its healing – and that is decolonization.

    Having worked closely as a decolonizing white sister within Indigenous resistance struggles for the last eight years, I continue to see the same issues of white privelege, white ‘know better’, cultural appropriation, romanticism, and emotional/spiritual instability that are so common within a “white experience.” And I speak of looking in within myself as well – not just at others. I’ve seen these issues of whiteness repeatedly create problems, cause or enflame division, dissuade Indigenous support, and then run away when trouble arises. Emphasizing decolonization for allies of european heritage seems completely consistent with trying to reduce the issues of whiteness within Indigenous solidarity action.

    It is not Indigenous people’s responsibility to correct us on our shit, it is our responsibility to work on our own shit before coming into Indigenous spaces. We will bring enough problematic behavior as it is – it seems to be the ultimate act of solidarity to try and resolve some of these problematic behaviors before coming into (often) enflamed or sensitive spaces of Indigenous resistance.

    There is another issue I would like to examine as well – and that is that people of european heritage should subsume or depriortize their own healing and reconnection to our places and lifeway because *some* Indigenous people have requested our support. While some Indigenous people might be saying this exclusively, I’ve also often heard Indigenous people ask us to decolonize and find healing within our selves – and I’ve experienced alot of very positive feedback from Native folks about these movements to decolonize.

    I’m hearing you are concerned that people will focus solely on shallow decolonization or reinvention or indigenous identity instead of being authentic allies in resistance. I respect that, and share the same concern. But I also believe that emphasizing decolonization for people of european descent actually INCREASES the number of people willing and able to be effective allies to Indigenous peoples. It becomes natural to seek allyship with Indigenous people once we gain an even greater understanding of what colonization has destroyed and seeks to erase completely – because we can start to understand this deep loss and trauma from our own sense of loss. We were once Indigenous people too – we just have a couple of thousands of years of our own colonization to heal and reconcile.

    I would like to pose a question to juju: do you believe people of european descent can reconnect to their ancestors and lifeways of place? Do you think its even possible?

    In my experience, not only is decolonization and reconnection to our places and lifeways possible and alive – but its necessary. I have the same deeply felt desire to see healing within my own people as I do within the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island or anywhere else. I don’t believe that view is myopic, I believe its caring.

    For me, I am building to a time when I can return to my home place and try to reawaken the lifeways and undestandings my ancestors once lived in beauty and love. The reconnection and wholeness such acts can create are just as profound and effective in confronting colonization as any other. I believe all acts of authentic resistance and healing are needed.

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. I will answer the questions you asked me, but first I want to say that this discussion may bring up a distinction I had never heard/thought of before. Some friends of mine recently attended a panel at “A Fire at the Mountain: Anti-Colonial & Anarchist Bookfair” out of which it became clear that some people are beginning to make the distinction between “Decolonizing” and “Anti-Colonization” work or some variation on those two prefixes; “de-” indicating the type of work that you are talking about (self-healing and reconnection to our places and life-ways); “anti-” being the kind of external actions led by indigenous people, sometimes requesting/requiring non-indigenous people’s support. While I am not much into categorization, I found it useful to make the distinction as I continue to try to figure out my relationship to anti/decolonization. (Similarly, thank you for emphasizing ‘*some* indigenous people’. I find it very useful to leave room for other possibilities and view points by being careful with language as you have been.)

      I’ll respond to the questions now. Thank you for asking them.

      “Do you believe people of european descent can reconnect to their ancestors and lifeways of place? Do you think its even possible?”

      I don’t know. I certainly believe it is important for me to connect to the earth and to all of human history, to heal and be empowered by this. I believe it is possible to do that much and it helps me decolonize myself I suppose. But me, I am such a mutt! Most of my ancestors come from what are now so called Germany, England, Scotland, France, Austria, but who knows where else before there and them. I also have ancestors from Turtle Island who were from the Seminole, Creek, and Cherokee nations. I know you reconnected to a part of what is now called France. Your suggestions leave me wondering which part of the earth am I to reconnect to decolonize myself? I am confused how I pick and chose which part of the earth and human history is MY ancestors. And for people who have no access to their family tree? Maybe you can answer these question, have some advice for this, or can help me understand your message.

      All of this place-lessness, I feel affected by the oppression and colonization everywhere. But as it affects my life very indirectly (I have much more access to resources and can more easily sail the coercive seas of western civilization than many people), I currently prioritize taking the advice and leadership of people who are more directly affected. Yes, I am affected by ongoing colonization, but no, I don’t think reconnecting to my indigenous ancestry is the most important way to bring about change.

      Anyway, thank you so much for your response and input. I think your opinion is a very interesting one and I am intrigued to continue thinking about all of these ideas. I don’t know if I will continue to think of your expressed view as myopic, but nevertheless this discussion is definitely broadening my perspective. Thank you!

      • juju, another layer of that anti-/de- distinction is that anti-colonialism combats the ongoing as well as historical legacies of colonialism whereas decolonization seeks to actually reverse those effects rather than just resist the continuation of their legacies. thus all decolonization is anti-colonial but not all anti-colonialism is decolonization. hope that makes sense.

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