Category Archives: colonialism

Colonization and the shadow of belonging

By Chris Corrigan

The great shadow of North American history I think is that settlers know deep down that we don’t belong here. The idea of “settling” the west was predicated on the continent being cleansed of its original inhabitants. This happened in a number of ways. There was outright murder perpetuated by war, disease and neglect. There were treaties which ripped people from their territories and bound the loyalties of indigenous people to the Crown rather than their own laws. There was the residential school system which had as its goal the “education” and “civilization” of indigenous children such that they would no longer be indigenous, which resulted in hundreds of thousands being torn from their families and raised by many abusive and unwell priests, nuns, administrators, social workers, nurses, doctors, coaches and teachers.

It seems everywhere settlers ventured on this continent, they have left unsettled peoples, lands, animal populations and communities. The devastation of indigenous population over 500 years and including to the present day through the loss of lands, language, autonomy, self-governance, dignity, health and resources has been rightly called genocide, and documented as such in the last decades’ inquiries into residential school legacies and missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. There has been a deliberation erasure of peoples here, which made possible economies that have resulted in some of the monetarily richest people in human history living some of the most prosperous lives humans have ever lived.

And I think deep down, every knows that it was gained on the backs of genocide.

So that has some bearing on whether settlers can even feel at home here. And I think that unresolved cognitive dissonance – maybe deeper, maybe a soul dissonance – perpetuates inhumane level of violence towards people, land and community. On this continent the world’s mightiest military power has taken root, supported by the world’s mightiest economic engine and spread death and exploitation around the world.

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On Police Abolition: Decolonization Is The Only Way

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By Cameron Crowder, via Hood Communist

The United States is a project of both anti-Blackness and racial-colonial power. From the founding of this white supremacist settler-colonial state, Black people have endured 250 years of slavery, ninety years of Jim Crow, sixty years of “separate but equal” legal doctrine, and thirty-five years of explicitly anti-Black housing laws among other insidious forms of de jure and de facto racial discrimination. The racial capitalist state and its policing functionaries employ state violence as a means of containing and controlling the working-class, especially racialized and colonized domestic peripheries. The late political prisoner and revolutionary ancestor George Jackson (1971, p. 99) writes the following:

The purpose of the chief repressive institutions within the totalitarian capitalist state is clearly to discourage and prohibit certain activity, and the prohibitions are aimed at very distinctly defined sectors of the class- and race-sensitized society. The ultimate expression of law is not order—it’s prison. There are hundreds upon hundreds of prisons, thousands upon thousands of laws, yet there is no social order, no social peace. …Bourgeois law protects property relations and not social relationships.

The United States is a punitive carceral state with 25 percent of the world’s population behind bars despite comprising only 5 percent of the world’s population (Collier, 2014, p. 56; Hayes, 2017, p. 17). The American criminal so-called “justice” system holds almost 2.3 million people in 1,833 state prisons, 110 federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile prisons, 3,134 local jails, 218 immigration detention facilities, and 80 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. settler-colonies (Sawyer & Wagner, 2020). U.S. incarceration is disproportionately racialized, targeting Black and brown people who represent 60 percent of the incarcerated (Marable, 2015). If Black and Latino people were incarcerated at the same rate as whites, their imprisoned and jailed populations would decline by almost 40 percent (NAACP, 2019). The problems are not rooted in crime but policing itself which constructs, (re)produces, and institutes white supremacy and anti-Blackness through racial capitalism. The police have been waging asymmetric domestic warfare on Black people, encircling, and capturing their prospects for self-determination and self-actualization. From the Greensboro Massacre of 1979 to the murder of Marcus Deon Smith of 2018 to the murder of George Floyd in 2020, the only solution for Black liberation is abolishing the police and freeing what is essentially a semi-colony of peripheral peoples.

This essay has five sections. This first section discusses the problems of policing. The second section explains the history of U.S. policing and its development. The third section lays out the failure of liberal reforms to grapple with policing as an institution. The fourth section argues the case for police abolition. The last section concludes.

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Post-Apocalyptic Theatre on Native Land

A tombstone labeled "Dead American Theatre" on the dirt in front of blue curtains. Various signs are on the curtains and vegetation is behind them.
Illustration by Silent Fox, inspired by the essay.

By Vera Starbard (Tlingit/Dena’ina), via HowlRound Theatre Commons at Emerson College

In the Tlingit culture, there is a philosophy that everything has its time. When a totem pole decays you do not expend a lot of effort restoring and putting it back up; you let it fall, and it goes back to the earth it came from. A person’s legacy is only as old as the memory their grandchildren have of them; if a person has done good work, the grandchildren will take what the person gave them and grow it, but the elder’s responsibility to this earth is done.

I might also mention we have a strong value of not being afraid of death.

And so I must ask about American theatre: Is its time done? Are we expending effort to keep something simply because we believe it must continue to exist? Is it time for its death?

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The Politics of Indigeneity, Anarchist Praxis, and Decolonization

Cover: Debra Yepa-Pappan, “Whirling Corn Maiden,” digital print on antique ledger paper, 2017

Via Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies

Guest Editor: J. Kēhaulani Kauanui

Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies (ADCS) is an international peer reviewed and open access journal to the study of new and emerging perpsectives in anarchist thought. ADCS is an attempt to bring anarchist thought into contact with innumerable points of connection. We publish articles, reviews/debates, announcements and unique contributions that: (1) adopt an anarchist perpective with regards to analyses of language, discourse, culture, and power, (2) investigate various facets of anarchist thought and practice from a non-anarchist standpoint, and (3) investigate or incorporate elements of non-anarchist thought and practice from the standpoint of traditional anarchist thought.

Web Published and Distributed Online: University of Victoria, located on unceded Lekwungen and WSÁNEĆ territories.

Creative Commons License
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Published: 2021-05-24

Articles

Book Reviews

Settlers on the Red Road: A Conversation on Indigeneity, Belonging, and Responsibility

The start of a discussion around indigeneity and identity within the anarchist movement.

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By Tawinikay

This zine is not going to be comfortable for some people to read. It is likely to personally challenge a few of you out there who may yourself be dipping a toe in the pond of indigeneity, trying it out to see how it feels. This zine is not going to beat around the bush, because the bush has been thoroughly beaten around.

This is the start of a larger discussion on indigeneity, belonging, and responsibility in our anarchist community. But there is something here for everyone, even if you don’t call yourself an anarchist. At the time of it’s writing, it is already long overdue. In the past two years in southern Ontario, there have been multiple incidents of settlers claiming indigeneity within our intersecting anarchist circles, incidents which caused great harm to relationship and undermined solidarity with Indigenous communities. In Quebec, the rise of the “Eastern Métis” threatens to bleed over into radical spaces. In this era of state-sponsored reconciliation, the line between settlers and Indians is being purposefully blurred by Canada in an attempt to gently complete the assimilation initiated long ago and, try as anarchists might to keep ourselves separate, the dominant culture has a way of creeping in.

This is not a defense of identity. In fact, it will be a critique of identity in many ways, particularly of the way we drape identities over ourselves to give us a purpose for fighting injustice. A rail against the culture of identity that breaks people into hard categories and fuels each of our dark indulgent desires to join the ranks of the oppressed instead of being satisfied to fight for the dignity of all living things from wherever we happen to stand. But it will also be a critique of individuals and their choices, and it will urge each one of you to think not only about your potential complicity in trying on indigeneity but in allowing your friends and comrades to do so as well.

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Let Empire collapse: why we need a decolonial revolution

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Member of the American Indian movement poses next to a toppled Columbus statue in Minneapolis. JUNE 10, 2020 Photo: Ben Hovland / Shutterstock.com

Repatriating Indigenous land and organizing anti-state Indigenous-Black-POC Power alternatives is better than pouring resources into the liberal-progressive vote.

By Mohamed Abdou, Roar Magazine

I am part of a We that says: “Let Empire collapse.” A We that says to build alternatives to Empire, we must expose the illegitimacy of the dreadful dream we are in. Instead of trying to shore or salvage the world as it is, we need to recognize with Audre Lorde that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

I am part of a We that says: “We love and respect you, Angela Davis and your behemoth ongoing legacy of indispensable teachings that are fundamental to the centuries-old struggle we confront,” but we will not be castigated into voting or fall into the trap of “lesser of two evil” arguments that have been critiqued time and time again.

We do not buy the story that we are at a crossroads and have the opportunity to finally fulfill America’s promise by ushering in a new era of Dwight D. Eisenhower-inspired eco-friendly dominance. We are not fooled by the repackaged, false, liberal-progressive hope of a Joe Biden-Kamala Harris-Bernie Sanders coalition that normalizes — rather than contends with — America’s imperialist settler-colonial existence. And which by design cannot allow life-saving reforms such as universal healthcare, student debt cancellations, housing and immigrant rights, racial and environmental justice, abolitionist defunding and dismantlement initiatives and worker protections.

We anticipated Donald J. Trump’s ascendance and expected Bernie Sanders’ demise when few did. We tell you, here, now, as a cautionary tale that it will be no surprise if Trump wins a second term. In fact, the seeds for his potential victory were laid the day of his inauguration because of how resistance and liberation came to be defined — as resistance to Trump rather than liberation from settler-colonial oppression.

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The Settler Logics of (Outer) Space

“River of Souls” by Carl Gawboy (as published in Indian Country Today, 4/2/16)

By Deondre Smiles, Society+Space

In this essay, I position the logics of settler colonialism and the logics of space exploration dominion over both space on earth, and interplanetary space at the expense of Indigenous peoples. I then look to Indigenous conceptions of space as a potential foil to these colonial logics.

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Deondre Smiles, Ph.D. is a postdoctoral scholar at The Ohio State University. A citizen of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, his ongoing research agenda is situated at the intersection of critical Indigenous geographies and political ecology, centered in the argument that tribal protection of remains, burial grounds, and more-than-human environments represents an effective form of ‘quotidian’ resistance against the settler colonial state.

Decolonizing ecology

By Jade Delisle, Briarpatch

Around the time wildfires were blanketing Calgary in smoke last year, I attended a local leftist reading group. They were discussing the impacts of capitalism on natural disasters, agreeing that the wildfires were exacerbated by both global warming and by neoliberal austerity. But when I put forward that invasive, non-indigenous plant species including trees and industrially farmed crops added degrees of severity to the crisis, and that traditional Indigenous systems of land stewardship could help mitigate or prevent natural disasters, I was taken aback by the group’s dismissive response. I was told by the main organizer that my approach to ecology was backwards-looking and idealized pre-capitalist societies, and that without an orientation to the future I risked venerating the stereotype of a “noble savage” in a “lost world.” 

At a time when Indigenous land defenders are fighting for cultural resurgence and the application of traditional knowledge to combat the climate crisis, they are often cast as the monolithic, mystical, degrowth opposition to the secular modernity of white leftists and their fully automated socialist future. In reality, solutions to ecological and social problems that were historically or are presently used by non-European cultures are compatible with modern technology, often in consensus with cutting-edge scientific findings, and more necessary than ever. 

Indigenous Peoples now make up less than five per cent of the world’s population, but the lands they maintain hold 80 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity. Protecting and restoring Indigenous Peoples’ lands is the fastest and most readily available way to sequester carbon and mitigate the impacts of climate change, a result of the optimally efficient relationships between fungi, plants, animals, and people in a given bioregion, which Indigenous cultures have coded into their knowledge systems over millennia of human-environmental interactions. 

Still, those lands are being stolen and mismanaged by colonists who believe that their environmental and clean energy projects – eco-tourism, national parks, and hydroelectric dams  – will be more effective than millennia of land stewardship by Indigenous Peoples. Even when they haven’t yet been invented or scaled-up, theoretical solutions like machines that suck carbon dioxide directly out of the air (which would, themselves, require absurd amounts of energy) are emphasized over habitat restoration. 

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COVID-19 Denialism is Rooted in the Settler Colonial Mindset

“American Progress” by John Gast

By Kollibri terre Sonnenblume, Macska Moksha Press

COVID denialism in the US is problematic to say the least. The nation is facing a public health crisis that’s far worse than it needs to be, as shown by the examples of countless other nations around the world that have largely suppressed the first wave. In fact, the US is one of the most dangerous places to be for this pandemic.

We have failed to pursue common sense policies and collective action here due to the ignorant attitudes not only of our leadership but of a significant share of our population.

Three recent interviews I did for my podcast, “Voices for Nature & Peace,” highlighted the connection between this unfortunate state of affairs and our status as a settler-colonial state. These three guests were Margaret Kimberley, a columnist at the Black Agenda Report and member of the Black Alliance for Peace; Joanna Pocock, the Canadian-born, London-residing author of “Surrender,” a memoir about living in the western US; and Alley Valkyrie, a US American activist, writer and artist in France.

What is “settler colonialism”? A method of expanding a nation’s area in which ordinary citizens take the lead by physically occupying un-ceded land themselves, using violence or the threat of violence, often for resource extraction activities like mining, ranching, logging or farming. Spreading religion is another justification. When the area’s original inhabitants defend themselves—or even when they don’t, and just try to negotiate peacefully—they are moved or massacred by the nation’s military. (Hence the term, “calling in the cavalry.”)

The United States of America was founded this way, as waves of European colonists moved from east to west, dispossessing Native Americans of their home territories as they went. In fact, one of the two main reasons for seeking independence from the British was because they forbade colonists from stealing land west of the Appalachians. The other main reason was to preserve and spread the institution of slavery.

Though “the frontier” was officially declared closed in 1890, and the so-called “Indian Wars” are said to have ended by 1924, the US remains a settler colonial state. The physical occupation is ongoing, as well as the mindsets that motivate it.

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To Breathe Together: Co-Conspirators for Decolonial Futures

By Sefanit Habtom and Megan Scribe, Yellowhead Institute

AS THE COVID-19 pandemic continues, many increasingly ask, “when will things go back to normal?”, “can we ever go back to the way things were?” and, in even more frightened moments, “could this be the end of the world?”

For Black, Indigenous, and Black-Indigenous peoples, these are not new questions. Since white settler ships landed on Indigenous shores with enslaved Black people in cargo holds, we have asked these very questions; but have asked them without ever letting the uncertainty of the answers deter us from striving to unmake the so-called “New World” in pursuit of something otherwise.

Unmaking is a desire for worlds in which Black, Indigenous, and Black-Indigenous peoples can breathe and live full lives.

The original prompt for writing this piece was “how can Indigenous people show up for Black communities right now?” But we have taken a slightly different approach, thinking instead about our shared experience of surviving within white settler society, while at the same time, taking seriously the antiblack and genocidal imperatives that mark us differently.

Tiffany Lethabo King has called on Black and Indigenous Studies academics, activists, and artists to imagine “how Black and Native communities can ‘end this world’ and remake reality and its relations on more just terms” (2019, p. 209). To engage with this call, we reflect on the violent conditions bringing Black, Indigenous, and Black-Indigenous peoples together and collaborative paths forward.

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About the Authors

Sefanit HabtomSefanit Habtom is a doctoral student in the department of Social Justice Education, at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Her research is on Black student organizing that focuses on land. She is Eritrean and hails from Vancouver, BC.

Megan ScribeMegan Scribe (Ininiw iskwew, Norway House Cree Nation) is an interdisciplinary Indigenous feminist researcher, writer, and educator. Scribe is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Ryerson University. Her research establishes connections between violence in the lives of Indigenous girls and settler colonialism. She is a longtime Community Council Member for Aboriginal Legal Services’ Diversion Program and a member of the Planning Committee for the annual Strawberry Ceremony.