Category Archives: colonialism

Decolonization ~ Meaning What Exactly?

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By Pegi Eyers, Stone Circle Press

With all the dialogue happening on decolonization today, a reminder on baseline definitions can be helpful, before widening out to other personal/collective interpretations and actions. There are movements happening right now across ethnic and cultural lines (including the dominant white society) that use “decolonization” to describe a wide array of practices. Do we need to re-examine how we use the term? What does “decolonization” mean to you? The following definitions can offer starting points for discussion, and for action going forward.

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Christopher Columbus: No Monuments for Murderers

“Twenty-five years ago, I wrote an article, “Once Upon a Genocide,” reviewing the major children’s literature about Columbus. My conclusion was that these books teach young readers that colonialism and racism are normal.”

The world is still sliced in two between the worthy — the owning classes, the corporate masters, the generals — and the nobodies. The invaded, the owned, the bombed, the poisoned, the silenced.

By

A New York Times article, following the white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the murder of anti-racist activist Heather Heyer, described the growing calls to remove monuments that celebrate the Confederacy. The article went on to cite some who balk, however, when “the symbolism is far murkier, like Christopher Columbus.”

But there is nothing murky about Columbus’ legacy of slavery and terrorism in the Americas. The record is clear and overwhelming. The fact that The New York Times could report this with such confidence — adding that “most Americans learn rather innocently, in 1492 [Columbus] sailed the ocean blue until he discovered the New World” — means that educators and activists still have much work to do.

In fact, Christopher Columbus launched the trans-Atlantic slave trade in 1494, when he sent back at least two dozen enslaved Taínos, including children, to Spain. In February of that year, Columbus dispatched 12 of his 17 ships from the Caribbean back to Spain with a letter to be delivered to the king and queen by Antonio de Torres, captain of the returning fleet.

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Uprooting Colonialism: The Limitations of Indigenous Peoples’ Day

From Indigenous Action:

Declarations, Disconnect, & Decolonial Recuperation

As momentum has accelerated for occupying forces to issue declarations of “Indigenous Peoples’ Day (IPD),” we can’t help but feel disconnected from the revelry.

Aside from psychic solace, if the state dismantles these statues and proclaims Indigenous Peoples’ Days, what do we actually achieve if the structures and systems rooted in colonial violence remain intact? Is it merely political posturing or window dressing to diminish liberatory agitations? Our senses are heightened as most re-brandings of Columbus Day into IPD appear to whitewash ongoing colonial legacies.

The statistics are all too familiar: Indigenous Peoples in the “U.S.” are the ethnic group that faces the highest police murder rate, the highest rates of incarnation, homelessness, and sexual violence.

So yes, we have very good reason to be skeptical of symbolic gestures.

We’re all for removing colonial symbols and nationalistic myths, so long as structures such as colonialism and racism go along with them. Problem is they are not. These edicts are readily embraced by their advocates as “steps in the right direction” for Indigenous interests, yet—as we’ll assert here—only serve to calcify colonial rule. What else are we to glean from superficial declarations handed down by occupying governing bodies?

Decolonial aspirations are stunted with liberal cosmetology if nothing concrete is done to address historical and ongoing anti-Indigenous brutality. This is an insidious conciliatory process of decolonial recuperation that is rooted in cultural and symbolic change primarily fixated on transforming social stature. It fails to meaningfully confront and transform social power.

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Fall 2017 (v1.0)

Edits and contributions by
Indigenous Action Media Collective & friends

www.indigenousaction.org

Downloadable PDFs | Readable | Printable (zine format)

From Recognition to Decolonization: An Interview with Glen Coulthard

Coulthard challenges recognition as a method of organizing difference and identity in liberal politics, questioning the assumption that contemporary difference and past histories of destructive colonialism between the state and Indigenous peoples can be reconciled through a process of acknowledgment. He examines an alternative politics, seeking to revalue, reconstruct, and redeploy Indigenous cultural practices based on self-recognition. By Karl Gardner and Devin Clancy,
Upping the Anti

Glen Coulthard is a member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and an associate professor of political science and Indigenous studies at the University of British Colombia in Vancouver. Coulthard’s recent book, Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition (2014) is an incisive critique of Canadian settler colonialism that centres Indigenous peoples’ resistance to the state and capital. In May 2016, Coulthard was a visiting scholar at York University in Toronto where he taught a course on Indigenous resurgence, and hosted a public discussion at Beit Zatoun on “Symbolic Violence and Liberal Settler-Colonialism.” Joined by Leanne Simpson and Jarrett Martineau, the panel grappled with the challenges posed by a new Liberal government and its ongoing commitment to settler colonial dispossession and limited recognition of Indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination. Karl Gardner and Devin Clancy sat down with Coulthard to further explore the themes that emerged in these discussions.

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Born on the Fourth of July: Counterinsurgency, Indigenous Resistance, and Black Revolt

Commissioned by St. Louis beer-maker Anheuser-Busch in 1889, Otto Becker famously depicted “Custer’s Last Fight” for beer advertisements, adding to the myth of a valiant last stand scenario and the self-defense of an invading settler nation.

Commissioned by St. Louis beer-maker Anheuser-Busch in 1889, Otto Becker famously depicted “Custer’s Last Fight” for beer advertisements, adding to the myth of a valiant last stand scenario and the self-defense of an invading settler nation.

By Nick Estes, The Red Nation

On June 25, 1876, an alliance of Lakotas, Cheyennes, and Arapahos blew out the candles on the United States’ birthday cake. A week before celebrating one hundred years of “liberty,” at the Battle of Greasy Grass the historic Indigenous alliance wiped from the earth lieutenant colonel George A. Custer, a less well-known Civil War officer, and more than 250 of his men of the Seventh Calvary. Knocked from his horse by the Northern Cheyenne warrior woman Buffalo Calf Trail Woman and killed while running away, for his bravery Custer was promoted to the rank of general after his death and inglorious defeat.

Natives made Custer famous by killing him. To empire’s chagrin these same nations still celebrate this historic victory as a declaration of their prior and continuing independence, a week before the US’s own self-described “independence” from the British Empire. But a false image of Custer making a heroic last stand still lingers and does important political work. A last stand reverses the role of invasion and self-defense. It’s as innocent as playing cowboys and Indians, right? Who wants to be the Indians? (Put your hand down, Johnny Depp.)

Settlers often see themselves as victims, who are, just like Custer, surrounded by hostile, dark nations. Such depictions litter the genre of Western films. But a move to innocence isn’t harmless Americana. It’s the founding doctrine of the US and its counterinsurgency programs. It has been the justification for slavery, genocide, and war. One only need to read the Declaration of Independence to understand the origins of this clever inversion of history where aggressors become victims and where colonialism looks like self-defense.

The Declaration of Independence is an unlikely yet foundational location for US counterinsurgency doctrine. In the same breath that the “founding fathers” condemned arbitrary rule by an overseas sovereign, they called for the defense against those whose bodies they stole and those whose lands they took or intended to take. King George, they wrote, “has excited domestic [slave] insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes[,] and conditions.”

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Enrique Dussel: Without Epistemic Decolonization, There Is No Revolution

Professor Enrique Dussel speaking at Eco-socialist School of Critical Decolonial Thought of Our America held in Caracas October 7-14, 2016. (AVN)

Professor Enrique Dussel speaking at Eco-socialist School of Critical Decolonial Thought of Our America held in Caracas October 7-14, 2016. (AVN)

Via Venezuela Analysis:

Renowned Mexican-Argentine philosopher Enrique Dussel was in Caracas October 6-10, 2016, as part of the first ever Eco-socialist School of Critical Decolonial Thought of Our America. A founder of the Philosophy of Liberation movement, Dussel has played a protagonist role over the last decade as one of the key theorists and public intellectuals of the so-called “Pink Tide” of leftist and center-leftist governments that came to power across Latin America. In conversation with journalist Clodovaldo Hernandez, the philosopher stresses the urgent need to decolonize epistemic frameworks in order to learn from the series of recent defeats suffered by progressive forces across the continent. 

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What is Cultural Appropriation?

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By Pegi Eyers, Stone Circle Press

To understand how cultural appropriation shows up in our environmental movements and spiritual life, we need to look at the backstory, or how cultural appropriation came to be.  About 50 years ago a strange phenomena began to happen.  In mainstream society young white people were rebelling against the imperialist machine, while in a much less visible sphere, First Nations were just starting to recover from the dark ages of genocide, oppression, residential school displacement and segregation.  In the dominant society of the mid-20th century, our ties to a genuine spiritual life had been broken, organized religion was on the decline, and all of a sudden young white people were reconnecting with nature. This was a wonderful thing – but they had no role models to follow so they turned to First Nations, freely adopting these cultural tools and spiritual traditions, and some going so far as to create a whole new indigenous identity for themselves.  Without proper boundaries, the whitewashed genre of “Native Spirituality” was born, and cultural appropriation became imbedded in the flourishing New Age Industry.

Of course we owe a huge debt to the original rebellion of the hippies and the counterculture that gave us the alternative choices, sexual freedom, new spiritualities, holistic self-care and healthy life-sustaining practices we enjoy today.  These are features of society we now take for granted, but unfortunately within  the massive self-help, transformational and New Age marketplace the genres of “Native Spirituality” and “Shamanism” have been normalized. Being exposed to this material for so long, many New Agers are shocked to find these genres being questioned, yet an interrogation is exactly what is needed. Not only are white practitioners of “Native Spirituality” on shaky moral ground, First Nations have made it abundantly clear that they are completely opposed to the theft of their cultural and spiritual property.

Today, cultural appropriation occurs on a continuum from relatively harmless practices, to serious mental disorders such as identity theft. Having moccasins, native jewellery, native art, or a drum in the privacy of your own home (acquired from native artisans) can be considered good Allyship by supporting the livelihood of First Nations.  But in mainstream industries like fashion, fine art, entertainment and home décor, items like dreamcatchers and headdresses are big business, and these cultural signifiers are casually used by white people for fun and self-expression. Many of these symbols, often products made in China, are the sacred property of First Nations!  We can just imagine how deeply hurtful this must be.

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How academia uses poverty, oppression, and pain for intellectual masturbation

By Clelia O. Rodríguez, RaceBaitR

The politics of decolonization are not the same as the act of decolonizing. How rapidly phrases like “decolonize the mind/heart” or simply “decolonize” are being consumed in academic spaces is worrisome. My grandfather was a decolonizer. He is dead now, and if he was alive he would probably scratch his head if these academics explained  the concept to him.

I am concerned about how the term is beginning to evoke a practice of getting rid of colonial practices by those operating fully under those practices. Decolonization sounds and means different things to me, a woman of color, than to a white person. And why does this matter? Why does my skin itch when I hear the term in academic white spaces where POC remain tokens? Why does my throat become a prison of words that cannot be digested into complete sentences? Is it because in these “decolonizing” practices we are being colonized once again?

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We need decolonization before reconciliation, argues Ryan McMahon

From CBC Radio’s The 180 with Jim Brown:

“I would argue that before reconciliation, we really need to look at decolonization,” he says. “Decolonization starts with land. It starts with the question of land. Do indigenous people have the ability to live freely on and with relationship to the land, as we did prior to confederation? And the answer right now is no.”

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Prairie Rising: Indigenous Youth, Decolonization, and the Politics of Intervention

By Jaskiran Dhillon, University of Toronto Press

In 2016, Canada’s newly elected federal government publically committed to reconciling the social and material deprivation of Indigenous communities across the country. Does this outward shift in the Canadian state’s approach to longstanding injustices facing Indigenous peoples reflect a “transformation with teeth,” or is it merely a reconstructed attempt at colonial Indigenous-settler relations?

Prairie Rising provides a series of critical reflections about the changing face of settler colonialism in Canada through an ethnographic investigation of Indigenous-state relations in the city of Saskatoon.  Jaskiran Dhillon uncovers how various groups including state agents, youth workers, and community organizations utilize participatory politics in order to intervene in the lives of Indigenous youth living under conditions of colonial occupation and marginality. In doing so, this accessibly written book sheds light on the changing forms of settler governance and the interlocking systems of education, child welfare, and criminal justice that sustain it. Dhillon’s nuanced and fine-grained analysis exposes how the push for inclusionary governance ultimately reinstates colonial settler authority and raises startling questions about the federal government’s commitment to justice and political empowerment for Indigenous Nations, particularly within the context of the everyday realities facing Indigenous youth.

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