Category Archives: cultural genocide

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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Cultural Appropriation and the Gypsy Industry

Time and time again, Romani people are the targets of cultural appropriation, with various levels of offenders to tackle. On Etsy, Ebay, and Pinterest combined, one can find over 498,000 objects tagged “Gypsy” which includes items such as dangly jewelry, hippy/Boho skirts, colorful bedsheets, and even pet supplies with tags such as “ Vintage gypsy”, “Bohemian gypsy ”, and “Gypsy Junk” while fashion designers label their companies and collections using comparable terms and are relentless in their use of racially stereotypical themes. There are also appropriators of our music and dance, who name their bands and dance troops using various forms of the term “Gypsy” with not one Romani person to be found among them, such as Toronto, Canada’s “Travelling Gypsy Market”  or the Vancouver B.C. based “gypsy performance troupe, Roma Gry” (Gypsy horse). Groups like these escalate their appropriation by not only claiming to be Roma, but are also hired, open to taking educational funds and teaching the public their version of Romani history and culture.

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Decolonisation in Europe: Sámi Musician Sofia Jannok Points to Life beyond Colonialism

Sofia Jannok at Standing Rock. Photo: Jeff Schad

By Rut Blomqvist, Resilience

The European core nations have colonised the world. This system is not only based on the unequal exchange of land and labour—as the anthropologist Alf Hornborg has shown in Global Ecology and Unequal Exchange—it is also on the verge of making the planet uninhabitable. So the world must be decolonised. But what would it mean to decolonise Europe? How do we decolonise the core of the world system—the area of the world that gave birth to colonialism itself?

Another world exists

In the north of Scandinavia, there is an Indigenous culture that has persisted against colonisation. The land is called Sápmi. The Sámi, like all Arctic Indigenous peoples, are experiencing the severe effects of rapid global warming and decolonisation is now more than ever a matter of survival.

Sofia Jannok is a songwriter, yoiker (yoik is a traditional Sámi vocal style), and pop singer; activist, environmentalist thinker, and reindeer owner. Through her words, melodies, activism, and existence, Jannok pushes for decolonisation. The title of the last song on her latest album ORDA: This Is My Land is “Noaidi,” a Northern Sámi word that means shaman but that she also translates as “Decolonizer.” The noaidi drives out the colonisers and their mentality. The noaidi reveals another world, a story that has been silenced in the history of the Swedish nation state.

For me, the encounter with Sofia Jannok’s music and stories opened the door to a new world-view. I am an urban middle-class Swede brought up to think that industrialisation is necessary and that this mode of production combined with better welfare distribution means progress for all. I have always had a nudging feeling of something being wrong with the story I have been told but other narratives are rarely given space in the media, nor in the academic contexts or political organisations I have been part of.

I was able to interview Jannok to explore the connection between her music, the decolonisation of Sápmi and of Europe, and the necessity of Indigenous rights and Indigenous peoples’ perspectives for all of humanity. This article tells the story of the other world that already exists in Jannok´s Sápmi. I weave a pattern of our conversation, her songs, images of what her stories make me feel, and examples of colonisation past and present.

Jannok and I begin by talking about music. I ask her about the role of music in Sámi decolonisation work and she emphasises that the increased focus on Sámi musicians and artists in the Swedish media often misses the historical ties between artistic expression and political struggle in Sápmi.

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From Standing Rock to Resistance in Context: Towards Anarchism against Settler Colonialism

Image by Pax Ahimsa Gethen

Image by Pax Ahimsa Gethen

By Adam Lewis, E-International Relations

The direct action at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline has captured a wide range of political imaginations under the #NODAPL banner. People from over 100 Indigenous nations, as well as non-Indigenous/settler allies/accomplices, have travelled to the site where the US Army Corps of Engineers has attempted to place the pipeline under the Mni Sose (Missouri River), and right through Oceti Sakowin (The Great Sioux Nation lands). The resistance at Standing Rock has included a range of camps and tactics, as well as heavy handed police/security responses. Though the Army Corps of Engineers decided to withhold the easement permit for the last stage of the pipeline in December 2016, pending an environmental assessment, few see this as the end of the resistance.  Many pointed out that this is not a commitment to stop the pipeline as a whole, but rather an attempt to seek out other means of ensuring its completion. Donald Trump recently signed executive orders to revive both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline projects, prompting renewed calls for resistance.

This article asks how events like the resistance at Standing Rock relate to broader struggles of Indigenous autonomy and decolonization, and how such events are seen by, and interact with, radical anarchist politics. I consider how an anti-colonial perspective within anarchism could be further developed in particular local contexts with specific reference to structures of settler colonialism and ongoing histories of Indigenous resistance. This article details and expands upon some of my previous work on anarchism and its relationship to settler colonialism and Indigenous struggles (see Lewis 2016a, 2016b, 2015).

By ‘anarchist’ I mean those people, theories and movements committed to the destruction of the state, capitalism and all forms of oppression. Anarchist politics seeks to end domination through direct action and militant or revolutionary struggle, while also working to ‘build a new world in the shell of the old’ here and now. Anarchists aspire to create anti-authoritarian, non-hierarchical and direct-democratic forms of relating. Anarchism as a movement began in late 1800s Europe, but has since spread and developed through a range of actors, spawning a variety of tendencies and perspectives around the globe (for a good introduction to anarchism see Milstein, 2010, also Dixon 2014). For my purposes here, I speak to those movements who call the settler states of Canada or the United States home, and who tend to be dominated by non-Indigenous peoples, and often white settlers.

I begin first by laying out the settler colonial context that is crucial for understanding all struggles in North America. I then move to a discussion of how anarchists, and all those interested in transformative radical futures more broadly, can incorporate such a context into their own resistance and put the creation of alternatives into conversation with projects of Indigenous resurgence and decolonization. How can radical futures be imagined given the context of both continued structures of settler colonialism, as well as Indigenous resurgence that is intimately and directly tied up in relationships to land?

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Indigenist Intersectionality: Decolonizing an Indigenous Eco-Queer Feminism and Anarchism

Institute for Anarchist Studies

This essay appears in the current anarcha-feminisms issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory (N. 29), available here from AK Press!  Laura received an Institute for Anarchist Studies writing grant to complete this piece. 

The violence enacted against Indigenous women and Two-Spirit/LGBTQ people evokes deep questions about the intent and impact of colonization in a Canadian settler and state context. The horrors of colonial violence—bodies were violated and abandoned at the sides of highways, in ditches, in rivers—tell stories of the vital importance of Indigenous women’s leadership, their warriorhood, their gifts and their medicines, and also of the centrality of gendered freedom and fluid belonging in Indigenous cultures. It is a system of colonization that seeks to erase and subsume these realities and to replace Indigenous truth with illusions of our weakness. We are at a pivotal moment now as state and settler voices seek to understand what is…

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If Your Anti-Trump Movement Is Not Anti-Colonial You Are Wasting Your Time And Ours

Anti-colonial & Anti-fascist Action: ‘Make it Impossible for This System to Govern on Stolen Land’ - IndigenousAction.orgFrom The Decolonizer:

Donald Dump has been making a lot of people loose their shit these past couple of week he has been in office. Executive orders by his pen have forcefully approved the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines, initiated the U.S.-Mexico boarder wall, and even established a travel ban targeted at predominately Muslim countries. An order that froze funds for Obamacare will severely cut funding for Planned Parenthood and other birth control programs.

Many have protested, from the continued women’s protests following the Woman’s March to the emergency occupations of airports to help banned refugees. The politics of those who protest are varied and dynamic from the liberal reactionary to the anarchist black bloc, and everywhere in between. What unifies the masses in actions across the country is a general disapproval of Dump and his policies. Yet, this dissent, which does not even amount to a strong pro-impeachment stance, is still waiting for a unifying framework that will make its goals clear to itself.

So, while Standing Rock water defenders are being forcefully evicted via the Trump executive order, THE DECOLONIZER says:

If Your Anti-Trump Movement Is Not Anti-colonial You Are Wasting Your Time And Ours.

That goes for you too anarchist. We are all for punching Nazis (really we are) but the pursuit of an anarchist agenda without the leadership Native peoples will only replicate settler relationships. Any insurrectionary organizing against Trump on this land (Turtle Island) that has been stolen by white Europeans, must be rooted in an anti-colonial framework. If you are punching Nazis let it be because they are fascists as well as white colonizers. If you are destroying public property let it be because it is white property that was stolen by the U.S. settler colonial state. If you seek the abolition of the state, let it also be the abolition of settler colonial power and the restoration of Indigenous sovereignty.

As for you liberals…

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Cards Against Colonialism

From Native Teaching Aids:

We are stronger when we laugh and humor makes it easier to talk about difficult issues. Cards Against Colonialism attempts to embrace the modern Native Culture, and allows us to learn and laugh at the same time.

“through this short and profound experience,  I realized how putting these stereotypes on the table can help with the decolonization of the individuals who would be playing the game. It also drives the conversation to a deeper level, shift paradigms and awakens consciousness. It leads to storytelling of one’s culture, which can be liberating, transformative and set the trajectory for culture healing and revitalization…..and it is so hilariously wrong!”~Gerry Ebalaroza-Tunnell Hawaiian

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Dear White People: An Open Letter to White People on Becoming Indigenous

By Adebayo Akomolafe / bayoakomolafe.net

Dear white people,

For as long as I can remember, I have always been white. Like you. I just didn’t know it.

Born in the bipolar Nigerian city of soaring skyscrapers and sprawling slums, Lagos, where the sun sometimes forgot to dim its fierce heat, I grew up thinking I was black like everyone else. All the signs were there – including my black skin, my shy head-hugging hair, and my Yoruba name with its lyrical tonality and vaunted meanings.

There wasn’t much more to that identity, however. Nothing special. When I walked down Jemtok Street to buy my dad a small cold bottle of Guinness Extra Stout, it wasn’t ‘black’ music that people were dancing to in street parties or ‘black’ movie heroes that people were speaking animatedly about. We were all bedazzled by Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo, by the manner of speaking of those of us who were fortunate enough to visit your countries, and by your technological wizardry – evidenced in every gadget we owned or wanted to.

At school, we watched recorded clips of BBC news videos to learn how to pronounce English words properly. “Don’t open your mouth so wide”, our teachers would warn – not quite living up to their own imposed standards. During Christmas, my sisters and I didn’t understand why we were not allowed to hang our stockings on the front door[1], and cursed our misfortune when snow didn’t fall – like it did on TV.

Even though we preferred our own food (yours never seemed to have enough seasoning or fried chunks of meat), our own traditions (our elders felt kissing publicly meant you all had no proper ‘home training’), and our music, the soundtrack of our lives was the promise of traveling ‘Abroad’ and knowing the magic of meeting ‘oyinbo[2]’ people and living in ‘oyinbo’ lands. And living ‘oyinbo’ lives. The good life.

It was every thinking and non-thinking man’s dream. And for good reason: the West, your home, was heaven, and God lived there.

Needless to say, a steady undercurrent of self-loathing flowed through our lives – urging us to civilizational heights of whiteness. Urging us to wear three piece suits under a quizzical sun. Urging us to demonize our own traditions so that we could catch up with you.

We didn’t say it this way, but it was nonetheless inescapably true to us: if it was white, it was right.

But one day, at least for me, it ‘suddenly’ wasn’t.

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The Uncomfortable, Unavoidable, Troublesome & Totally Inconvenient Understanding About Indigenous Language, Culture & Identity

From Awakening The Horse People:

Our language is like a pearl inside a shell. The shell is like the people that carry the language. If our language is taken away, then that would be like a pearl that is gone. We would be like an empty oyster shell.
Yurranydjil Dhurrkay, Galiwin’ku, North East Arnhem Land

The understanding shared in the quote above spells trouble for spiritual seeking settlers, neo-pagans, and those pursuing ancestral recovery work.

Indigenous knowledge about the living power and presence of Indigenous languages creates visible boundaries that give us insight into what we have lost as individuals from a people, from a place – and how modern equivocating of spiritual practices or cultural re-imagining based in english are missing an integral component to their wholeness, connection, and honesty.

This is a provocative understanding to take in.  If deeply considered, it will raise unsettling questions about what we think and say we may be doing within a cultural or spiritual pathway like neopaganism or ancestral recovery if recovering Indigenous language and its ways of thinking and being is not a part.

To prevent likely evasions away from this understanding, a whole series of related quotes are shared below from Indigenous elders, activists, and teachers from different nations around the world.  Please read and consider all of them.

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Six Critical Actions for Healing

From Awakening The Horse People:

As settlers on stolen lands, how do we navigate the complicated path of helping to heal the destruction and pain caused by our people’s colonization of other’s lands like Turtle Island, while also doing what is necessary to heal the source of this colonization which is our own broken relationships of culture with our ancestral places, peoples, and lifeways?

The following list provides six critical actions for walking this complicated path. Three of these actions are centered on aiding the decolonization of Turtle Island and other lands by their Indigenous peoples.  Three other actions are focused on creating real and meaningful connection and healing with our own ancestral peoples and places.

Three Settler Actions to Support Indigenous Decolonization

1)   Return Indigenous lands, access, and resources back to Indigenous peoples so that Indigenous lifeway can be lived through real independence, and allowing for Indigenous peoples to heal themselves using their own cultural understandings. Land and resources should be returned to traditional, language speaking peoples if they are available – not those complicit with colonial governments or their tribal surrogates (like U.S. BIA Tribal Governments).

2)   Transform settler positioning: through

a)   Return or immigrate back to one’s ancestral homeplace/s; or,

b)   Develop long-term, trust building relationships with Indigenous peoples.  Based on these relationships, following Indigenous direction including submitting to, and defending, Indigenous jurisdiction and strategically leaving colonial citizenship and jurisdiction.
It should be noted b) applies to all non-Native people, not just people of european heritage.

3)   Leave Indigenous people alone – and strategically defend their right to be left alone.

Three Settler Actions for Our Own Cultural Recovery

1)   Go home. Establish authentic relationships with Life in natural places in your home. Relationships with Life are based in Indigenous language, so….

2)   Learn your ancestral language.  Indigenous language is the primary transformer of consciousness from euro-centric thought and philosophy to Indigenous thought and philosophy. This step cannot be ignored, evaded, or explained away. Learn your language!

3)   Re-unite or re-join your people. ‪We must transform the consciousness of colonial “I” to the Indigenous “We” by reuniting or rejoining our people/s in europe.  Authentic decolonization and cultural recovery cannot occur within the colonial egotism of “I”.  It just doesn’t work that way. This is different than being the sole survivor of a people and working to grow one’s people again.

In the author’s experiences involving both the decolonization of Turtle Island and the cultural recovery for people of euro-heritage, multiple actions from both lists occur simultaneously and strengthen each other.  Other people of european heritage share the same experience – the building of authentic relationships with Indigenous people in resistance provides important experiential growth and motivation to recovering one’s own cultural identity.