Category Archives: Decolonization & Unsettling

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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Land-Based Ethics and Settler Solidarity in a Time of Corona and Revolution

Artwork by Rae Minji Lee

By Natalie Avalos, The Arrow

Settler colonialism has been defined as a structure, not an event, meaning that settler societies like the U.S., Canada, and Australia endure over time through racist laws and ideologies that naturalize the dispossession of Indigenous populations. One of the most effective strategies that settler states rely on to eliminate Indigenous peoples and their power is the idea that their knowledges are primitive and superstitious, examples of failed epistemology. This view is rooted in an Enlightenment-born materialism that asserts that legitimate knowledge can only be produced through narrow empirical methods, relegating the negotiations of immaterial life to the social margins. As the colonial project progresses, legitimate knowledge production is simultaneously tethered to race and power (reserved to the white and landed), resulting in what we have come to know as modernity.

Settler colonialism seeks to eliminate Indigenous populations in order to monopolize resources for the sake of capital. It operates through laws and racist ideologies, but also through conceptualizations of the natural world as white men’s for the human taking. Settler colonialism operates from its own metaphysic, producing what I call a settler ecology, which dispossesses peoples but also lands. If settlers want to understand how to effectively address environmental crises, then they have to interrogate the logics of settler colonialism—racialization, white supremacy, and myths of development—as structural dimensions of modern life. Our collective quarantine has dovetailed into an all-out revolution; one that is an all-out indictment of colonialism itself. This time is ripe for this very conversation.

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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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Decolonizing Psychology: Relegated To The Margins, Our Humanity with Sunil Bhatia

From Last Born In The Wilderness

At its root, Western Psychology is colonial. With that in mind, what would a decolonized psychology include and exclude in its framework? As Sunil addresses in his work and in this interview, Psychology, as a social science, has served the Western colonialist project in all its forms. Even as we have entered into a “post-colonial” period over the past century or more, the impacts of colonization on numerous populations around the world are still felt presently, profoundly so. Officially, Western nation-states have abandoned previously defined colonies to self-governance (after centuries of various forms of anti-colonial resistance). But, the processes of an “internalized colonization” continue to manifest from a globalized, neoliberal socioeconomic system that is structurally founded on the long-lasting legacies of colonialism and white supremacy. 

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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.

Colonialism and Anti-Colonialism in the Second International

Karl Marx’s own ambiguous and sometimes contradictory views on colonialism meant that the Second International would debate over the correct view on the matter. Donald Parkinson gives an overview of these debates, arguing that Communists today must unite around a clear anti-colonial and anti-imperialist program. 

Reactionary political cartoon. Reads: “Social-Democracy is against world politics; against colonies, against the army and navy!”

Reactionary political cartoon. Reads: “Social-Democracy is against world politics; against colonies, against the army and navy!”

By Donald Parkinson, Cosmonaut

Today, when Marxism seems to be under constant intellectual assault, we hear the claim that Marxism is a Eurocentric ideology, that it is a master narrative of the European world. It could be tempting to simply dismiss this claim on its face. After all, most Marxists today live in the non-European and non-white world, inspired by the role Marxism played in anti-colonial struggles. Yet we should always pay attention to our critics, regardless of how bad-faith they may be. They can help us understand our own blind spots and weaknesses and better understand ourselves. As a result, we should take the question of Eurocentrism seriously and engage in a critical self-reflection of our own ideas. A closer look at both the works of Marx and the history of Marxist politics tells us that there were indeed Eurocentric strains in Marx’s thought. Yet through its capacity to critically assess itself Marxism has, to varying degrees of success, overcome its Eurocentrism to develop a true universalism, against a false universalism that only serves to cover for a deeper European provincialism.

Marxism developed in Europe as a worldview designed to secure the emancipation of the world from class society. This is the source of internal tension within Marxism: on one end there is the universalist scope of Marxism, an ideology designed to unite all of humanity in a common struggle. On the other end, there is the source of Marxism in the continent of Europe, an ideology that was shaped by the specific processes of capitalist development that propelled Europe into an economic power standing above the rest of the world. It would be foolish to simply dismiss charges that Marxism contains Eurocentric elements that exist in tension with its universalism. There is no better example of these tensions in Marxism than the different views on colonialism within the movement.

Colonialism in the history of Marxist thought served as a challenge for Marxism to overcome its own Eurocentrism. Within the works of Marx one can find different approaches to colonialism that could be read as apologetic to colonial expansion or firmly opposed to it, supporting the struggles of colonized people against their dispossession. As a result, the followers of Marx who formed the mass parties that came to be known as the Second International did not have a single position on colonialism that they could take from Marx. There was instead a series of often contradictory positions on colonialism within his work that provided justifications both for supporting colonialism and opposing it. There was also a theoretical heritage within Marxism, economistic developmentalism, that would be used to justify colonialism in the name of socialism.

To better understand these tensions in Marxism, we should examine Marx’s views on colonialism and the first major debates on colonialism in the Second International. These debates are an important part of a greater historical narrative, in which Marxism developed as an ideology in Europe and became the siren song of countless anti-colonial revolts against European domination. Marxism was able to overcome its initial Eurocentrism, but not without a struggle internal to itself and its intellectuals. In better understanding the history of this intellectual struggle, we can better identify the theoretical errors that held Marxism back from becoming a truly universalist worldview, which could serve as a political creed for the emancipation of the world, not only Europe.

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Rethinking the Apocalypse: An Indigenous Anti-Futurist Manifesto

Via Indigenous Action

…This is a transmission from a future that will not happen. From a people who do not exist…

Rethinking the Apocalypse: An Indigenous Anti-Futurist Manifesto

[Readable PDF] [Printable zine PDF]

“The end is near. Or has it come and gone before?”
– An ancestor 

Why can we imagine the ending of the world, yet not the ending of colonialism?

We live the future of a past that is not our own.
It is a history of utopian fantasies and apocalyptic idealization.
It is a pathogenic global social order of imagined futures, built upon genocide, enslavement, ecocide, and total ruination.

What conclusions are to be realized in a world constructed of bones and empty metaphors? A world of fetishized endings calculated amidst the collective fiction of virulent specters. From religious tomes to fictionalized scientific entertainment, each imagined timeline constructed so predictably; beginning, middle, and ultimately, The End.

Inevitably in this narrative there’s a protagonist fighting an Enemy Other (a generic appropriation of African/Haitian spirituality, a “zombie”?), and spoiler alert: it’s not you or me. So many are eagerly ready to be the lone survivors of the “zombie apocalypse.” But these are interchangeable metaphors, this zombie/Other, this apocalypse. 

These empty metaphors, this linearity, only exist within the language of nightmares, they are at once part of the apocalyptic imagination and impulse.
 This way of “living,” or “culture,” is one of domination that consumes all for it’s own benefit. It is an economic and political reordering to fit a reality resting on pillars of competition, ownership, and control in pursuit of profit and permanent exploitation. It professes “freedom” yet its foundation is set on lands stolen while its very structure is built by stolen lives.

It is this very “culture” that must always have an Enemy Other, to lay blame, to lay claim, to affront, enslave and murder.

A subhuman enemy that any and all forms of extreme violence are not only permitted but expected to be put upon. If it doesn’t have an immediate Other, it meticulously constructs one. This Other is not made from fear but its destruction is compelled by it. This Other is constituted from apocalyptic axioms and permanent misery. This Othering, this wetiko disease, is perhaps best symptomatized in its simplest stratagem, in that of our silenced remakening:
They are dirty, They are unsuited for life, They are unable, They are incapable, They are disposable, They are non-believers, They are unworthy, They are made to benefit us, They hate our freedom, They are undocumented, They are queer, They are black, They are Indigenous, They are less than, They are against us, until finally, They are no more.

In this constant mantra of violence reframed, it’s either You or it’s Them.
It is the Other who is sacrificed for an immortal and cancerous continuity. It is the Other who is poisoned, who is bombed, who is left quietly beneath the rubble.

This way of unbeing, which has infected all aspects of our lives, which is responsible for the annihilation of entire species, the toxification of oceans, air and earth, the clear-cutting and burning of whole forests, mass incarceration, the technological possibility of world ending warfare, and raising the temperatures on a global scale, this is the deadly politics of capitalism, it’s pandemic.

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Colonialism and Decolonization Processes in Brazilian Witchcraft

"Are we giving real support to indigenous peoples, offering their proper place in society and fighting against their still present eradication process? Or are we only concerned with gaining more knowledge for our spiritual evolution, thinking that these spirits are also here for us to use because they are similar to the Europeans ones we know, or even that these spirits could feel honored if we force them into our Witchcraft boxes with European, foreign and white roots?"  - Lilo Assenci

“Are we giving real support to indigenous peoples, offering their proper place in society and fighting against their still present eradication process? Or are we only concerned with gaining more knowledge for our spiritual evolution, thinking that these spirits are also here for us to use because they are similar to the Europeans ones we know, or even that these spirits could feel honored if we force them into our Witchcraft boxes with European, foreign and white roots?” – Lilo Assenci

By Lilo Assenci, Gods & Radicals Press

I begin this text by acknowledging the place where I write it and develop my reflections. A long time ago, its true name was lost, and not even the original and real name of the traditional people who lived here resisted the colonization process. Therefore, I describe the place where I live from it’s three main rivers in their original names: Aperetei, Y-gûasu and Guandu, names given by the indigenous people who lived here, the Jacutinga people (and later, the Cariri Chocó, Guarani Mbya, Puri, Tabajara and Tupinambá). I acknowledge their suffered, bloody history, and the open wound that still exists due to the years of erasure and eradication of the indigenous people who lived here. This recognition comes with the commitment to radically analyze the colonizing power relations that still exist in this land today called Nova Iguaçu, in Rio de Janeiro, subverting and dismantling this legacy, in search of recovering the history, memory and honor of the Jacutinga, Cariri Chocó, Guarani Mbya, Puri, Tabajara and Tupinambá peoples.

Conducting land acknowledgment at the beginning of this text is, first of all, a way of acknowledging the lands where I am currently living and their history. And not only the story told in Eurocentric textbooks or that story that your high school teacher explained in a Eurocentric way. To acknowledge a land in this way is to acknowledge a history of colonization, of blood poured out, of genocide and an open and silent wound in our society. No matter where you are in the country, these lands are indigenous. They were and still are. Rather, administered, cared for, cultivated, and loved by the traditional peoples who lived here before the invasion by European countries. According to Abel R. Gomez, Clarie Chuck Bohman, & Corrina Gould (2020):

With the coming of European settlement came the violent, and ongoing theft of Indigenous lands. This process is often described as settler colonialism. Maile Arvin, Eve Tuck, and Angie Morill offer a useful definition: “Settler colonialism is a persistent social and political formation in which newcomers/colonizers/settlers come to a place, claim it as their own, and do whatever it takes to disappear the Indigenous peoples that are there.” As they describe it, settler colonialism set in motion of host of systems including the imposition of white supremacy, and patriarchy, gender binaries, and compulsory heterosexuality, and various forms of dominance to control, regulate, and annihilate Indigenous communities.

Although we understand that Brazil is no longer a colony, the effects of what we previously called settler colonialism persist in less evident and quieter ways. When the Brazilian government has a president that states that “more and more, indigenous people are becoming human beings like us”, he denies the existence of Native peoples as humans. When the national public policy regarding indigenous peoples continues to be dismantled and their lands remain not demarcated, we not only deny their existence, but we silence and abandon them. Also, when we want to put an evangelizer of indigenous peoples in a high position within an official Brazilian organization responsible for indigenous policy. That is why, nowadays, studies on decolonial processes are extremely important.

We understand decolonization as a constant process, an ongoing struggle, where we are not thinking of transcending history and coloniality, but rather radically analyzing the colonial processes still existing in our society (as mentioned above), in “an urgent task for subversion of the colonial power pattern today” (Resende, 2014). A decolonial view of our society is an analytical view that aims to observe the movements carried out by Western human beings, in all their institutional-social-economic-biological apparatus, to eradicate, silence, erase and dehumanize any and all indigenous peoples in this country. And not any analysis, but one that allows us to think of ways to subvert and dismantle this power, this continuous coloniality.

Click here to read the full article from Gods & Radicals

Lilo Assenci is a Witch, a Priest, a Moon Rabbit, translator and teacher. Member of the Gods & Radicals Editorial Committee, his work is deeply connected with anarchism, witchcraft, paganism, Brazillian folklore and political-magical activism. He is part of the Feri, Reclaiming and Hekate’s Tribe Traditions, weaving magic, healing, activism into a self-possession and integration work. He also loves coffee and reading.

Decolonization Is Essential to Successfully Resist Extractivism

“Decolonization begins with the very Earth itself,” say the editors of “Standing with Standing Rock.”

By Samantha Borek,Truthout

“Colonialism, imperialism, and racial capitalism are impacting people across the globe, both historically and in the contemporary moment,” write Nick Estes and Jaskiran Dhillon, editors of Standing With Standing Rock: Voices From the #NoDAPL Movement. In this interview, Estes and Dhillon discuss how this collection situates the #NoDAPL movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline within a broader historical context — a context that transcends the Oceti Sakowin-led movement and emphasizes Indigenous sovereignty and decolonization as central to successfully resisting extractivism.

Samantha Borek: Standing with Standing Rock: Voices from the #NoDAPL Movement is an extensive collection of essays, strategies, reflections, interviews and even poetry from the movement. How does this curation of work function now almost three years after the removal of the Oceti Sakowin camps?

Nick Estes and Jaskiran Dhillon: The perspectives offered within Standing with Standing Rock show that the movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline didn’t necessarily begin at Standing Rock in April 2016, with the creation of Sacred Stone Camp, nor did resistance technically end in February 2017, with the eviction of Oceti Sakowin and Sacred Stone camps. Almost three years later, this collection functions as a critical historical archive of movement voices while also situating it within a long historical arc. It also offers a deep contextualization on the social, cultural and spiritual significance of the #NoDAPL movement from a distinct viewpoint of Oceti Sakowin writers, scholars and knowledge-keepers. The centrality of Indigenous knowledge and necessity for decolonization continue to be glossed over in mainstream climate movements. In that sense, this volume exceeds the category of what is typically seen as just a “local culture” or just an “Indian problem.” Within these pages, thinkers, organizers, and Water Protectors also connect Black and Palestinian liberation with Indigenous struggles across time and space. Standing Rock was, after all, one uprising among a constellation of ongoing Indigenous uprisings, such as at Unist’ot’en Camp and Mauna Kea.

Click here to read the full article on Truthout

 Amid the Standing Rock movement to protect the land and the water that millions depend on for life, the Oceti Sakowin (the Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota people) reunited. Through poetry and prose, essays, photography, interviews, and polemical interventions, the contributors reflect on Indigenous history and politics and on the movement’s significance. Their work challenges our understanding of colonial history not simply as “lessons learned” but as essential guideposts for activism.

Dispatches of radical political engagement from people taking a stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline

Are You a Settler?

Settler-colonialism, Capitalism and Marxism on Turtle Island

By Brian Ward, New Politics

Everything in U.S. history is about the land. Who oversaw and cultivated it, fished its waters, maintained its wildlife; who invaded and stole it; how it became a commodity (“real estate”) broken into pieces, to be bought and sold on the market.

—Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

The politics of solidarity on display during the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline have raised the issue of Indigenous liberation more and more sharply to people on the left. Activists have started to recognize that their struggles against ecological destruction, imperialism, and colonization are linked to the fight for Native self-determination that has gone on now for decades, even centuries. The recent struggles Standing Rock and Keystone XL stand in the tradition of organizations like Black Hills Alliance in the 1980s that brought together Natives and non-natives in the Black Hills in South Dakota to try to stop uranium mining.

A whole new generation of activists has learned the long history of the United States continually breaking treaties with the Indigenous Nations—stomping upon their self-determination any time the government and corporations demand access to Native lands to extract energy and raw materials. The climate justice movement is coming to an understanding that treaties must be upheld and extended, as demanded by Indigenous Nations, based on their traditional territories. We have an urgent need to bring the fight against Native oppression into all the economic and social struggles of today. And that means grasping, as clearly and firmly as possible, that the struggle for Native liberation means keeping the question of land rights central.

In this essay I will demonstrate how settler-colonialism was and is vital to the development and maintenance of capitalism by using historical examples. Understanding the history and ongoing process of Settler-colonialism adds to our understanding of capitalism, while ignoring it perpetuates the erasure from history of Native peoples and their resistance to that process. I will do my best to use actual Indigenous Nation names such as the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota (Oceti Sakowin) or Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) or the Dine (Navajo) but will also use the words “Indigenous,” “Native,” “Native American,” “American Indian,” and “Indian” when appropriate, such as in quotations. I will often lump the United States and Canada together because their experience with Indigenous people are very similar.

Among Indigenous people, the common name for the continent of North America—and the one I will use accordingly—is Turtle Island.

Hundreds of different social organizations existed on Turtle Island prior to the arrival of capitalist markets, but one common feature was that most Indigenous Nations treated the land as something held in common. The idea of nonhuman life being someone’s “private property” was almost literally unthinkable. Many Indigenous theorists now consider “modes of relationship” a more useful concept than “modes of production” when talking about what Winona LaDuke, a citizen of the White Earth Ojibwe Nation, has called the co-evolution of Indigenous peoples and their environment and surroundings. Material conditions required Nations to develop relationships with human and nonhuman life in order to thrive. Indigenous people didn’t pursue a sustainable existence out of some mystical nobility but because reality demanded it.

Writing in the Communist Manifesto in 1848, Karl Marx said, “The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.” From an Indigenous perspective, that expanding market transformed abundance into scarcity.

Exploitation, expropriation, and extraction of the land’s riches created wealth for those colonizing land and enforcing their claim to it by violence. Marx’s term for this process as it had occurred in Europe is usually called “primitive accumulation,” although it might be better translated as “primary” or “original” accumulation.

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