By , The Fifth Column
Three Steps to Decolonization
More than 5.1 million people in the US identify as fully or partially Native American or Alaska Native, according to the US Census Bureau. Up to 2.5 million identify as fully indigenous Native American or Alaska Native. Of that total, more than half do not live on reservations. Recognize that while today the majority of Americans are feasting that the majority of natives are starving or dying from alcoholism and depression, many of them are homeless, unemployed and alone. The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs estimates that “per capita income in Indigenous areas is about half that of the US average, and the poverty rate is around three times higher”.
The fact is that Natives are poor not because they failed at civilization, and misunderstanding the ways in which Native bodies are made poor and are criminalized makes it impossible to understand the structure of settler colonialism as a precondition for that poverty.
You can’t heal from something that continually inflicts wounds upon you. The trauma is continually being inflicted, and must be recognized by the masses. There are only six mental health professionals on the entire reservation of Pine Ridge, which has a population of 16,000 to 40,000 tribal members based on varying government and tribal estimate. This has had a huge impact on the mental health of the youth (ages 12-24), who have been committing suicide in alarmingly and increasingly high rates. More than 80 percent of residents suffer from alcoholism. A quarter of children are born with fetal alcohol syndrome or similar conditions. Life expectancy – 48 years for men, 52 for women – is the second-lowest in the western hemisphere, behind only the Caribbean country Haiti. The tuberculosis and diabetes rates are eight times the national averages, while the cervical cancer rate is five times more than the US average. Colonial thought is literally killing our peoples. To be Lakota in this world is a challenge because they want to maintain their own culture, but they’re being told their culture is not successful. The system is overwhelmed. No matter which reservation you go to, that’s what you’ll find. Take time to publicly recognize this struggle and show your solidarity in a meaningful way through mutual aid and direct action. Show your support of the indigenous peoples by going to these places (with permission) and doing what you can to improve lives.
Uplift and uphold native speakers and their culture, do not tone police or speak over a native voice on topics of their beliefs, cultures etc… You as an ally should help prioritize the issues that native people bring to light. Make it a regular thing to converse and discuss the topics and issues native people deal with daily. Don’t speak of us as if we are gone, speak of us as we truly are: strong, proud, fearless, independent, and everlasting. Buy land and donate it to a local tribe, help fundraise for native communities, bring teachers of trades and technology to give us the tools for communal growth and empowerment in a modern world so quick to forget and throw us away. We need the tools and support to come back from the decades of oppression and genocide. We need hope, help us obtain that once again. As previously stated, mental health professionals and training of them is sorely lacking on reservations. Changing the availability and access to these professionals will do a whole world of good for the residents.
Stop supporting colonial systems. Do not vote in federal elections. When you support colonial systems you are legitimizing this erasure and oppression. You are literally becoming the actors of our genocide. When you vote for any candidate you are saying “yes, you can rule me” but also saying “I give you the power to rule those who have not voted.” There is no such thing as choosing between the lesser of two evils, all state actors are evil. The state has to be destroyed by whatever means possible for decolonization to come into effect, so that means you must take dramatic steps to delegitimize it and that includes not participating in the process that gives it ‘consent to rule.’
The idea of reparations is very open to what you can define it as specifically. The recognized definition is “the making of amends for a wrong one has done, by paying money to or otherwise helping those who have been wronged.” In this sense we are talking about the final step of Decolonisation and how we can achieve and build steps for that to happen. We have to change education on every level to restore the true history of this land. We do this by beginning with our children, that means you have to take time out of your day to teach your children these same lessons you yourself are learning. We need to raise the future generation to know only decolonial thought and to question and refute everything they are taught is a colonial narrative. Teach your children the real history of Amerikka. Amerikkan history didn’t start in the 1600s and we shouldn’t teach that anywhere. We have to change the idea that the white man is the norm on the continent, and holds the only accurate representation of history, and by doing so we will begin to reverse the narrative of white supremacist history. We achieve this by placing natives in positions where they can actively change whole communities through democratic procedures supported by allies, and by placing indigenous figureheads, chiefs, braves, wise men, and scholars into our common curriculum of learning. Why is it we must be forced to learn of the white mans Head Men but never the great indigenous leaders who saved their people from annihilation? We allow natives to become token speakers of future ideologies and paths of progress by not taking up space, and by elevating their platforms and messages high above the white man’s. We remove all images and documents of authority that represent or dictate the oppression they face including sports figures, statues of orchestrators of our genocide, and pretty much everywhere else the white man’s image is held in higher regard than the original inhabitants of the lands. We must renegotiate treaties where the colonials are the ones who get told where they can live and what resources they can use. This is so important because without restricting those, without decolonial praxis from the resources, they will use and abuse and destroy them as history has always shown. We pay through all of our labors the native communities back until this land is theirs again and the normal narrative is that of the decolonial one.
Be the change you want to see, stop sitting on your hands and acting like you cant make a change, there is a way we can all decolonize our thought and it’s here presented to you from the labors of the indigenous peoples. Look at all this labor put out simply to make the world a better place. Through the actions of the few we can change the hearts and minds of many, through the actions of many we can begin to reverse the history of erasure and genocide and ensure to our indigenous hosts that we have their backs and we will never relent in our fight against colonial thoughts and practices.