Something smells… but how can you put a name to it if you don’t know what it is?
I remember the term “colonization” being thrown about in grown up conversation while I, was in fact a grown up. 20 years old and scratching my head or giving the odd nod like I understood what the hell was going on.
How can you know you have been colonized, are being colonized and assimilated, if you do not know what it means?
Some people may claim ignorance is bliss but it’s not all that beautiful if circumstances never change. When I had no knowledge of the historical impacts of colonization or the absurdly prejudiced legislation the government had in place before (and still in some cases), I only seen people from my shared background as weak willed.
Growing up I would try to pull the, “I’m white,” pause and puzzled looks, “with a little bit of Native”. I’m less than 1/4 white but am pretty fair-skinned so as a teenager I got away with what I could.
But that’s it. Get the people to believe that they are “inferior”, get them to engage in “self depreciating” and they will see the colonizers (now mainstream society) ways and traditions more appealing than their own. Who hasn’t heard the stereotype of the drunken Indian and hasn’t cringed?
I did not know anything about my actual culture, only seen what I saw on the streets and later on within my home. I did not want any part of this. It wasn’t until I started to: A) learn about my culture, and, B) learn about the historical impacts that caused, created and influenced the circumstances I seen around me, that I finally understood… And I was pissed off and outraged. Now I’m doing something about it.
When Indigenous people reconnect to the truth of who they are, their traditions, songs, beliefs, and dance these quasi-beliefs of being inferior are quickly karate chopped and thrown out the window.
This is why there were so many Canadian policies aimed at the heart of our Indigenous tribes. Examples: Bans on potlatches (they were waaay to communist), bans on raising money to fight land claims, bans on Sundances, ban on appearing off of reserve in Traditional Clothing without consent from an Indian agent(WTF?). Those (as well as other aimed policies and legislation) were lifted in 1951.
We didn’t even get the vote until 1960 when we “officially” became citizens of our homeland. I realized today that my Grandma was 20 years old when our people received that right. That isn’t a 100 years ago, or a time before time, that sh*t right there is fresh.Before 1960, you couldn’t even attend University unless you gave up your status as and Indian. Talk about keepin’ a good brown man down…… or woman.
Back to colonization, the term basically means the methods and ways (think school, media, religion, forms of governance) that the colonizers maintain the subjugation/exploitation of Indigenous peoples, lands and resources.
What does it mean to you to be colonized?
For me, colonization means that every day I have to battle the media monster to assert the role of a proud sacred Indigenous woman that doesn’t see her body as an object. I am bombarded with the message to make my dreams come true and Cash Rules Everything Around Me, CREAM, get the money. It means that I spent every sunday up until the age of 13 sitting in the pew of a church and was not allowed to take part of cultural camps.
Today I heard a girl define colonization as, “an act against the very essence of me. It’s an act of assimilation.”
So… colonization is still happening?
Yes it sure is.
What does decolonization look like?
” Decolonization is the intelligent, calculated, and active resistance to the forces of colonialism, that perpetuate the subjugation and/or exploitation of our minds, bodies, and lands, and it is engaged for the ultimate purpose of overturning the colonial structure AND REALIZING INDIGENOUS LIBERATION“
– For Indigenous Eyes Only: decolonization Handbook.
Decolonization is taking it back, reclaiming the right to be a warrior, and using it. It is about understanding where you come from, and how you can dismantle Goliath going forward. But if you DONT know and if you DONT care that things DONT change and our children inherit this system and way of life that OPPRESSES them and pushes them FURTHER from the TRUTH of who they are…
What does decolonization mean to you?
I’ll end this with a quote from Steven Biko:
“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed” – 1971 Speech in Cape Town
Good job, Helen.
Helen you are amazing and I love you more than words can express. Keep writing because it is awesome.
wow that’s powerful too. I like that way you are exploring this and really trying to find ways of appreciating yourself again. I too went through the same thing. Growing up feeling ashamed and that I felt that our white colonizers had the answers. As I grew older I began to see that the media and other institutions even the church started to propagate the self hate we had for ourselves. Keep up the good work in your journey.
Thanks, I see the propogation and the slyest thing is, to not believe or be aware of the assimilation process. That’s the ticket right there, to be unaware and therefore accept what is given too you. We hold the answers to our hearts within our cultures 🙂 .
I love you girl