“If we failed to remember our ancestors, our freedom would be somebody’s freedom, not our own. Our destiny, the destiny of someone else. Our ancestors will not even be able to recognize us on the other side: we would have changed so much”
– Chi’xapKaid (Michael Pavel – Skokomish Nation)
My young 16 year old cousin, with flowing black hair and a curiousity with no end, asked me what the pile of papers were leading to.
“A paper for school on my decolonization journey. I’m just thinking about how important it is to be engaged in rediscovery of who you are as an Indigenous person. It’s important to know your history, know your culture, in order to move forward in a good way,” I say, working my thoughts out as I speak.
She laughs as if what I said was ludricous and pulls the Rice Krispies out of the cupboard.
“What’s funny?” I ask, now curious.
“Nothing,” she says then continues, “well it’s just that no ones going to do that.”
“You know, take the time that you need to find out who you are. Everybody has got jobs, work, school, their own goals. They’re too caught up in living to launch on this kind of journey of rediscovery you’re talking about,” she says while slipping a spoon into her bowl and then disappears down the hall.
I feel angered. I’m not upset with her but with the reality of what she said, the truth jagged like chipped and rusted daggers stabs into my idealistic perception. My faith is punctured and I’m bleeding out onto the linoleum floor. Fuck.
Is that the truth? Are we all much too busy to actively pursue the truth of who we are? Maybe most of us are just too scared, too scared of the reality of what awaits us. When you have been another man’s prisoner whether it be mentally, spiritually, emotionally, or physically… freedom can seem like a dangerous thing. Afterall, with freedom comes responsibility, a call to action, and if you never change then neither will your level of comfort and ability to only be accountable to yourself. But if we want to move forward successfully, in a good way, and create meaningful long-lasting change for future generations we will have to examine ourselves, our thought processes, and question the perch we sit upon as we perceive the world.
This journey is about reclaiming the warrior, it’s also about questioning the legitimacy of the policies,laws, and institutional structures that continue to colonize and define our existence for us.
Albert Memmi once wrote that, “in order for the colonizer to be the complete master, it is not enough for him to be so in actual fact, he must also believe in its legitimacy. In order for that legitimacy to be complete, it is not enough for the colonized to be a slave, he must also accept his role.”
So the question to pose when considering the journey of decolonization and helping others begin their own is, “Can we afford not to take the time to do this?” and, “By ignoring this calling, are we just accepting our role?”