Decolonization and indigenization is the new reconciliation.
And many of our people are blindly holding, and even kissing, colonialism’s hand in the process.
So many of our people are willingly playing the lead role in the now colonial-skewed process of “decolonization” and “indigenization.”
They are becoming the pets to the university deans, the star-pupils to the healthcare executive directors, the celebrities to the city’s mayor, and the champion students to the prime minister – ultimately, they are allowing themselves to become, and are complying to, roles of tokenism so heavily steeped in colonialism that they are becoming the tokenized version of the Indian that colonialism is so deeply infatuated with.
The Indian that allows themselves to be a child to the toxic, authoritative parent that is colonialism.
The Indian that needs to be rescued from their savage ways.
Because the only good indian, is a colonized indian.
And today that looks like an Indian who thinks they are decolonizing and indigenizing colonial systems, when really they are colonizing themselves in the process.
Colonialism’s version of decolonization and indigenization is an Indian operating and agreeing to colonialism but wearing buckskin and eagle feathers to show their indigeneity.
As our people commit to “decolonizing” and “indigenizing” within colonial confines, what is underneath all of this is a process of “decolonization,” and “indigenization” that is so surface deep that colonialism is seeping and pouring through the land acknowledgements and name changes from Indian to indigenous in these institutions.
The reigns of “decolonization” and “indigenization” are being guided by colonialism. It has been co-opted so heavily that it is no longer an indigenous movement- but a colonial one.
And we are acting like we have all forgotten how to lead, as we sit in the back-seat, nodding our heads and shaking hands with whichever white leader will send a smile in our direction.
All in the name of decolonization and indigenization.
Because now the university deans can say they “respect” indigenous peoples because they acknowledged the land and treaty territory that the institution stands on, yet yesterday, they committed intellectual violence against an indigenous student in their office as they told them their Master’s thesis on racism within the university leadership is too risky.
The healthcare executive directors can say they “appreciate” indigenous peoples because they have a smudging room at their hospitals one day, but continue to ignore the complaints of racism and discrimination against their nurses and doctors each and every day made by the very same indigenous peoples they “appreciate.”
The city’s mayor can say they hold indigenous peoples in “high regard” as they speak at the National Aboriginal Day event one day, but can claim ownership and control over stolen indigenous lands in “their” cities and towns every. single. day.
The prime minister can say he has a “deep appreciation” for indigenous peoples for his whole campaign, he can even visit numerous indigenous communities and take photos shaking their hands and kissing their babies, but can force pipelines through their territories the next that will ultimately kill future generations of those same families he shook hands with.
And they can all say “we are moving forward in the process of decolonization and efforts in indigenization” as they take photos with young indigenous peoples that they have severely tokenized.
And those young people? They feel it deep down that something is off, something does not make sense, yet they’re constantly told “you have a great future ahead of you,” and “you are so resilient,” and “you are going to make a change for your people.”
The future they’re talking about? A colonial one.
If we, as indigenous peoples, really wanted to regain self-determination over our own processes of decolonization and indigenization, we would not be allowing colonial institutions to “lead” the efforts.
We would not allow colonial leaders to control the direction it is going in.
We would not allow ourselves to be subjugated to the extent where one indigenous person who agrees to pipelines, represents all indigenous peoples.
We would not allow colonial systems to complete the process of pairing efforts of decolonization and indigenization in the same box as reconciliation.
If we, as indigenous peoples, really wanted to regain self-determination over our own processes of decolonization and indigenization, we would not even allow colonialism to lay a finger on, or have a say on, what indigenization and decolonization looks like.
Indigenization and decolonization would be such a deeply motivated indigenous effort that we would only begin to see if weaving its way through ourselves, our families, and our communities.
Efforts of Indigenization and decolonization would not be arrogantly sliding out of the mouths of white, patriarchal males at institutions that are still killing our young people through suicide daily.
Indigenization and decolonization needs to become what it was intended to for indigenous peoples.
A process and space where indigenous peoples can individually reclaim their mother tongues and learn how to forgive mothers and fathers to restore families. Where indigenous families can revitalize kinship systems so heavily infused with familial reciprocity, cooperation, and shared responsibility of care-taking of children that generations of familial cut-offs are easily restored, and where indigenous communities can remember indigenous leadership to the point where Indian Act chief and councils completely, and miraculously, dissolve, because colonial leadership values will never work for our people.
Indigenization and decolonization was formerly meant for our children. It was a movement intended to remind ourselves, as indigenous kokums, moshums, mothers and fathers, aunties, uncles, sisters, brother, and cousins how to raise our nations with practices ingrained in intergenerational knowledge, intergenerational truth, and intergenerational love. Free of colonial dictatorship, patriarchy, misogyny, and white supremacy.
It was intended for indigenous, by indigenous peoples.
It came from a place of “change needs to happens, and here’s how it will happen,” by our people.
Decolonization and indigenization is the new reconciliation.
And I, for one, will not allow colonialism to, yet again, continue to steal something that is rightfully ours as Indigenous peoples.
And how do we change it?
By no longer recognizing it as decolonization and indigenization.
By recognizing it as another branch of colonization when colonial systems are skewing it to fit their toxic, and racially motivated, agendas.
By doing us. Ourselves. Without decolonization and indigenization.
By ultimately, becoming living examples of indigenous resurgence, revitalization through the recovery of our mother-tongues, kinship systems, healthy lifestyles, land-based practices, forgiveness processes, and traditional diets.
Because indigenization and decolonization is the new reconciliation.
And practicing indigenous systems, is the new resurgence.
And we need this. For our own survival.
Artwork by: Aura.
Inspired by: Mackenzie Anderson