I never want to be seen as an equal to settler society.

I never want to be seen as an equal to settler society.

Nor do I ever want to be seen as an equal in the eyes of the colonizer.

And I never want to be seen as “successful” within colonial systems.

It started when I was young.

It was lurking in the beginning stages of public speaking, of meeting with ministers, of being groomed in this space of false indigeniety to achieve colonial success.

It was intertwined in the statements of “you are going to be the next Prime Minister of Canada!” And the “you are so resilient. This is your line of work!”

I would sit there and melt into this feeling of success. These feelings of “I’m gonna do something big with my life.”

The feelings of “I am destined for greatness.”

But the greatness I thought I was destined for was only colonial greatness.

These colonial systems hand-select indigenous young people and “mentor” them in a way where they perceive success as meaning being front and centre in colonial systems. “Achievement and success in colonial systems as an indigenous person is a strong step in the realm of equality.”

What a crazy belief!

Because to be equal to the colonizer means to also accept the continued acts of genocide against indigenous peoples.

To be equal to the colonizer means to laugh at racism, and to allow and to comply to behaviours that are outright harmful to indigenous peoples and their homelands everyday.

It meant laughing uncomfortably at the jokes colonialism makes against your people in meeting rooms.

“Oh but not you, you’re different than them.” They will often state that after making a racist joke.

To be equal to the colonizer, in the eyes of the colonizer, as an Indigenous person, is an act of submission. It is submitting generations of resilience and battles completed by the ones who walked before us, all in the name of “fairness” and “acceptance.”

It means the only way to be seen as an equal to them is agreeing with statements like “we didn’t commit genocide, most of you are still here.”

Being seen as an “equal” to the colonizer as an Indigenous women means not reporting the rapists to the police because you would rather not cause more trouble and do not want to be seen as the problem in colonial justice systems.

It means hanging up the phone after you report domestic violence, and the officer responds to you with “does he have a weapon?” You reply “his fists.” They state “call us back when he has a weapon.”

Being seen as an “equal” to the colonizer means not reporting the sexual harassment from the boss in colonial workplaces for fear of being reprimanded and furthermore losing one’s place on the corporate ladder. Because “equality” beats self-worth at the time.

And that job is your “dream job.” So stay quiet.

Being seen as an “equal” to the colonizer means staying silent in the face of racism, or even laughing to the jokes just so you can maintain the peace at your job and not be seen as a “troublemaker,” because “hey, you’re not like the other Indians we’ve met.”

Being seen as an “equal” to the colonizer means dating the white men, even if their existence makes you cringe, because you believe that all Indian men are bad news, and the only way to gain more success in life is to be with a partner who is “good news.”

It comes with the belief that Indigenous people can’t work on their traumas so ultimately, white people are the ones who will give you the life you crave.

It is these beliefs, values, and norms that are fuelling the colonial fire of success, where indigenous truth and authenticity burns and dissolves into nothing, all in the name of being seen as as “equal” to the colonial dictators that make up one’s ego.

Colonial systems attempt to rob the ideas around indigenous livelihoods being fundamental in a person’s life and rather reformulates them into ideas of colonial success being the only route in early childhood.

When Indigenous young people are in school, they rarely hear “learn to love the land, to be successful.” Rather it’s “leave the Rez, get a colonial education, and get a colonial job, to be successful!”

Colonial systems also leave out the truth of what it takes for an Indigenous person to be “successful” in colonial systems.

They leave out the fact that one must accommodate and advocate for colonialism, even if it means building a pipeline through one’s homelands without consent from one’s nation, if they want to be successful in colonial systems.

They leave out the fact that if you are an indigenous women, you will be tokenized and violently sexualized on the daily in your colonially successful job, and you cannot say a word of it or else you will be let go.

They leave out the fact that you must turn a blind eye to every suicide crisis, housing crisis, drinking water crisis, and health cruces related to indigenous peoples, caused by that same colonial system.

Because if you want to climb the ladders of colonial success, the very same ladders of colonial success that are built from the bones of our ancestors, then silence is your best friend.

But hey, at least you’re successful! You will have a great job, with great pay, pension, and benefits. You will be having fancy dinners in fancy hotels. And every day, you will be reminded just how racist colonial systems, and the people who run them, are.

And this is where it comes down to making a decision, that life changing decision.

This decision-making process can be taught to our children at young ages. The younger we teach children not to comply and cater to colonial versions of success and equality, the younger our children will untangle themselves from the traps of colonial success and equality.

They won’t be undoing knots at the age of

25, like I was doing.

Because, as soon as a child enters the doors of a school, it is there they are taught that the only way they will be successful in life is if they get an education and get a career.

It is the only way they will make a living and support themselves.

“Colonial success is your only route to making a living.” “If you get an education and move off the reserve, you will be set!”

Colonial educations systems strive to feed and maintain this narrative.

The belief that living on the land and on the Rez won’t get you anywhere exists so deeply in these systems that Land-based practices are seen as “field trips” and once a year activities.

A week long culture camp for students is great, however, it teaches children that there has to be a special time slot put aside for Land-based practices and that learning how to be successful within Indigenous systems is a “special” activity, rather than an every-day norm.

So how do we dissolve these ideas? How do we teach children, and ourselves as adults, to strive to be successful within indigenous systems?

How do we teach children, and ourselves as adults, that the only equality we need to strive for is an equality amongst our own people, so we can realign with a non-hierarchical form of indigenous kinship systems?

Practice.

It’s a practice. It means relearning, and untangling, ideas and practices that our people have done for generations.

It means remembering our roles as indigenous peoples amongst the land.

It means that rather than being “successful” in the city, we need to strive to remember how to be successful amongst the land.

It means raising our children to understand the colonial processes that can take place in their lives that are often disguised as opportunities of “success” and “equality.”

It means always, always, always being inclusive of the voices and minds of the child, no matter how young.

It means that our relationship with our children, and the children around us, shouldn’t be one based on superiority and inferiority, but one of equality and kinship.

It means knowing that change can’t happen within colonial systems, but rather within Indigenous families, within Indigenous kinship systems.

It means knowing that Indigenous success and equality within ourselves and our systems strives for truth, authenticity, and an existence of resistance and love.

It means never once uttering the words “we need an Indigenous Prime Minister.”

Because once we have an Indigenous Prime Minister, then we will have an Indigenous person in charge of the continued colonization and assimilation processes of our people.

It means whoever is in that position is one who is striving for that equality with colonialism, and ultimately working towards the continued domestication process of our nations as Indigenous peoples.

An Indigenous Prime Minister is someone who is compliant in our struggle. It is a position, I for one, would never celebrate.

I, for one, never want to be seen as an equal in the eyes of the colonizer.

Instead, I strive to hold the same values, morals, and beliefs, of those who have existed before me, and those who will exist after me.

Standing strong in my Indigenous self-power.

Because Indigenous, land-based success is exactly what we need in our communities.

And this is exactly what we need to restore what we had as Indigenous families, communities, and nations.

And it will never be found in an Indigenous Prime Minister.

Artwork by: Chief Ladybird

Ig: @chiefladybird

Decolonization and Indigenization is the New Reconciliation

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

Ig: @auralast

The Intergenerational Resistance of Unapologetic Indigenous Parents

To be an indigenous parent in the generations before ours meant ensuring that indigenous children were raised with the weapons of safety and camouflage in order to stay in the family homefires, on the traditional homelands, and most importantly, to be kept alive.

To be an indigenous parent in today’s day and age means ensuring that your children are raised with the weapons of resistance and revitalization in order to defy colonial reconciliation and colonial assimilation.

To be an indigenous parent in the future means to ensure that indigenous children are raised with the weapons of survival and land-based knowledge in order to endure the evident collapse of the colonial systems we are reliant on today.

Each generation of being an indigenous parent came with, and continues to come with, a distinct set of virtues, values, and ways of living that ultimately continues to maintain our existence as indigenous peoples.

The ability to resist. It’s everything. As an indigenous parent in times where colonialism began to perform its acts of genocide, resistance was everything. As an indigenous parent in times where colonialism began to specifically target the children and steal them from their home fires, resistance was everything. An an indigenous parent in times where colonialism is covertly performing acts of genocide and disguising them as reconciliation, resistance is everything.

And this is what we are not highlighting enough. The strength, willpower, and sacrifice indigenous parents make each and every day, each and every generation, and each and every lifetime, in order for us to keep breathing, and resisting, today.

How we raise our children as indigenous parents will ultimately create the future for our nations. The decisions we make in regards to diet, language, traditions, integration of land-based practices, kinship, and even whether or not our children are recognized under the Indian act, are all instrumental in designing the future for our nations.

Yet, there is this narrative about indigenous parents and indigenous childhood that is seeping into our lives through stereotypes, colonial discourse, indigenous fiction, indigenous film, and even how we speak about our childhoods at events and conferences.

The narrative sounds something like this:

“My dad/mother was a drunk.”

“I grew up with no father.”

“My mother/father was violent/abusive.”

“My mother used to whip me with a willow.”

“My mother cried lots.”

“My mother had lots of boyfriends.”

“My parents partied a lot.”

“My mother/father never allowed me to cry.”

“My childhood was dysfunctional.”

“My parents were dysfunctional.”

Yes, this narrative is true in many of our families. Yes, many of our childhoods were like this. And yes, we have every right to feel how we need to feel about it all.

But our intergenerational trauma, our parent’s intergenerational trauma, and our moshum’s/kokum’s intergenerational trauma does not have to be our only truth shared and repeated today.

Oftentimes when we talk about trauma, intergenerational or not, we commend ourselves for overcoming what we had to in order for us to be where we are today as indigenous parents. We highlight what we are doing differently or how we learned from our parent’s mistakes. This is important and deserves recognition.

However, another important piece is missing from these conversations and dialogues. The need to commend our parents, our moshums and kokums, and our relatives generations prior for overcoming their atrocious and barbaric traumas is imperative. It is imperative because without their ability to resist, or simply survive with the best way they knew how during that time of indigenous perseverance, we would not be alive today.

We need to commend those generations before ours for raising us the best way they knew how with the tools that they had at the time because the trauma of witnessing one’s whole tribe and village being murdered by the colonizer would be enough for many to want to give up. But, many didn’t. And many continued to raise children, and families, despite the most atrocious traumas becoming eternally embedded and intertwined into their existence.

And amongst all the trauma within Indigenous parents and families is this ultimate truth: the love far outweighs the trauma. Even if the trauma showed up more than the love- the love existed, buried beneath the layers of the trauma.

Because truthfully, no indigenous parent has been left unscathed by colonialism. Which also translates into the reality that no indigenous child has been left unscathed by colonialism.

And the scary part is that many of us are now doing the colonizer’s work today by unintentionally parenting our children from a place where colonialism is automatically interfering with their lives.

So here we are, fighting against colonialism, attempting to hold colonialism accountable for generations of trauma against our people, yet we are choosing to raise our children from a place that is inauthentically indigenous- from a place of colonialism.

It shows up as authoritative parenting, as thinking we know better than, smarter than, and superior to our children. It shows up as sending our children to public schools, or even schools in our communities that are littered with nepotism, lateral violence, and gossip in the adults who run the schools. It shows up as allowing our children to be taught that Columbus discovered these lands, that Sir John A Macdonald was a forefather of this “country,” thanksgiving was a sharing of a meal between pilgrims and Indians, and that reconciliation will fix everything. It shows up as teaching our children virtues and values that the colonizer would be proud of, like capitalism and consumerism. It shows up as not taking the time to remind our children how to love the land. It shows up as not correcting our children when they repeat what they are taught in the outside realm of their families, “I am Canadian.”

To be an Indigenous parent today is about reversing the toxic narrative found in novels, speeches, magazines, and movies. Its about teaching our children indigenous truths rather than colonial lies. It’s about restoring the truth of our kinship models.

“I am sober.”

“My children will grow up with healthy family members around, even the adopted family members.”

“I have done my best to heal my own traumas, and am devoted to continue to heal my own traumas, so as not to inflict harm on my own children.”

“I teach my children that all emotions are good emotions.”

“I respect myself enough to be in healthy relationships, especially for my children.”

“My children can cry whenever they feel they need to.”

“Indigenous families are healing.”

These are the messages we need to hear. We need to flip the script in order for indigenous children to live in an indigenous truth so authentic, so real, that anything less than will not suffice in their lives.

To be an Indigenous parent today means recognizing generations of Indigenous parents before us who were living, breathing examples of the word ahkameyimok (to persevere, or try hard) before we even knew what resistance was.

It means carrying a very real fear of your child pulling up to a farm when they need help in the rural areas of their people’s traditional homelands and being murdered, point blank, with no repercussions for the murderer.

It means teaching your daughter to not walk alone, no matter where she is, because you do not want to have to bring her photograph and name to parliament hill to fight for an inquiry for her death.

Being an Indigenous parent means reminding your sons over, and over, and over again, why having a braid is important when they come home in tears after a tough day of teasing.

Being an Indigenous parent means teaching your children what racism is at the age of three when they’re made fun of for their brown skin.

It means having a deeply ceded fear that a bruise from a fall, or your child looking a little unkempt, will lead to their apprehension, simply because you are Indigenous.

Being an Indigenous parent means constantly equipping your children with the tools to battle the comments about tax dollars, free education, free housing, welfare, living on reserve, why every white guy was wrong for murdering the Indian, and any other racist encounter they may come across in their lives.

Being an indigenous parent is a fear-inducing, yet liberating experience as we strive to overcome the challenges that colonialism orchestrates against us daily.

Ultimately, to be an Indigenous parent today means to acknowledge the lessons of resistance that have been ceremoniously sewn into our existence from generations ago, it means collectively overthrowing the narrative that is being replayed that focuses on our intergenerational trauma rather than our intergenerational kinship practices. It was these intergenerational kinship practices that maintained our livelihoods and the land-based practices and teachings that came with them which lead to our ancestors prayers, suffering, and revolutionizing in order for us to do our best as parents today.

To be an indigenous parent today, one must continue the exercises and practices of healing one’s own trauma. One must remember that they are not responsible in putting an end to all racism, oppression, and white-privilege- but one can do their best in starting revitalization, resistance, and revolution. One must remember that forgiveness and reconciliation for one’s own mistakes, and one’s own family, MUST go before reconciliation with colonialism.

And lastly, to be an indigenous parent today means honouring, and continuously revitalizing, the essence of those who walked before us through meticulously and tirelessly practicing all that they taught us generationally. It means healing oneself constantly so that “intergenerational trauma” becomes extinct from our vernacular.

Because intergenerational teachings and intergenerational healing will always, always, always supersede intergenerational trauma.

And this, is how we need to raise our children.

Traumaless.

And lastly, unapologetically Indigenous.

Artwork by: Chief Ladybird

IG: @chiefladybird

Twitter: @chiefladybird

Decolonization And Indigenization Will Not Create The Change We Need

We cannot decolonize or indigenize canada or colonial systems.

And it is a lie to believe that we can decolonize and indigenize ourselves as indigenous peoples and our ways of living.

Yet, this belief is so instilled within society and indigenous nations that we have made it our mission to decolonize and indigenize everything possible. It’s like that Oprah Winfrey meme. You know the one. But instead of telling people that they get a car she is saying “you get decolonized!” “you get decolonized!” And “you get decolonized!”

And the people go wild.

Yes, decolonization and indigenization were words coined by indigenous peoples as a form of resistance and reclamation. However, the colonizer has heavily co-opted these terms and made it their own. And the more that I think about these terms, the more I realize that these terms should not even exist in our vernaculars, for they are false words that feed false ideas which in turn creates false hope.

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It is called a victory when a university implements mandatory indigenous studies classes for all students.

It is celebrated when all staff at a public school are required to receive “cultural competency training.”

It is proclaimed as a momentous shift when public spaces allow for smudging and prayer.

It is described as a “good first step,” and even glorified, when the federal government creates an “inquiry” meant to bring justice to the thousands of slain Indigenous women on these lands.

It is seen as progress when the federal government gives a community a chunk of money to aid it during the peak of a suicide crisis.

However, none of these things are worth celebrating, nor are they victorious, momentous, a good first step, or even progressive in nature.

The reason? They are all events that claim to play a major role in the processes of decolonization and indigenization within colonial systems. Events that may look like advancements for indigenous peoples within colonial systems but are ultimately inherently for show.

Here is where the lies come into play.

Decolonization and indigenization are both a lie. They are a lie because the process of decolonizing and indigenizing colonial systems does not, and cannot, work. And they do not, and cannot, work because any process that has to do with decolonization and indigenization within colonial systems must ultimately follow colonial rules and behave fundamentally colonial. Meaning all outcomes will still be primarily, colonial. The truth is due to how colonial systems were created, and how they still operate today means that colonial systems cannot and will not change.

Now the other paradigm where we believe decolonization and indigenization can occur is within ourselves as indigenous peoples and within our ways of living. Yet, the grand lie is that indigenous peoples and our ways of living have been colonized enough to have to be decolonized in the first place. If we were colonized, and our ways of living were colonized, then our languages would be fully gone, our prayer life would be dissolved, our kinship practices would be completely extinct.

Indigenous peoples and our ways of life were never colonized, they were simply disrupted.

So to say we need to decolonize and indigenize is simply falling into the colonizer’s constructed belief that we as indigenous peoples, and our ways of life, have been colonized.

I call bullshit.

All it was, and all it ever will be, is a disruption.

When we celebrate, claim victory, call something momentous, a good first step, or a much needed change, we are falling into the colonizer’s traps and unhealthy false idealizations around indigenization and decolonization.

And here’s why:

A mandatory indigenous studies class for all university students at any university automatically places indigenous students in an unnecessary and forced position of advisory within those classrooms. Many non-indigenous professors will utilize, and even abuse, the knowledge of indigenous students in their “Indigenous Studies” classrooms. An unspoken expectation is set whereas those indigenous students MUST add to in-class discussions as they are the automatic experts on all things Indigenous.

Yet, imagine this. You’re an Indigenous student in a class of approximately 150 non-indigenous students. The topic of colonization and genocide comes up. A student quips back “it wasn’t genocide. They didn’t kill THAT many Indians.” The professor looks over at you and nonchalantly asks you “do you know the number?”

You feel your cheeks burn, the rage coursing through your veins and bones, the frustration of having to answer another racist question, without being able to tell the student, and the professor, that the question in itself is very racist. Being young you may not have found the self-power within yourself to say “no, I do not have to answer that, because I am not your token Indian. Where is my pay-cheque if I am going to be a professor and educate the class, just like you Mr. Cunningham?” Instead, you may slide down your chair a bit, all eyes on you, and simply respond with “I don’t know.” Or if you’re feeling braver “I do not know the number, but I do know it was genocide.” And that is just the beginning. Now come the barrage of spiteful and colonial remarks like “how can you not know the number and claim it is genocide?” “What about our tax dollars?” “Who is paying for your education anyways?” “You guys can’t even take care of your homes, dogs, or families, what do you know?” And “fucken dumb Indian.”

And the professor? Most likely he/she will sit in their chair, clear their throat awkwardly, and move on to the next topic, where again you will be asked to clarify or provide evidence on what is being taught.

And we call the shaming, the allowance of racial discrimination in the classroom, and the automatic appointment of volunteer professor decolonization? Indigenization? The academy uses the phraseology as a tool to seem like they’re playing an imperative role in the fake process of decolonization, indigenization, and reconciliation, processes that are ultimately for the benefit of those professors and students within those classrooms.

Another example:

Staff at a public school are receiving required “cultural competency” training. The training is most likely taught by non-indigenous peoples or indigenous peoples who have become so engrained within colonial systems that they have lost complete sight of who they are and where they come from.

The setting, in the classroom of a mostly white school. A teacher handed out colour-by-number assignment to a grade three class where the children had to colour in a generally racist photo of an “Indian.” The skin colour of the indian had to be red. The only boy in the class with a braid brings the assignment home to show his mother, who then calls the school, who then gets forwarded to to the principal where the racist assignment is then made known. The teacher’s response when questioned? “I didn’t know a picture of a cartoon Indian wearing buckskin was racist.” A standard issued apology is made and all is swept under the rug.

Now the teachers all sit in the library attending their mandatory “cultural competency” training. A training none of them would ever take if they didn’t have to. A training that a quarter of them attempted to opt-out of. And throughout the session? All kinds of snide remarks. “Our hard-earned tax dollars go to them.” “Why don’t we get free education?” “Did you see the lice they bring into our schools?” “All of them are part of the child welfare system anyways.” And the facilitator? Sits in their chair, clears their throat awkwardly, and moves on to the next topic.

And we call the racism, the allowance of words like “squaw” and “savage” in the classroom, and the very surface “cultural competency” training in the public school decolonization? Indigenization? The colonial school system also uses the phraseology as a tool to seem like they’re playing an imperative role in the fake process of decolonization, indigenization, and reconciliation, processes that are ultimately for the benefit of those teachers and white students within those classrooms.

The third example:

The false decolonization and indigenization efforts are seen when the allowance to smudge and pray in colonial spaces is given by the colonizer. Permission to do so is given to the Indigenous person by a settler who sits in the biggest office in the building. However, every rule made by that settler must be followed in order to have the right to pray in those spaces.

An Indigenous woman is organizing an event in a conference room. It is a healing event for Indigenous peoples who have been impacted by residential schools. She decides to open up and close off with a smudge each day. After setting up she goes to the office of the event coordinator and asks if she can smudge. The event coordinator makes a call to the events manager who then makes a call to the conference centre manager. The answer, “she can, but lots of our staff are allergic to it so she can only do it for a short time period and must open all doors and windows after to air the room out.” The message is relayed to the woman. “We just want to make sure you’re not smoking drugs in there,” the event coordinator jokes.

That Indigenous woman does not laugh. Instead she calls the event coordinator out on their racist comment. “I am going to report you to your supervisor.” “Go ahead,” the event coordinator responds. “He’s the one who says that all the time though.” The woman does so anyways. And nothing is done. She is left ignored.

So she smudges the shit out of that room every morning, and every evening, even if the conference centre staff over exaggerate their coughs as they walk by. The event manager calls her a few weeks later, stating that what she did was very disrespectful and she would never be allowed to host an event on their premises again. She laughs and hangs up.

And we call the snide racist remarks, the allowance of ignoring a filed complaint, and the banning of indigenous peoples from colonial spaces decolonization? Indigenization? This colonial system also uses the phraseology as a tool to seem like they’re playing an imperative role in the process of fake decolonization, indigenization, and reconciliation, processes that are ultimately for the benefit of those conference coordinators and managers within those buildings.

Another example:

The federal government’s creation of the missing and murdered Indigenous women’s inquiry is one of the biggest examples of false efforts of decolonization and indigenization. This one more so falls under false strategies of reconciliation. The inquiry is done by leaders in colonial thinking and indigenous peoples who cater to colonialism in order to achieve life successes.

The inquiry is underway, yet women in our families are being murdered all across these lands. And still, nothing is being done. The inquiry is underway and rather than saving lives and seeking much needed justice for grieving families, the leaders of the inquiry are busy fighting over how to lead and how to communicate to the masses. The inquiry is underway and families are told their scheduled sessions are cancelled, with no real explanation as to why. The inquiry is underway and all that has come out of it is privileged women receiving privileged positions to roll out the inquiry. And no outcomes.

Families are left on the back burner, the budget is dwindling day by day, month by month. Justice for the murder of an indigenous woman can apparently go on summer vacation, as shown by this inquiry process. The people are still left voiceless. And colonialism still receives their paycheques.

And we call the continued murder of indigenous women, and the sweeping of families under the rug decolonization? Indigenization? Reconciliation? The justice system, and Trudeau himself, uses the phraseology as a tool to seem like they’re playing an imperative role in the process of fake decolonization, indigenization, and reconciliation, processes that are ultimately for the benefit of the Prime Minister and the leaders of the inquiry process.

And lastly:

The federal government giving a community a chunk of money to aid it during the peak of a suicide crisis is one of the most shameful examples of decolonization, indigenization, and reconciliation efforts. Colonial systems often believe that money is the answer to everything. And there is also the strange belief that indigenous peoples know how to stretch a dollar out, and we do. But you know why? Because we more often than not, have no other choice.

More lives of indigenous young people could be saved if enough dollars and people came into communities with the appropriate fine-tuned skills in the areas of grief and recovery, and emotional intelligence. Instead, colonialism sends in individuals who charge an obscene amount of money for a week long program with the mentality that they have the power to “save the people.”

Indigenous young people are forced into a band hall, 8 hours a day, with a non-indigenous person who charges anywhere from $5000-$10,000 a day for work originating around the white version of “medicine wheel teachings,” and activities on self esteem. If a young person leaves the program or takes off, they are criticized and even punished rather than allowing for the space to explore why they may have left the program.

And still that non-indigenous person thinks they are “saving” the kids. Their mentality is strewn throughout the program they are running, treating the kids as though they are less important, not as smart as, and inferior to them. And when they leave? Everything remains the same.

And we call the continued suicide of indigenous young people, and the superior mentality of people going into communities “helping” these kids decolonization? Indigenization? Reconciliation? The mental health system uses the phraseology as a tool to seem like they’re playing an imperative role in the fake process of decolonization, indigenization, and reconciliation, processes that are ultimately for the benefit of those white mental health workers.

None of these things are worth celebrating, nor are they victorious, momentous, a good first step, or progress. But you know what is?

When an indigenous student in a mandatory indigenous studies class stands up against the other students and professor, regardless of what impact it will have on their final grade and their reputation, because to that student, self-revolution in indigeneity means honouring the generations before them and after. When the mother and her grade three aged son stand up against the teacher, and the principal of the school, regardless of what impact it will have on that student’s final grade and reputation, because to that mother and child, land-based learning and boycotting racist settings leads to the ultimate form of autonomy and the thousands of years of indigenous self-love. When the indigenous women stands up against the conference centre managers and employees due to their racist rhetoric in regards to smudging and praying in forced colonial spaces regardless of her being able to host her session there now or ever again. Because to her, this session would do much better on the land anyways. And when the indigenous families of women who have been taken from them to soon collectively decide that they must in charge of the process of justice, with or without colonial systems, regardless of how much money the federal government will, or will not, provide them. Because practicing self-healing and models of traditional justice will provide more relief than colonial justice ever could.

As stated previously, the efforts of decolonization and indigenization do not even fit within our own intricately intertwined systems; whether it be on the land, within our kinship practices, or amongst our ways of being. These efforts do not fit in our systems because, as stated previously, indigenous systems were never colonized to begin with. All that colonialism did to indigenous systems, remember, was disrupt them.

Decolonization and indigenization are words used to benefit the colonizer and settler culture in order for them to look good in the eyes of those who are trying to create positive change in communities.

But truthfully, colonial systems can never be decolonized or indigenized. And indigenous systems do not need to be decolonized or indigenized.

So let us stop clamouring, applauding, and putting colonial systems and colonial leaders on pedestals for doing false and imaginary work that is ultimately dangerous and places our young people in more high-risk situations.

The only thing that needs to happen is the resurgence of indigenous systems within indigenous peoples.

Because even an Indigenous prime minister will not create change in colonial systems. But it would look damn good in the colonizer’s game of decolonization and indigenization.

We must lead ourselves.

Ressurect the indigenous love that our ancestors had for the land.

For our children.

And for our grandchildren.

Wasted Energy on the Battles Against Appropriation and Racism: Indigenous Systems are Resistance

“Let’s raise our children to fall in love with indigenous systems rather than attempting to destroy colonial systems from within.”

I say this because our babies need to know what is important. They need to know what will truthfully keep us alive in the long run. I say this because everything we are fighting in colonial systems rather than building up in our own systems is an example of us wasting our own resources. I say this because I do not want my grandchildren to think that a “dream job” at the UN is worth more than knowing how to fend for themselves on their homelands.

We spend more time & energy fighting appropriation, oppression, and racism in the colonial structures that they are built and thrive upon than we do re-learning and rebuilding Indigenous systems.

Imagine if we put the energy that we use in trying to convince, change, challenge, and confront colonial systems and instead used that very same energy on reestablishing, restoring, revitalizing, and regenerating indigenous systems. 

The battle against things like appropriation, racism, what the government is, or is not, doing in regards to mmiw, residential school documents/stories, and notions of having indigenous pre-requisites in universities, what a government official said about indigenous peoples, and girls wearing headdresses at music festivals are all things that can be deemed as injustices, offensive in nature, forms of inequality, and downright discrimination. 

However, we fight and battle these things with all of our energy, some of us even becoming emotionally exhausted because of it. We even allow it to impact our mental health to the point of anxiety, depression, and even suicide. We fully drain ourselves all in the name of justice and equality.

The truth is: this energy that we are utilizing for these injustices could be used for so much more for our people. 

Yes, it is important to stand up against something wrong, to make ourselves heard, to be present to the realities of what colonialism is attempting to do around us. But we must spend more energy on our own systems. 

Because truthfully, we cannot and will not change colonialism. Colonialism will always act like, operate as, thrive upon, and respond as exactly that. Colonialism. So why do we expect any different or act surprised, infuriated, or dismayed when colonizers act like Sir John A Macdonald and Christopher Columbus? Anything that originates or was created by colonizers, will carry all the same characteristics as said colonizer. Colonialism will always be colonialism

There should only be two exceptions as to why one fights this hard against any of these aforementioned injustices. 

1. When it defies or undermines treaty in any way, shape or form, or 

2. When it leads to an unjust death.

Otherwise, we must begin to think about conserving and preserving and utilizing our energy and resources into indigenous systems. Whether that be indigenous education, natural law, land based learning and loving, traditional kinship and parenting, language revitalization, and medicinal health. 

If we cared as much about any one of these areas as we do when a settler commits a social and political injustice on our people, oh my how we would flourish.

If a Twitterstorm that lasted days on end based on “practices healthy indigenous families follow” or “what a land based school can do for our children,” rather than “how the colonizer fucked up again, and I am so shocked, and here’s what I have to say about it,” our systems would make a comeback so prominent, that our grandchildren would never have known the colonized lives we are living today. 

If indigenous activists practiced land-based relationship building and deconstructing nepotism in communities rather than placing all their energy in a rally against a new and improved “founding father” and their legislation, then our babies would grow up knowing that the best way to grow up is with mud on their boots from the knowledge of how to grow their own food and valuing the sanctity of kinship.

The peculiar thing about indigenous peoples fighting with all their life force in order to gain some form of respect or a place in colonial systems such as with a case of appropriation, or even mandatory indigenous studies classes in academia. The very things we are battling are also what we are fighting so hard to be a fair and equal part of.

It’s like we are saying “hey! we hate colonialism…..but we want equal and fair participation with colonialism and all the systems colonialism has created. And we also want to be recognized by the colonizer as an Indigenous person in their spaces. Because that means that I am respected. And therefore makes me feel worthy.”

Holy shit!

Let’s change this rhetoric to “hey! colonialism is destroying our lives. Let’s no longer be a part of it. We need to rebuild our relationship with our lands and families and all the systems our people and lands created. And we only need to be recognized by our own. Because that means I’m part of a sovereign nation.”

Now, when an action of the colonizer completely disrespects treaty or takes the life of our own, that is when knowing how and when our systems as indigenous peoples operates would be the most effective response.

For example, if they attempt to take away our right to education (in Treaty it is described as the “power of the pen”) which, let us clarify here, is not academia. It is simply, education. Academia is the colonizers watered down, ego-induced version of education. Education is what our right is. 

So the colonizer attempts to control how we choose to educate our people and says “you can’t do that. That’s not academics. It’s against our academic system. You will not graduate from the education system. You also owe us 1500 dollars for attending our classes. Because you can’t afford it, you are kicked out.” If we knew our systems thoroughly, and practiced them as such, we could reply with “we are our own people. Your laws are irrelevant to us. And we will educate our own as stated in treaty, as long as the sun shines, grass grows, and water flows. Without what the colonizers created: academia. We will learn based on the land and based on the knowledge of the ones from long ago. Indigenous Education is free. Colonial academia is not.” Our children and young people would then begin relearning, reestablishing, restoring, revitalizing, and regenerating indigenous systems rather than losing self-esteem and self-worth due to being on the front lines of colonial academia.

The reality is there has been thousands of little white girls dressing up as Indian “chiefs” for over a hundred years.
There has been an insurmountable amount of teachers and professors stating that these lands were “found,” and the cowboys never murdered the Indians and their babies.
There has been a multitude of cases of indigenous appropriation from Victoria’s Secret, to Boyden, to boutique moccasins made in China.
And because of this…
There has been hundreds of rallies and protests and runs across these lands to fight colonial legislation.

There have been countless petitions and speeches in parliament and meetings with prime ministers all in the name of equality for indigenous peoples on their own lands.
And there have been an array of articles on how and why we can become equal and gain justice in these colonial systems.

 
Yes. These things are great for awareness. But that’s where it ends. There is no real change when one befriends/battles colonial systems in order to attempt to achieve indigenous equality and greatness. An indigenous person battling in a colonial system simply becomes an indigenous person serving in a colonial system. 

Rather than servants to the cause they become servants to colonialism.

There was a moment in my life where I knew I no longer wanted to fight for equality and justice in colonial systems. It was when I knew I was lying to my ancestors and my grandchildren concurrently, and I felt it in the pit of my stomach. I was lying to them by thinking I could create change in colonial systems, I was lying to them by shaking hands with Stephen Harper and envisioning a better future. I was lying to them when I sat in a national office as a program officer, streamlining federal dollars to hundreds of organizations who desperately needed it for their young people, and concluded that this, right here, was what positive change looked and felt like. I was lying to them when I drilled and questioned government officials at the UN, with tears in my eyes and fear in my throat, imagining that my pleas and words would be strong enough to get these officials to deliver the equality thousands of indigenous young women needed in their communities. 

My body told me. I was lying to my ancestors and my future grandchildren. By believing. Believing that I could kill colonialism inside a colonial system.

Colonial systems continues the pattern of colonial cycles. 

Colonialism will always act like, operate as, thrive upon, and respond as exactly that. Colonialism. Colonialism will always be colonialism.

It’s time to tell truths to our ancestors and future grandbabies.

Tell them the truth. The truth being that rather than placing all of our energy in appropriation scandals, academic racism and university elitism, what MLAs and MPs said and what they did and did not do, a headdress being worn by a blond head and made in China moccasins, we must put our energy into our own systems.

Grow a garden, plant some wildflowers, and put your body on the land to maintain indigenous land based education and to begin to understand the basics of natural law. 
Learn a word or phrase a day. To rekindle your relationship with your language. To remember what it’s like to live mino bimaadiziwin. 
Spend time with an aunty, a kokum, or in another community, and learn one ailment that one plant can cure. It may be useful down the line. 

And most importantly:

Forgive your mother. Or your father. Even if they’re dead. Even if it’s during the moments of their last breath. To revitalize that kinship model. To honour your ancestors and future grandchildren. 

To tell the truth to your ancestors and future grandchildren.

“Let’s raise our children to fall in love with indigenous systems rather than attempting to destroy colonial systems from within.”

 Art by: Melanie Cervantes