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

Why I don’t celebrate National Aboriginal Day

First of all, as stated in the title, this is all personal opinion and is no way putting down or dictating how others should spend this day. How people choose to spend this day is perfect for them and their beliefs. All these are, are my personal thoughts on this day.

There are many reasons why some choose to pride in such a day. It provides space and time for our people to celebrate who they are as a collective across the lands. It gives others the opportunity to experience admiration for oneself and the obstacles we have overcome to get us to where we are today. It allows for the unification of all nations to gather and join in honouring one another through music, dance, culture, and food. 

And these are all important, beautiful ways for our people to celebrate who we are as Indigenous peoples.

However, I choose not to celebrate or be a part of national aboriginal day, and these are the reasons why:

This day was created by the very same colonial government who has been, and continues to, commit forms of genocide and cultural warfare against our peoples and lands, all in the name of oil extraction and money.

This day was discussed and considered from the beginning by the falsely-indigenous, and colonial governance structure, the AFN.  

This day, although idealized by one of our own, carries the same qualities as trudeau’s agenda of reconciliation, and harper’s residential school apology. It comes with a sense of dictation and authority from the colonizer whereas they feel they should benefit, and even be given thanks for “allowing” us and “giving us” this day to celebrate our indigeneity.

This day possesses a term by which the colonizer has labelled us and will continue to label us, carrying the same connotations as the word “savage,” just phrased in a more politically correct way. And again, they’re changing it to “Indigenous” to make it seem as though they are our new best friends, to follow through with their “new nation to nation relationship,” which shouldn’t exist in the first place due to the fact that our treaties are between us as nations and the crown, not Canada, nor should this new relationship be seen as any means a new form of our treaty relationship with the Crown.

This is the colonial government’s way to state that they are following through with the recommendations made in the TRC report, even though it is the only recommendation they followed through with of the 94 made in total.

This day is celebrated with pow-wow dancing, music, and food. Which is beautiful and I so love seeing our people in this form. However, the opportunity exists for our people to focus on our liberation and collectivity to overcome oppression. Spending time and energy on these items would benefit the cause at a deeper level.

Canadians are only seeing our culture, on this day, as stated above. Powwow dancing, drumming, singing, and eating. The conversations that need to happen are being lost. And these settlers who are attending a National Aboriginal Day event are automatically seeing themselves as an ally. Yet if the time came to fight on the front lines by our side, with the real work, I am sure most of those allies would be on the side of their own.

June is National Aboriginal History Month, as put forward by NDP member Jean Crowder in 2009. Again, this agenda is lost in the greater colonial spectrum. And again, it comes from a place of the colonizer “granting” Indigenous people’s this gift. When I’m reality, the whole year is based on Indigenous peoples of these lands due to the fact that those colonizers are still settlers on our territories.

It is a day to celebrate, for settlers to learn from us, yet at the same time, as I always say, we would never see Trudeau or an every day settler set foot on a reserve in the dead of winter during our day to day life and struggles. If so, it is rare. These people only show up during times of celebration, when we do our best to show them who we are.

The only other times we see white faces in our communities and on our territories is when they are extracting resources from our homelands, when they are making a monetary deal with the chief, when they are operating like present day Indian agents, and perhaps when one or two of them shack up with someone on the Rez. 

Equality for indigenous peoples in “Canada” to the colonizer is our people identifying themselves and living their lives as Canadians. Therefore directly boycotting their lineages, accepting, defending, and giving in to colonization directly.

Because this day is created by colonial systems it can very well be “taken away” by those colonial systems. But the question is, will that make us stop celebrating who we are and where we come from? No.

Right now we are living in very critical times where many of our peoples are applauding the government’s (ie: Trudeau’s) efforts in this “new nation to nation relationship.” Yet the more our people applaud him, the more we are accepting our demise handed down by him with his nice hair and white smile. His words today of renaming “National Aboriginal Day” to “National Indigenous People’s Day” shows just how much false power he has over defining and dictating identities for our people. This renaming of this day is not something that should be celebrated, because as he does that, he is lining his pockets with resources that could solve many crises in our communities. 

To me, National Aboriginal day is the day for Aboriginal-Canadians.

Not for nehiyaw, anishinaabe peoples.

National Aboriginal Day is a day where Indigenous peoples are again attempting to reclaim space (the space being this colonially created day) in a colonially created system rather than attempting to rebuild space in indigenous systems.

What we need is to recognize that we can celebrate ourselves authentically, openly, and unapologetically every year, every season, every day, focusing on our liberation, pride, truth, healing, and nationhood, especially in the middle of the -40 degree Celsius winters so our young people know that suicide is no longer an option.  

We need to tell those settlers who claim that they are allies to know that just because they come to a powwow and have an Indian taco and buy a pair of moccasins from a vendor does not make them “in” with us. 

And we need to know that if the colonial government did not create this day, following the voices of the AFN, our pride would be just as strong, just as loud, and just as truthful.

Because we do not need a day designated and dictated by the colonizer to know who we are and where we come from. 

All we need is to do is break colonial minds, colonial spaces, and colonial fragility with indigenous disobedience. 

And most importantly: A revolution can only happen once our people no longer defend & maintain colonial systems & when we no longer strive for colonial approval. 

When we only need ourselves for our continued existence rather than this colonial dictation and dependence. That will be the day we will truly rise.

Happy Summer solstice- may we celebrate all this season will bring us in regards to food, health, and our own liberation.