UNSETTLING SOCIETY

Along with my show creation, I’ve been reading, watching and listening to learn and unlearn and take stock of HOW DO WE DISMANTLE SYSTEMS OF OPPRESSION. Holy- not an easy task. And, yes… this is bringing up a lot of self reflection. I write to further educate myself- so that I can better speak up about it when it is needed. I need to be clear so that I can prepare for concise action.

Think of this portion of my blog as notes for settlers about decolonization.

Ok, I admit it- I am feeling overwhelmed. Our society is in need of a complete overhaul. How the hell does that happen? I personally may be ready to give up property ownership, power and privilege- but those rich folks are not going to without a fight.

Decolonization is, if it is truly being done is going to get messy.

“Decolonization never takes place unnoticed. Settler colonialism and its decolonization implicates and unsettles everyone.”

Fanon , 1963 (taken from the article “Decolonization is not a metaphor”

Some very brave and smart people have been on this task of anti-oppression, decolonization, and responsible allyship for a long time already. Thank you.  

Last week, I said I would work through the article “DECOLONIZATION IS NOT A METAPHOR”- by Eve Tuc and Wayne Yang and come back with a story about it. I’m not going to lie to you- My brain doesn’t seem to easily process this academia speak, so I found help from a youtube video where a fellow named Garnet Hertz from Emily Carr discusses the paper. 

I believe that their key point being-  you can read all the paper’s you want, critical awareness doesn’t matter until something is done and decolonization specifically requires the repatriation of Indigenous land and life. (Indigenous Sovereignty) Decolonization is NOT a synonym or metaphor but it relates to how land is allocated and policies are implemented. 

“Decolonization eliminates settler property rights and setter sovereignty, it requires the abolition of land as property and upholds the sovereignty of Native land and people.”

Tuck and Yang- Decolonization is Not a Metaphor

“Freeing your mind is NOT enough- you need to free your land-  until stolen land is relinquished,  critical consciousness does not translate into action that disrupts settler colonialism.” 

The article specifies that settlers are not immigrants. The difference being in the power dynamic. The settlers came to Turtle Island and required the land and its resources. A settler becomes the law, they take dominion OVER the place that they settle as god, ruler, or authority. White people were not immigrants- they took their world view and forced it on the people. 

This brought an epistemic shift- the idea of LAND as PROPERTY. This idea of property, and that land can be owned by a person undermined indigenous world views and relations. 

Colonialism has shaped society, systems and structures where the settler perspectives and worldviews get to count as knowledge and research. Invisibilized dynamics of settler colonialism mark organizations, governance, curricula and assessment of compulsory learning. 

Teaching indiginous perspective in elementary, highschool and post secondary education is an important baby step in decolonization- but only the beginning. 

They say to watch out for dangerous token efforts of decolonization on peoples and institutions that just distracts from doing the real work. These keep the power structures in place and gives a scapegoat for settlers to take on and feel better about themselves- while sweeping tangible change, like repatriation of land, under the rug.

This paper describes different forms of FAKE decolonization that are dismissive and harmful, such as:

  • Playing indian
  • Playing with indigenous forms of culture
  • settler/nativism where settlers locate or invent a long-lost ancestor who is rumoured to have “indian blood” and they use this claim to mark themselves as blameless in the attempted eradications of Indigeous peoples. This is known as Indian Grandmother Complex. (And.. my cheeks are burning, because I located a great great great indigenous grandmother myself.) I understand that ancestry IS different from tribal membership. I grew up as a white middle class cis female.

These forms of token decolonization create feelings of being MORE innocent and less guilty of the damages of colonisation. This deflects settler identity, while continuing the ability to enjoy settler privilege while occupying stolen land. Whites claiming indian blood generally tends to reinforce mythical beliefs.  

Decolonization is NOT:

  • converting indigenous politics to a western doctrine of liberations
  • Helping the “at-risk” and alleviating suffering
  • It is not a generic term for struggle against oppressive conditions and outcomes
  • not  metonymy for Social Justice

“We are asking them/YOU to consider how the pursuit of critical conscious, the pursuit of social justice through a critical enlightenment, can also be a settler move to innocence- diversions, distractions, which relieve the settler of feelings of guilt or responsibility, and conceal the need to give up land or power or privilege.” 

Tuck and Yang

So, having read that- I know that it is not for me to rest on the “good feels” of decolonizing myself. I admit my personal study and writing about decolonization and indigenous perspectives is a small step. 

Like my art projects, I’ll figure out the next steps as I go. 

Empowering myself with knowledge helps me have more words to speak up. I am so happy to recenter Indigenous World Views-  there are many, and I do not know them all. What I have gleaned is that Indigenous worldviews see the whole person (physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual) as interconnected to land and in relationship to others (family, communities, nations). I keep thinking… WELL DUH!!! Can we do that please? 

As Nikki Sanchez says: “This history is not your fault, but it is absolutely your responsibility.”

Some resources from my week: 

For the ART SIDE OF LIFE this WEEK, please go to: LAUGHING WITH OUR SADNESS

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