February 2, 2009

"Is Decolonization Dead?"

Taiaiake Alfred, a Kanienkehaka Professor of Indigenous Governance at the University of Victoria, and Waziyatawin, a Wahpetunwan Dakota Associate Professor and Indigenous Peoples Research Chair at the University of Victoria offer some insight in Taiaiake's blog responding to the question "Is Decolonization Dead?".

In Peace, Power, Rightiousness by Taiaiake, he speaks about fundamentals that will become the converging point in indigenous struggle to decolonization, and the colonists presumed right to be colonists in relation to power:

Nowhere is the contrast between Indigenous and (dominant) Western traditions sharper than in their philosophical approaches to the fundamental issues of power and nature. In Indigenous philosophies, power flows from respect for nature and the natural order. In the dominant Western philosophy, power derives from coercion and artifice-in effect, alienation from nature.

In her book Remember This!, Waziyatawin in speaking about her upbringing in learning about her own existence and history, explains the historical practice in her peoples traditions:

[B]ecause these stories were told in our Native language, they also teach more about how we look into the past, how we make sense of that past, and how we remain affected today. A broader significance of these stories, then, also stems from our ability to define our history for ourselves, shaping our historical consciousness in a way that inextricably links it with our sense of identity. The stories have a transformative effect in our contemporary lives because they help determine our sense of who we are and where we are going. Through gifted storytellers the stories are interpreted through the generations, and we come to understand the meaning of being Dakota. This understanding and sense of identity is one that transcends time, the changing world, and modern technology. It is what will carry us into the future.

As the paper notes, whether the question is meant be provocative to spur counter-arguments in a reverse psychology kind of way, it's too much to waste when the ever present need still exists. Decolonization, although sometimes trapped in the halls of academics, or caged in the hearts of indigenous youth, is right now like the water in snow quickly evaporating by a new bright sun. It's ready to transform, and take on new shapes, and new life as the water rolls down the sides of mountains, and peoples coming together like streams into a river. Only no one will predict the force of nature it will cause in the halls and minds of our present colonialism institutions, or in the hearts and minds of disillusion prey of colonialism: indigenous people in the first world.

As my friend Kowboy Smitx said,
"It's time to start striving towards living the way our Indigenous ancestors did."
Although some feel the knee-jerk and ignorant need to remind you when entry-way dialogue about decolonization begins, "We can't completely go back in time and live like how our ancestors lived".

Well duh!

It's not about that. It's not about trying to be like them in a way that has us mimicking and pretending. That would be letting the colonizers, both past and present, off the hook. Colonization has, and is happening to us, and the only thing that is our fault, or wait, no, our responsibility, is our collective way reply to the assault on our ancestors, and by nature, our way of life.

How much of our ancestors existence within social structures, philosophy of explaining the world, where our people are going, how knowledge is accessed and is held on to, in the fine woven images of art and culture, or words of creativity and emotion in native-tongue is past tense?

That's where I derive my answer to decolonization.  How much of that is past tense, and how are we going to make it present tense for ourselves, and for all future generations that decided,
"I am proud of my heritage.  I am strong indigenous warrior for my people and will live to protect all that is sacred like my predecessors before stretching back thousands of years to ensure our way of life exists."

tima tkwetsi7

That's the way it is.


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