Chapter 1



When attempting to understand controversial issues, whether historical or contemporary, one must not get tripped up by the lingo. In this age of political correctness and sensitivity, the terminology will keep changing but that does not detract from what has already transpired or is currently ongoing.

The purpose of defining terminology is so that everyone is starting from the same foundational base.

Colonization vs Colonialism

Although the words colonization and colonialism are similiar, their definitions show slight differences in meaning. According to the Oxford Dictionary:

Colonization: is the action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area.

Colonialism: is the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.

Colonialism is broader in that it refers to entire countries rather than an area, and adding the economic exploitation factor. Whether the term being used is colonization or colonialism, the long standing effects on Indigenous Peoples in Canada and other colonized countries remains the same.

The following video goes into more detail on historical colonization from around the world.

 Colonialism is described in more detail here:

Whiteness or White Privilege

Whiteness theory, as described by Thompson, is a social construct rather than a biological category and it provides material and symbolic privilege to whites, such as better access to higher education, a choice of safe neighbourhoods to live in or concepts of beauty and intelligence. Whiteness is normalized, taken for granted and thus invisible. Toni Morrison compares whiteness to that of a fish bowl where everyone is focused on the fish and the water, but nobody pays attention to the bowl (i.e. whiteness and all that comes with it).(1)

Whiteness theory does incorporate white privilege. White privilege is institutional benefits granted to individuals based on the color of skin. Peggy MacIntosh, one of the most iconic pioneers on white privilege states, "I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group."(2) MacIntosh created a list of several examples of how her white privilege benefits her.

The following video gives good examples of white privilege from an individual perspective.

If you're interested, you should be able to see the other 4 videos through the YouTube suggestions that pop up at the end.

The following website at the University of Calgary is a good source for exploring whiteness in more detail:

Power and Privilege

Power and privilege and colonialism are part and parcel of the same social construct. Through the process of colonization, the colonizer asserts dominance and control over the Indigenous peoples of a country; often through force (Red River and Northwest Resistance) or through treaties and by becoming the population majority. Colonialism continues to assert dominance through governmental policies (Indian Act) and other institutions (colonizer version of history being taught to everyone in schools). Historically, the ruling class has all the power in any society and in the contemporary context, the 'ruling class' is white and male.

Try the following quiz to see how privileged you are.

 Are You Privileged Quiz

Disclaimer: this is not intended to be a scientifically based quiz but more of a learning opportunity

Cultural Appropriation

The Oxford Dictionary defines cultural appropriation as the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of customs, practices, ideas etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society. There are blatant examples of cultural appropriation, such as young non-Indigenous women wearing Indigenous headdresses/warbonnets as in the picture below.

Woman wearing headdress

However, the more subtle nuances of cultural appropriation is when members of the dominant society feel they have the right to teach about, write about, emulate practices or art forms because they feel they are honouring the culture and the people, in essence playing out the adage 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery'.

Read the following blog that looks into cultural appropriation from a spiritual context.

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(1). Thompson, A. (2001). Summary of Whiteness Theory. Retrieved from:

(2). MacIntosh, P. (1988). White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Retrieved from:

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