Chapter 8

Decolonization

Decolonization, by its most basic definition, is when a country obtains freedom from the colonizing country. For Canada's Indigenous peoples, that is an impossible goal. Rather, decolonization is the process by which Indigenous peoples refute historical and current colonialistic stories about themselves, and reclaim their languages, cultures, knowledge systems, political and social worldviews. Decolonization is about reversing the damage inflicted upon Indigenous peoples through the educational, health, social, justice and political systems. Colonization is about the colonizer imposing its worldview on the original inhabitants. Decolonization is about the colonizer respecting the original inhabitants' worldviews.

There are resources out in the public sphere on decolonization; of the educational system, of the legal system, of the Indigenous person, and of the settler person. Decolonization begins at the individual level — decolonization of the mind. In many cases, it will be a lifelong process for a colonized person to get out from under the oppressed, disenfranchised victim mantle placed on their shoulders at the time of birth. Decolonization means reclaiming Indigenous identity and being proud to be Indigenous. It means reclaiming traditional roles and responsibilities, traditional family and community structure and leadership, traditional governance systems and cultures. Decolonization means reclaiming the sacred connection to the land.

The following video presents Indigenous youth and what decolonization means to them:

For a non-Indigenous person, decolonization also begins at the individual level, recognizing and refuting colonialism; the conscious and unconscious manifestations including the microaggressions that are so rampant most people don't even think about (i.e. referring to a group of people gathered together as having a 'pow wow'). Lowman & Barker (2015) offer the following clarification on decolonization from a settler perspective:

"We use decolonization...to describe an intensely political transformative process with the goal of regenerating Indigenous nationhood and place-relationships while dismantling structures of settler colonialism that oppose or seek to eliminate Indigenous peoples from the land." (pg 111).(1)

Truly meaningful decolonization is going to be a lengthy process and in order for Canada to become the  friendly, open, welcoming country it espouses to be, the work of decolonization cannot fall upon the shoulders of Indigenous peoples. Decolonization must be a partnership endeavor.

The following video featuring Taiaiki Alfred talks about decolonization from a resurgence perspective.


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(1). Lowman, E. B. & Barker, A. J. (2015). Settler; Identity and colonialism in 21st century Canada. Halifax, NS: Fernwood Publishing.

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