Lately I’ve been writing about the group Decolonizing Quakers and the webinar series that will begin Monday titled “Working toward right relationship with Indigenous peoples”. One goal of these sessions is to help White people learn more about being allies with Indigenous peoples.
I appreciate this quote from the “Decolonizing Quakers” website: “the decolonizing that needs to take place, both the educating and the healing, are matters of urgency to the survival of the human species and the health of the Earth as Mother of us All.”
During the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March in 2018, we gathered together at the end of the day for discussions. The last evening of the March we sat around a bonfire where my friend Trisha CaxSep GuWiga Etringer led a very interesting discussion about decolonization. I believe that was the first time I had attended a discussion about that subject. See Seventh Day of the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. Since then I’ve been sensitized to ideas related to decolonization.
I was very glad to come upon the video below and guidelines related to anti-oppression and decolonization. Interview recorded at PowerShift Canada 2012, Oct 28 in Ottawa on unceded Algonquin territory. One of the points that caught my attention was “we acknowledge that settlers are not entitled to live on this land. We accept that decolonization means the revitalization of indigenous sovereignty, and an end to settler domination of life, lands, and peoples in all territories of the so-called “Americas.” All decisions regarding human interaction with this land base, including who lives on it, are rightfully those of the indigenous nations.”
There are several points made in the video and guidelines that relate to my own experiences.
While walking on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, I thought our focus was going to be related to environmental devastation, and much of it was. But other subjects came up. There was the subject of the Quaker Indian Boarding Schools that I wrote about recently. https://kislingjeff.wordpress.com/2020/01/28/solidarity/
Also, early in the March it became clear that the epidemic of Missing and Murder Indigenous Women (MMIW) was what the Native men and women on the March were most concerned about, of course, because the women on the March might have been, or could become victims. The men on the March might lose or have lost a woman they love. One of the friends I made during the March unfortunately had experienced this.
Looking back it is obvious this would be a concern because this is an immediate and ongoing threat. Now I share that concern, but I was at first confused. I thought our focus would be on environmental devastation. Now I’m more aware of how all these things are connected. We were walking to bring attention to the damage being done to our environment, and All Our Relations are part of Mother Earth. They aren’t separate things. This is one of the points made in the video. When you want to work with people of another culture, you shouldn’t expect everyone to conform to your narrow focus. This is part of deep listening and respect.
Another part of the video discusses when White people want to engage with Indigenous peoples, we have to completely re-orient our thinking and work so we are Indigenous led. White culture of male dominance, materialism and ownership doesn’t fit with Indigenous values of protection of Mother Earth and All our Relations.
The one thing that can be in common is Spiritual worship. The Creator doesn’t differentiate among peoples.
Most of my White friends don’t understand this. Now almost everything I think and write is about what I am learning about Indigenous culture.
We share these points of unity to guide our allyship and activism:
- All people not indigenous to North America who are living on this continent are settlers on stolen land. We acknowledge that Canada, the United States of America, Mexico, and Central & South America were founded through genocide and colonization of indigenous peoples–which continues today and from which settlers directly benefit.
- All settlers do not benefit equally from the settler-colonial state, nor did all settlers emigrate here of their own free will. Specifically, we see slavery, hetero-patriarchy, white supremacy, market imperialism, and capitalist class structures as among the primary tools of colonization. These tools divide communities and determine peoples’ relative access to power. Therefore, anti-oppression solidarity between settler communities is necessary for decolonization. We work to build anti-colonial movements that actively combat all forms of oppression.
- We acknowledge that settlers are not entitled to live on this land. We accept that decolonization means the revitalization of indigenous sovereignty, and an end to settler domination of life, lands, and peoples in all territories of the so-called “Americas.” All decisions regarding human interaction with this land base, including who lives on it, are rightfully those of the indigenous nations.
- As settlers and non-native people (by which we mean non-indigenous to this hemisphere) acting in solidarity, it is our responsibility to proactively challenge and dismantle colonialist thought and behavior in the communities we identify ourselves to be part of. As people within communities that maintain and benefit from colonization, we are intimately positioned to do this work.
- We understand that allies cannot be self-defined; they must be claimed by the people they seek to ally with. We organize our solidarity efforts around direct communication, responsiveness, and accountability to indigenous people fighting for decolonization and liberation.
- We are committed to dismantling all systems of oppression, whether they are found in institutional power structures, interpersonal relationships, or within ourselves. Individually and as a collective, we work compassionately to support each other through these processes. Participation in struggle requires each of us to engage in both solidarity and our own liberation: to be accountable for all privileges carried, while also struggling for liberation from internalized and/or experienced oppression. We seek to build a healthy culture of resistance, accountability, and sustenance.
(Adapted from Unsettling MN‘s Points of Unity)