"How will YOU De-colonize our world?" was the question Gina Harris asked in the talking circle that was the closing event of the Making Peace With The Earth conference held at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck New York, this past weekend.
Colonization is invasion and subjugation of indigenous people, and includes Genocide, says, Michael Yellowbird, Ph.D., co-author of For Indigenous Minds Only and Decolonizing Social Work, a professor and director of the Tribal Indigenous Studies program at north Dakota State University. "Colonization means loss of culture, lands, rights, marginalized status, being forgotten in national narrative. It produces decreased life expectancy, chronic diseases, a lot of mental health disorders, depression, suicide, drug abuse."
Yellowbird raised the idea of decolonization. More on that shortly.
Yellowbird and Harris were participants in a conference keynoted by Vandana Shiva, a rockstar in the world of food, seed and eco-politics who attendees compared to Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. She's been honored with the Right Livelihood Award--often considered the alternative Nobel prize, and Forbes identified her as one of the 7 most powerful people on the globe.
Shiva opened the conference by declaring, "We've had 500 years of colonialism" and 200 years of fossil fuel driven industrialism," observing that colonialism separates indigenous peoples from the earth, saying, "Separation goes with mastery and conquest and (the idea) that some people are owners. " Shiva, trained as a quantum physicist, observed that colonizers, believers in the mechanistic model of the world popularized by DeCartes, said, "The illusion of being separate from the earth was the justification for separating people from their land. This is trauma most of people in world have lived through," and she states, "Every rupture from connection is a violence." And "The war against the earth is the separation of all children." She pointed out that the colonizers, "define separation/uprooting as progress for the civilizing mission."
Yellowbird described how colonizers justified their violent assaults on central and South America, saying, "Isabella told Columbus to find territories not occupied by white Christians--basically go civilize them and wipe out the barbarians." And they did kill 90% of them." Colonization has a long, brutal, ugly history, particularly European, Christian colonization. And today it is still being manifested,
Vandana Shiva pointed out how the West Indies Trading company was created as a limited liability company to exploit the riches of India, and the British ended up taking over India. And Shiva says now, "We've gone from limited liability to zero liability corporations and we need to go from limited liability to full responsibility corporations."
The conference was put together by Omega Institute and I give Omega and the conference organizers Michael Craft, Skip Backus and Laura Weiland a lot of credit for making it possible for over 100 locals working in seed saving and activism, indigenous rights and localized farmers to attend and, with diverse, particularly young voices, including waterkeepers who had been at the front lines at Standing Rock.
Yellowbird explored the destructive effects of colonization--including neurocolonization, which changes brainwaves, epigenetics, biome, telmomeres, neuroplasticity. He described 19th century banning of indigenous people ceremonial practices, dancing, religious dances or practices of medicine men, saying "Your ancestors came for religious freedom and took away our religious freedom. "
Yellowbird also pointed out that for a long time colonization included abduction of indigenous children, that has long been a part of Americana--that taking indigenous children from their parents has been perpetrated by the USA, Canada and Australia. Horrifically, he showed a photo of an ad run in a mid 18th century newspaper offering twenty pound rewards for scalps of Indian children under 12 years old., more for adult males.
Yellowbird cited the reality of the massive appropriation of lands from indigenous people, saying, "Unless you are an Indian, you are living on stolen land."
So what is involved in decolonization. Optimally, it's the "dismantling of settler processes and structures, replacing them with indigenous processes and structures,
settlers going home, leaving indigenous territory--in other words-- Repatriation--giving back what was stolen.
The thing is, colonization by European nations has colonized not only land but all aspects of life--minds--that's the neurocolonization Yellowbird discusses. Even language is colonizing. Sachem HawkStorm, hereditary chief of the Schaghticoke First Nations peoples and another speaker at the conference pointed out how the English language itself is colonizing. It uses far more nouns to describe things, while his native tongue uses language, which describes relationships, processes and functions of things. I love this, because the new science is systems theory, which was developed because old, mechanistic, Cartesian science also was based on describing and counting and taking apart things. The new systems theory is, like HawkStorm's language, based on describing relationships and patterns.