By Rob Kall
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.
“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.
I take colonization as a concept even further. It started with civilization, which produced hierarchy, classes, domination, privatization and ownership of the commons. And that led to colonized mentalities, where people accepted being dominated, having what was long theirs stolen from them–freedoms, cultures, religions, lands, foods, seeds (Monsanto/Bayer has been brutal to indigenous farmers.)
I’d argue that today, modern corporations and the billionaires who run them have colonized we, the 99%. But Yellowbird doesn’t want to go there. Indigenous people have had their cultures destroyed, their lands stolen, massive percentages of their people killed. He wants to see de-colonization that leads to return of what was theirs, and I respect that.
Still, Gina Harris, at the end of the conference wove a circle to close the event, asking what each of us, the attendees, would do to de-colonize.
Some spoke of learning more about colonization. Others spoke of educating others. A number spoke of taking action to learn more about indigenous wisdom and practices. I think that indigenous wisdom–particularly how to relate to nature and each other– and history–the history of the murder of indigenous peoples and the theft of their land–should be taught at every grade level.
Personally, I found that the conference made me even more aware of my white male privilege, in a culture where white patriarchy still offers powerful advantages. This was heightened when I raised my hand to ask a question after professor Yellowbird had finished speaking. The meeting organizer handed me the mike. But then, a woman of color spoke out, and suggested something along the lines, “In the spirit of Occupy Wall Street, where progressive stack was created because white men usually go first, I suggest that women or people of color be allowed to go first.”
Frankly, for a few moments I was sort of mortified. ‘What did I do? I was just going to ask a question.’ But I’d been to Occupy and knew what she said was true. So I went along and got in line behind a woman of color who went ahead of me. A few more women lined up behind me. I waved them to go ahead of me. Once the initial awkwardness of this public putting me in my place wore off, it felt good to step back.
After a few women had spoken, two took the microphone, and smiling, handed it to me. After the session I thanked the woman who’d made the suggestion. Later, the next day, I joined her for lunch and thanked her again. “You seemed like someone who could handle it,” she replied.
When it was my turn to speak, and I was holding the metaphorical talking stick, my answer to what I’d do about de-colonization was that I’d be more aware of my white male, patriarchal privilege and do what I could to balance things.
What will you do? What are you doing? How will YOU De-colonize our world?
By the way, Managing Editor, Meryl Ann Butler, has a series on Omega, here,
Rob Kall is an award winning journalist, inventor, software architect, connector and visionary. His work and his writing have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC, the HuffingtonPost, Success, Discover and other media. He’s given talks and workshops to Fortune 500 execs and national medical and psychological organizations, and pioneered first-of-their-kind conferences in Positive Psychology, Brain Science and Story. He hosts some of the world’s smartest, most interesting and powerful people on his Bottom Up Radio Show, and founded and publishes one of the top Google- ranked progressive news and opinion sites, OpEdNews.com
more detailed bio:
Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer– first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978– Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story– each the first of their kind. Then, when he found the process of raising people’s consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com— which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big) to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up– The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project.
Rob is also published regularly on the Huffingtonpost.com
Rob is, with Opednews.com the first media winner of the Pillar Award for supporting Whistleblowers and the first amendment.
Press coverage in the Wall Street Journal: Party’s Left Pushes for a Seat at the Table
Talk Nation Radio interview by David Swanson: Rob Kall on Bottom-Up Governance June, 2017 Here is a one hour radio interview where Rob was a guest- on Envision This, and here is the transcript. .
His quotes are here
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