My friend, colleague and academic advisor has asked me, more than once, to define ‘decolonize’ in my own words. I have walked around this word, unpacked it, packed it back up, broke it open and glued it back together. I have reworded it, reimagined it and questioned it relentlessly. This is what I have learned[1]:

·       Decolonizing is not indigenizing. You can not simply decolonize by adding Indigenous curriculum, people or protocols to an institution, structure, system or space. Although these actions are a good place to start.

·       Decolonization requires everyone. It is a collective effort.

·       This space does not exist. Colonial systems need to be broken down and replaced with multi-voiced and multi-narrative structures based on territory. A true decolonized spaces needs to be imagined and incented.

·       A decolonized space would include territorial Indigenous language(s), methodologies, epistemologies and ways of being within public school systems, government departments, the judicial system, and public institutions. 

·       Indigenous scholars, Elders, knowledge keepers and community members would instruct territorial teachings based on their own knowledge systems. These teachings would be multi-voiced and inclusive and exist within state government, institutions, and public realms.

·       All institutions (educational, governmental, corporate) would have Indigenous representation and acknowledge Indigenous protocols and governance.

·       Decolonized needs to be defined and dismantled by the colonized and unwaveringly supported and unquestioned by the colonizers.

·       To truly decolonize the Canadian state would have to give back land and land rights to the Indigenous peoples of the territory. [2]

·       Decolonizing is an action that is reinforced by critical settler engagement. Decolonizing for settler peoples is learning the histories of these lands from the perspective of the Indigenous peoples of these lands. It’s about engaging in Indigenous methodologies and ways of knowing as critical methods and knowledges, which have a unique and deep connection to the lands we reside. Critical settler engagement requires settlers to relearn histories and ways of knowing and reimagine and radically restructure the current system we are living under. Self-governance within each Indigenous nation should be honoured, respected, and carried out.



[1] These definitions were heavily influenced by Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars, artists, educations, and activists, such as Eva MacKey, Carla Taunton, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, David Garneau, Leah Decter, Margaret Kovach, Pamala Palmater, Rebecca Belmore, and Christi Belcourt, among many others.

[2] “To decolonize is to supplant racist patriarchies in favour of polycultural, intercultural and anti-racist dialogues while understanding and acknowledging the place of an inherent Indigenous sovereignty rooted in land, language, culture and ways of knowing and being. The freedom to be culturally, socially and politically indigenous nations means recognizing, accepting and engaging a philosophical trajectory that is both customary and contemporary. It means negotiating a sense of place that is both local and global.” (Reconcile this! pg.47)

carrie allison