Part of the problem is that the colonizers make disempowered people, suffering the spiritually debilitating effects of genocide, feel important by including them in the colonizers plans. These people who have been groomed in the colonizers ways since birth accept the subservience of themselves and their peoples to an idea of civilization that includes their genocide and they defend their position with the colonial ethos. Challenges to this indoctrination must come from our cultural worldview because that is the empowerment they lack, the strength of our Nationhood, and the truth of our existences that survives to this day.
Another part of the problem is that we have all suffered spiritually debilitaing effects of genocide and that has disintegrated vast aspects of our societies, most importantly our families and sense of family. This disempowers us to stand up to those in our nations and families who are acting against our Nationhood as we struggle to reintegrate and empower our families and we deafault to live the path of least resistance. This leads to our continued disempowerment collectively and forms the wheels on which our genocide rolls onward. If we are to arrest this progression to annihiliation and our subjugation, we must critically assess the foundations of our nationhood; our families, and make it a priority to relearn/reteach our cultural ways (language, traditions, foods, leadership, songs, ceremonies, dances, mobility, mentorship, etc.) for those who want to learn.
If people are not doing this, the last position they should be in is in decion making roles within our Nations because their indoctrination, which is all of ours in most ways, has filled them with the colonial ethos that is founded on our dissolvement as a people. For those who don’t wish to take part in “being Indigenous”, let their hearts take them where they wish and allow them to leave who we are.
But always leave the door open.
Another part of the problem is that there are many people claiming to be “decolonized” or who are “traditional” or who are “not as colonized” as others and they can often act as gatekeepers against legitimate Indigenous interest in returing to thier cultural traditions. Or worse, as “culture cops” who take the beauty of our cultures and deface it to claim power over others and to defend their own colonization by placing their actions as justifiable and right during times of widespread wrongs.
Decolonized people do not exist here. If you are decolonized, you are living an Indigenous life and living an Indigenous life would at least include access to your own lands free from colonial interference and restriction. Not one of us can claim that and people who do are living a lie or fail to understand the depth of colonization.
The difficulty here is that they may have some good knowledge of their traditions (they also may have a “cultural pastiche” which is a form of aboriginalism) and claim jurisdiction over what is and is not “traditional” or “colonial” or “Indigenous”. The counter to this is the knowledge that even our ancestors did not know what was “traditional”, at least not a singular one. It was and still remains a collective knowledge with no one person being “the authority” over what is and is not cultural knowledge.
Of course we are all colonized peoples and there is no need to establish that fact, whether or not we are aware of it is irrelevant of its effects on us. Being “not as colonized” is individualistic in orientation and reveals the colonization that is hidden as well as denying the collective pathos of our societies and families.
We are as colonized as our peoples are, simply put. We are as colonized as our families are. We are as colonized as our lands are. Our forests are fully infected, our waters are fully infected, our plains are fully infected (GMO’s, pipelines, oil and gas wells, etc.), and if we are to seek a decolonizing existence, we must challenge all of these things as they are today and bring an end to the future plans of “civilization” “growth” and “progress” that include the current models and understandings of the same.
We need our leaders to be all of us in this struggle, and every single one of us should be leading the way to our traditions for those who come after us. On that path to our cultures, we will encounter many enemies and obstacles as we have been forcefully taken a long way from who we are. There will be people and institutions blocking us as they have steadily constructed a “civilization” beind us as they force-marched us toward annihiliation. There will be the police, both tribal and state. There will be military. There will be social service agencies and lawyers. There will be teachers and there will be politicians, tribal and state. There will be churches and there will be food stores and there will be news outlets, chipping away where they can. There will be concepts of “god”, “justice”, and “democracy” to overcome. There will be family members who tell us we are going the wrong way.
We will have to return past the Residential School Holocaust and have a good look at it. We will return past the policies of assimilation and etermination. We will return past the racism, internal and external. Past blood quantum, past rape, past torture, past murder. We will return past corrupted collaborators, family and friend. We will return past our own complicity and all of the shame, anger, fear, and selfishness that we have lived and abetted through our ignorance.There will be guides on that path. Some will be masking as family or friend but they will be the colonizer. Some will be saying that the way back is by adapting the colonial tools for Indigenous uses. Some will be saying that a spiritual return is needed. Some will say that being on the land and protecting it is the way forward. Some will say being militant opposers to colonial rule is the way. Some will say being passive resistors will teach our way from genocide.
Who you follow is your choice but I reiterate; we need to learn to be leaders again. We need to lead ourselves and direct our leadership where we want our destinies to be. Not only must we lead ourselves again, we must fight against those who would stop us. Perhaps first with words and with knowledge, but it is absolutely necessary that we physically rise up against the very physical forces that are killing our lands and waters and enslaving our peoples in our own lands.