(Michael Yellow Bird and Jamie Jensen, 2013)
Decolonization is not a Metaphor” in Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, & Society (Vol. 1, No. 1, 2012, pp. 1-40).
“Decolonization is an unsettling process since it involves the repatriation of Indigenous Peoples’ lands, lives, and rights; the colonized are released or freed from the colony/colonized and return to their independent status. Colonizers return to their own lands.
Indigenous Social Work, 2008
“A process that begins with the understanding that one is colonized (at whatever level that may be). It is creating and consciously using various strategies to liberate oneself from, or adapt to, or survive in oppressive conditions. It is the restoration of cultural practices, thinking, beliefs, and values that were taken away or abandoned but are still relevant or necessary for survival and well being. It is the birth and use of new ideas, thinking, technologies and lifestyles that contribute to the advancement and empowerment of Indigenous Peoples.”
Neurodecolonization and Indigenous Peoples, 2012
Decolonization refers to Indigenous communities engaging in projects that weaken the effects of colonialism, facilitate resistance, and create opportunities to promote traditional philosophies and practices in contemporary settings.
Decolonizing Social Work, 2013
“Decolonizing Social Work recognizes the limitations and imperialist frameworks of Western social work that must be contested on behalf of populations that have been victimized rather than helped by these approaches.”
“A Community-Based Treatment for Native American ‘Historical Trauma’: Prospects for Evidence-Based Practice” in Journal of Counseling Clinical Psychology by Dr. Joe Gone (in press, p. 23).
Decolonization is the intentional, collective, and reflective self-examination undertaken by formerly colonized peoples that results in shared remedial action. Such action traces continuity from “traditional” (pre-colonial) experiences even as it embarks on distinctive, purposeful, and self-determined (post-colonial) experiences. The key to decolonization is community emancipation from the hegemony of outside interests (Wilson & Yellow Bird, 2005). Although the prospects for decolonization in Native North America remain fraught with challenges, contemporary tribal communities have made recognizable progress in reasserting authority and wresting control from settler society governments in multiple domains, including tribal administration of therapeutic services (McFarland, Gabriel, Bigelow, & Walker, 2006).
“500 Years of Indigenous Resistance: Colonization and Decolonization”
Decolonization is the ending of colonialism and the liberation of the colonized. This requires the dismantling of the colonial government and its entire social system upon which control & exploitation are based. Decolonization, then, is a revolutionary struggle aimed at transforming the entire social system and reestablishing the sovereignty of tribal peoples, In political terms, this means a radical de-centralization of national power (i.e., the dismantling of the nation-state) and the establishment of local autonomy (community & region, traditionally the village and tribal nation). Any discussion of decolonization that does not take into consideration the destruction of the colonial system & the liberation of land & people can only lead to greater assimilation & control. The demand for greater political & economic power by chiefs & councils, although presented as a form of decolonization (i.e., "self-government"), only serves to assimilate Indigenous peoples further into the colonial system.
Just as colonialism enters and just as colonialism enters and passes through
various phases, beginning first with recon missions and then the application of military force, so too does decolonization. It would be a mistake to conceive of decolonization as a single event. Instead, it is a process that begins with individuals & small groups. The primary focus in the first phase of decolonization is on disengaging from the colonial system" and re-learning one's history, culture, etc. This phase places a heavy emphasis on rejecting European society & embracing all that is Indigenous as good & positive. Some common steps in this phase include returning to one's community, re-establishing family relations, re-learning culture (inc. art, language, songs, ceremonies, hunting, fishing, etc.). This not only counters the destructive effects of colonialism, but also instills in the Indigenous person a greater respect & appreciation for their own culture and way of life. In many ways it is a struggle for identity & purpose. While this is a crucial first step in any decolonization process, without the infusion of radical & revolutionary analysis, however, the focus on cultural identity in and of itself does not necessarily lead to anti-colonial
For Indigenous Eyes Only: A Decolonization Handbook by Waziyatawin Angela Wilson and Michael Yellow Bird, 2005, p. 2
Decolonization is the intelligent, calculated, and active resistance to the forces of colonialism that perpetuate the subjugation and/or exploitation or our minds, bodies, and lands, and it is engaged for the ultimate purpose of overturning the colonial structure and realizing Indigenous liberation.
Decolonization (or decolonisation) is the undoing of colonialism, the unequal relation of polities whereby one people or nation establishes and maintains dependent Territory (courial governments) over another. It can be understood politically (attaining independence, autonomous home rule, union with the metropole or another state) or culturally (removal of pernicious colonial effects.) The term refers particularly to the dismantlement, in the years after World War II, of the Neo-Imperial empires established prior to World War I throughout Africa and Asia.
The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization has stated that in the process of decolonization there is no alternative to the colonizer's allowance of self-determination, but in practice decolonization may involve either nonviolent revolution or national liberation wars by the native population. It may be intramural or involve the intervention of foreign powers acting individually or through international bodies such as the United Nations.
Indigenous Decolonization is a process that Indigenous people whose communities were grossly affected by colonial expansion, genocide and cultural assimilation may go through by recolonizing with other Indigenous frameworks of thought, in understanding the history of their colonization and rediscovering their ancestral traditions and cultural values. A contemporary concept in Indigenous health and healing studies, decolonization (Indigenous) is that of a healing journey that may involve grief, anger, rage, growth and empowerment. It is related to post-traumatic stress syndrome and shares counseling tools that may help with movement on the journey, such as art therapy. There is also an intergenerational component as trauma may have been accumulating in Indigenous families over the decades or centuries of intense struggle against assimilation or extinction.
An example of a tool for personal decolonization is the medicine wheel healing concept derived from a Pan-Indian religious symbol, used in more ancient times by nations of the North American Plains. This concept helps people whose will has been damaged by colonization to balance the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of their self. By creating balance in all these areas of the self a person can find movement on the journey of decolonization and healing from intergenerational trauma. This tool links to the sacred medicine wheel circles created by the aboriginal inhabitants of Western North America.
Indigenous Decolonization however is not merely psychological accommodation to occupation or colonialism. It may also incorporate a realization or consciousness that bondage still exists today. Although a nation-states' political independence from a European state may have played itself out on a limited "battlefield," so-to-speak, true independence from foreign occupation has not yet occurred. Prime examples of this are the settler societies of Canada, The United States, Australia, New Zealand, and all of Latin America. Here direct control by British and Iberian nations respectively have ceased, yet the Anglo and Iberian descendants' political, social, moral, economic, and even racialistic taxonomy still exist and dominates over the true indigenous populations. Indigenous Decolonization in real-time physical terms would also mean either an expulsion or exodus of the continuing forces that occupy the indigenous territory or a complete and total elimination of the bondage that exists.
Thus indigenous decolonization must incorporate physical, psychological, and emotional and spiritual strategies since the body, the mind and the soul are affected directly by colonialism. True decolonization can be achieved only when all of these components have been addressed or met in some way.
Decolonization is the undoing of colonialism, the unequal relation of polities whereby one people or nation establishes and maintains dependent Territory (courial governments) over another. It can be understood politically (attaining independence, autonomous home rule, union with the metropole or another state) or culturally (removal of pernicious colonial effects.)
The above discussion adheres to a classic idea of decolonization as constitutional and legal liberation. This is decolonization as the formal handover of sovereignty, the lowering of the old flag and the raising of the new. Some people argue that decolonization is precisely that, others that it is much more, and does not always end at the point where formal independence starts. (Why not?). If decolonization is the removal of domination by nonindigenous forces, this could include the colonizer’s legacies in others areas, such as race, culture, and social work.
The Three M’s
Decolonization can be thought of in terms of the Three M’s: the Mass, the Mind, and the Metropole. (reference needed).
The Mass: (the colonial lands and resources and the main political, security, and financial institutions). Traditional approaches focus on this area. Social work is involved in the area of security (i.e., justice systems) but rarely in Indigenous land and resource rights, protection, and repatriation, or support of political sovereignty.
The Mind: (freeing postcolonial culture and thought from dependence on western ideas, philosophies, beliefs, theories). More recent approaches in decolonization focus on this area – decolonizing the mind, i.e., neurodecolonization (Yellow Bird, 2012, 2013). This is an area that social work that may become involved in, but the tendency is to engage in the use of colonized, Western methods.
The Metropole: (The Empire). Decolonization involves freeing the metropole from its tendency to inferiorize and dominate other peoples and territories.
Fanon’s book, “The Wretched of the Earth” views the colonized world from the perspective of the colonized. Fanon questions the basic assumptions of colonialism. Our charge is to examine their relevance to social work education (research, practice, human behavior, policy) and to add other questions or comments that are relevant:
(1) He questions whether violence is a tactic that should be employed to eliminate colonialism. (What social work tactics/approaches/theories eliminate colonialism? Are they violent/non-violent? Are the effective?).
(2) He questions whether native intellectuals who have adopted western methods of thought and urge slow decolonization are in fact part of the same technology of control that the white world employs to exploit the colonized. (Are social workers, department of social work, curriculum, faculty, and professional associations’ slow to decolonize and are we a part of the technology of control? If so, what can be done overturn this reality?).
(3) He questions whether the colonized world should copy the west or develop a whole new set of values and ideas. (What values and ideas must social work reject and/or embrace to decolonize?).
(4) Fanon sees the relationship and methods of control as whites and native intellectuals who have adopted western values and tactics. He regards them as enemies. (Some argue that “Fanon fails to see that these natives and even the white world are also victims who in what Foucault calls the stream of power and control are forced into their roles by a society which itself is forced into a role.” But this begs the question: are they/we really forced to do so or they consciously and quietly accepting the colonialism? If this is the case should we be more forthcoming with our students and clients?).
(5) Fanon also classifies many colonized people as mentally ill. In his last chapter he brings up countless cases of children, adults, and the elderly who have been driven mad by colonialism. In one instance he classifies two children who kill their white playmate with a knife as insane. In isolating these children classifying there disorders as insanity caused by colonialism he ironically is using the very thought systems and technologies that Foucault points out are symptomatic of the western disciplinary society. (Has colonialism created mental illness among certain groups more than others? Or are we all mentally ill for participating in this system? How do we explain this to our students, associations, colleagues?).