When the death of another sister hits the news, there is a heavy feeling that is palpable in the air. It is this deep and cutting feeling of sadness. The kind of sadness that words can’t describe. It’s a sadness that clings to your heart and echoes in your ribcage. There’s a pit left inside each and every one of us that is caused by colonization and the continued perpetuation of colonial violence. As much as the continuous reminders of colonization ring around me in my everyday life, there is the continued reply of resist, revolt, decolonize.
This word decolonize troubles me. I don’t know what it is, what it means, or what it looks like. I honestly cannot envision decolonization in my head. As a recent graduate with a Native Studies degree, I feel like I should know what decolonization is. I can define it, academically, I can point you to authors and and activists who have written articles and prose on the topic. But for me, personally, I don’t know what decolonization means to me, my family, or my friends. If colonization has left this hole inside of my being, how do I fill it? This journey to heal this hole, to heal this scar, is such a personal path we all travel that it is hard to even write about.
I tried, for the longest time, to try and cover this part of me. Pretend it wasn’t there. Like putting foundation on scars, I tried to cover the fact that colonization has played such a huge role in my life and family. With a legacy of Residential School in my family, there is a history of intimate trauma that is hard for those who have never experienced that sort of intergenerational trauma to understand. At its very core, colonization has taught me how not to love myself, friends, lovers, or family. In order to combat this sadness that exists inside of me, the anxiety it causes, I tried to cover it up. Obviously, one can’t put a bandaid on a wound that requires stitches and expect it to heal. I thought that if I played the role of this good little mixed girl, I was okay. If I didn’t try to connect to being Metis or if I didn’t try to connect with my Euromix other side, I would be fine. That somehow, I could negate these anxieties by denying the histories that exist within me.
But I can’t hide these parts of me. No matter how much I wanted to pretend that colonization has not impacted my being, I can’t deny the fact that it has. It is within this same thread though, that I want to make sure that colonization is not the main plot line to my story. I want to make sure, that even though colonization has influenced and cultivated many of the unhealthy parts of my life and my community’s life, I don’t want to give colonization the power to be the only story I tell as a Metis woman.
My own personal definition of decolonization begins with this de-storying and re-storying of my life. Instead of focusing on the ways that colonization has damaged me, my family, my community, and my friends, I want our stories to be of empowerment, the strength that exists within our communities, and the centrality of the power of women. I do not want our stories to be written by explorers, Indian Agents, and anthropologists, I want our stories to be told by kokums, aunties, mosoms, brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers. I want my children to grow up without having to search for themselves the way I have to now. I want my children to grow up without colonization being their story, because as much as colonization has defined our past and present, it is not our stories. Ours stories are the ones being told at kitchen tables with our families, in ceremonies with our Elders, and the memories created with our friends. Our stories are cultivated with the reconnecting of our relationships and our healing, together.
I can’t tell you what decolonization is, exactly, because decolonization is different to us all. The ways we heal and the ways we find to reconnect ourselves is not a homogeneous experience. The one thing I am sure of though, is that decolonization, at its core, is remembering how to love.