De-colonization internalized

Let’s Talk About It

Lori Deets

Writing openly about my life for all of my community to read can be difficult. I worry at times how I am perceived and what people think. I can’t change what you think. That’s not on me. I share my experiences. What you do with them is your choice.

Because of my experience being raised by non-Indigenous parents, one of the things that goes through my head sometimes is, “Am I Indigenous enough? Do I qualify?” That may sound strange, but to the people who have been raised in similar circumstances, I know you get it.

I have had to face some harsh truths about myself lately. At times the truth is hard to see. It is often obscured by a haze of false beliefs that I learned as a child, beliefs that I have, for quite some time, been working diligently to erase. The more engrossed I get in learning about colonialism, the more apparent it is that I have been almost completely colonized myself.

I have always known that I have a very “white” outlook on life (I only use this word because I never understood what it meant to be colonized before). Of course this is also a very natural happening when you are taken from your family of origin and placed into a very white society. More times than I care to remember, I have been referred to as an “apple.” Red on the outside and white on the inside. I am not proud to admit this but the words, “I am not one of those kinds of Indians!” have more than once been spoken from my mouth. I feel great shame in admitting that to you. Unfortunately, that is one of the least offensive things I have said in my ignorance. There is so much more that I am not proud of. My guilt and shame at times are overwhelming. But what this has given me today is a deep understanding and empathy for the many of us who were raised with the same outlook. We can’t change what we don’t know, but when we do know, we must do better.

After a lot of healing and self-love, I began to look at myself and the many undesirable traits that I had been carrying through my life. I have treated myself and others badly. It is only recently that I have been able to start to connect the dots. I now realize that the way I am is the product of growing up in our capitalist society. We believe that if someone else has more, maybe there won’t be enough for me. This fear makes us greedy. We hoard more than we need. This fear also leads to self-centeredness. I can’t help you because then there won’t be enough for me.

Spirituality, values and culture have all taken a backseat to capitalism. Money and success have become the building blocks of life. Do you see the problem here? If you build your foundation on a weak social system, it’s likely to fall. How many times are you willing to rebuild?

Personally, I am sick of rebuilding my life. I am tired of the game. I have been through years of tireless manual labour, overwhelmed by my lack of progress. But what I know today is that my foundation is now strong. I have built it well. Even when I take a hit, it doesn’t get destroyed like it used to.

I have built my foundation on honesty, integrity, faith, love and tolerance. I have spent thousands of hours building my empire, my soul. I am teaching my son to do the same. I ask you to think about what your foundation is built on.

I have taken a hard look lately at the hurt my colonized thinking has done to myself and others. I must make some serious amends. I call on you to do the same. Where has privilege been granted to you when you may not have deserved it? Have you oppressed others with stereotypical views or convinced others they should not feel the way they do about a particular situation? These are tough questions, but questions we need to answer for ourselves if we are ever to reach true reconciliation.

I write my columns because I know what I say needs to be heard. There are some people who feel the need to scorn me or to argue just for the sake of arguing. And that’s OK. I am strong. I can handle that. I will continue to write and share my truth because I am committed to doing my part for reconciliation. If I need to admit my defects and expose my wrongs to get to a place in society where we need to be, I will do that because that is what my heart is telling me to do.