Colonization and philosophical monoculture

Aanii kina awiyaa/ hello everyone,

I want you to think about last week’s work again. I want you to think about the mistakes we make in trying to figure out how to be, how we can’t change what has happened, and how all we can do to heal is to find ways to transform what has occurred into some sort of beauty. I want you to remember from last week, Galanin’s ‘Indian Children’s Bracelets’ ( In the excerpt below the picture in the link that was provided, it said that those were handcuffs used to steal Native children from their homes to take them to residential school to be stripped of their ‘Indianness’ so that Eurocentric beliefs could be put in their place—assimilation. Assimilation is impossible. When this is attempted, we are injured. From injury, scars result. Scars are itchy and we scratch at them only to further inflame them. We must be intentional about caring for them in appropriate ways to heal them. With people, these scars are passed indefinitely until someone chooses to do this. Additionally, for injuries to our spirit, everyone’s process for healing will be different. That said, our traumas are often not our fault, but inherited, and, regardless, the healing involved is our responsibility to those who came before, ourselves, and those who will come after. Galanin was not taken to residential school in handcuffs, but his ancestors were; in his piece, I believe part of why he carved them was an attempt to show how, despite this unthinkable injury to his people, beauty could still be carved from the experience. This week we will look at assimilation, other trauma due to colonization, and being useful to the healing process.

1. Assimilation. When I was a kid, my mom loved to watch Star Trek. I think this is because much of what the show is about is similar to a Coyote story about colonization. The Borg are a group of people the voyagers aboard the Starship Enterprise encounter. Watch this short clip: (4min in length).

A. What is the clip about?

B. What resonates from this related to what we have been studying?

2. Colonization and philosophical monoculture. Read AIT: Chapter 17 (p. 217-228)

A. What does this chapter discuss (provide examples from the chapter to support your response) ?

B. What stood out to you from this chapter that you would like to discuss further and why?

C. Mohawk is one of my favorite Native authors and if you take Indigenous Ecology with me next semester or in an upcoming semester, you will read/ hear more from him. Now that you have a idea about the ‘Borg’ from question 1, why did Russell references Mohawk on page 217 saying, “The goal of the Spanish on the Gulf and Pacific coasts, like that of the English on the east coast, was the same as that of the Borg: philosophical monoculture”?

D. Why do you believe Europeans wanted ‘philosophical monoculture’?

E. Nature has been here longer than us. There are no natural monocultures on earth. Why do you think monocultures are not naturally sustainable?

3. Spiritual injury, trauma, and scarring. Read AIT: Chapter 10 (p. 116-129).

A. Why is the chapter called, “Crippling the spirit, wounding the soul” (provide examples from the chapter to support your response)?

B. What specific colonizing policies, approaches, practices, systems, etc. does the chapter suggest as ways of ‘crippling the spirit and wounding the soul’?

C. What are your thoughts on why this was carried out here by people who had left Europe because they had had to endure similar inhumane treatment and lack of freedom there?

4. Ut Prosim and being useful to the healing process of others.

What you know about Abraham Lincoln? I would bet that this probably includes a relatively universal and flat collection of tidbits about his life: a beard, a hat, the Emancipation Proclamation, president during the American Civil War, maybe a few other things. I highly doubt it includes something almost all Natives know him for: ordering the largest one-day mass execution in American history involving the hanging of 38 Dakota men.

During the American Civil War, rations were in short supply. Dishonest government officials, in charge of providing rations to the Sauntee Sioux, did something other with that food than provide it to the tribe (e.g. sold them). This was causing starvation on the reservation in harsh Dakota winter. Native men went off the narrow, elongated reservation to find food. In stepping off the reservation, those Dakota men were in violation of treaty and were sentenced to death.

The Natives on that reservation had been relocated there from the woods of Minnesota, a very different environment with very different resources than South Dakota, making survival challenging. Additionally, during relocation Natives were often marched or transported in harsh ways that provoked mass death during transit. So, instead of killing Natives outright, they could be said to have died from ‘exposure.’ Those who didn’t die from relocation had a very difficult time adjusting to life on their prisoner of war (POW) camp or reservation in South Dakota.

When the Dakota men were charged with leaving the POW camp/ reservation and sentenced to death, the government marched them back to Minnesota right before Christmas 1862, again hoping that the adversity of the winter march for the already starving Dakota men would cause them to die from ‘exposure;’ they all survived the march and were hung on Dec. 26. This generational trauma has remained unhealed and has been passed down ever since; it is still causing great pain. The original men killed were just trying to feed their people and those still suffering did not know why for many years as it is a dark and sequestered part of our shared history. They are now trying to heal to stop the transmittance. In Dakota 38, you will see Native riders on horseback enduring tremendously adverse weather attempting to retrace the harsh path (same time of year, duration, and route) of those Dakota men as they were marched to their death. These riders are igniting their inner-fires with the use of horse medicine.

Reservations were put far from the mainstream of American activity. Geographic separation, cultural differences, and time have created mythology about the other on both sides. Healing is necessary for both sides for us to move forward. This film is a great example of illustrating how no one involved in the present is responsible for the abuses of the past, but the healing is everyone’s responsibility. You do not have to fully understand how someone is healing, but you need to trust them to know what they need and to be supportive of their process; you provide what you can when it is relevant and requested. For that to happen, significant time must often first be spent in finding relatedness. Watch the video, Dakota 38 (1 hour, 18 min in length).

A. What information in this story is new to you (provide specific information from the video to support your response)?

B. What resonates with you from this film (provide specific information from the video to support your response)?

C. What are your thoughts on how the riders waking their ‘inner wolverine’ for the purpose of healing?

D. How do the non-Natives try to be useful to the Natives as they heal even though they may not fully understand the process?

E. What does this make you think about what you now know about Native Peoples from taking this course and how you may use your unique Ut Prosim to be useful to healing existing inequities so that we can all move forward together in a more positive direction to heal from the past?

5. Transforming trauma into superpowers. As I said before, your trauma is probably not your fault, but your healing is your responsibility. Listen to this teaching (again, if you have trouble accessing it, email me so I can send it to you because I don’t want you to miss out due to glitches in software incompatibility):


A. What happens in this teaching?

B. How does this relate to things like Galanin’s ‘Indian Children’s Bracelets,’ your readings, and the Dakota 38?

C. What are you final thoughts on this teaching in relation to assimilation, other traumas due to colonization, and using your Ut Prosim to assist with healing things of the past that still inhabit/ haunt our relatives today?

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