ArticlePDF Available

Re-envisioning resurgence: Indigenous pathways to decolonization and sustainable self-determination



Amidst ongoing, contemporary colonialism, this article explores Indigenous pathways to decolonization and resurgence with an emphasis on identifying everyday practices of renewal and responsibility within native communities today. How are decolonization and resurgence interrelated in struggles for Indigenous freedom? By drawing on several comparative examples of resurgence from Cherokees in Kituwah, Lekwungen protection of camas, the Nishnaabe-kwewag "Water Walkers" movement, and Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) revitalization of kalo, this article provides some insights into contemporary decolonization movements. The politics of distraction is operationalized here as a potential threat to Indigenous homelands, cultures and communities, and the harmful aspects of the rights discourse, reconciliation, and resource extraction are identified, discussed, and countered with Indigenous approaches centered on responsibilities, resurgence and relationships. Overall, findings from this research offer theoretical and applied understandings for regenerating Indigenous nationhood and restoring sustainable relationships with Indigenous homelands.
2012 J. Corntassel This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution
Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License (, permitting all non-commercial use,
distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Re-envisioning resurgence: Indigenous
pathways to decolonization and
sustainable self-determination
Jeff Corntassel
University of Victoria, Canada
Amidst ongoing, contemporary colonialism, this article explores Indigenous pathways to
decolonization and resurgence with an emphasis on identifying everyday practices of renewal
and responsibility within native communities today. How are decolonization and resurgence
interrelated in struggles for Indigenous freedom? By drawing on several comparative examples
of resurgence from Cherokees in Kituwah, Lekwungen protection of camas, the Nishnaabe-
kwewag “Water Walkers” movement, and Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) revitalization of
kalo, this article provides some insights into contemporary decolonization movements. The
politics of distraction is operationalized here as a potential threat to Indigenous homelands,
cultures and communities, and the harmful aspects of the rights discourse, reconciliation, and
resource extraction are identified, discussed, and countered with Indigenous approaches centered
on responsibilities, resurgence and relationships. Overall, findings from this research offer
theoretical and applied understandings for regenerating Indigenous nationhood and restoring
sustainable relationships with Indigenous homelands.
Keywords: Indigenous, decolonization, resurgence, renewal, responsibility, politics of
In April 2010, three Mohawks from Kahnawake used their Haudenosaunee passports to travel
from Canada to Bolivia as part of a Mohawk delegation to the World People’s Conference on
Climate Change. Haudenosaunee passports have been used extensively since the 1920’s,
beginning with Deskaheh, Cayuga Chief and Speaker of the Six Nations Council, who traveled
to Geneva, Switzerland, to assert Haudenosaunee self-determination at the League of Nations.
International recognition of the Haudenosaunee passport has been contentious at times, as the
United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom refuse to recognize it as a viable form of
identification for travel, and Kanen’tokon Hemlock, Tyler Hemlock and Kahnawiio Dione’s
2010 journey was no different; their planned ten-day trip turned into a 29-day struggle to get
back to their homeland (Horn, 2010).
While the international journey of the Mohawk delegates was tumultuous at best, the
questions posed by the Indigenous participants at the Bolivian conference challenged the three
Mohawk travelers to the very core of their identities:
“They asked us, ‘So you’re from that region of the world, are you still connected
to nature? Is your community and your people still in tuned with the natural
world?’” Hemlock said. “We had to honestly tell them, not really, to a degree but
not really. So they asked us, ‘What makes you Indigenous?’”
Hemlock said that they explained where Kahnawake was situated and what
surrounds us and the close proximity of Montreal. He stated that because of
Kahnawake’s location that, as a people, we too are struggling to try to maintain our
identity and live in a sustainable way.
“So they said, ‘So how do you do it? What’s the example that your community is
giving to all the surrounding communities about how to live sustainably with the
environment, what are you showing them?’” Hemlock recounted. “Again we had
to say, we’re doing our best in a lot of areas, but as a community we really have to
ask ourselves that question of what are we doing? When we look at our community
and seeing so much land being clear-cut; so many of the swamp and marshlands
being land-filled; so many dump-sites. There’s all these things within our own
little community and we’re supposed to be the Indigenous examples of living
healthy and sustainably with the environment. (Horn, 2010)
While the three Mohawk delegates eventually made it home after a long, hard-fought
battle to assert their self-determining authority, the above questions posed to them at the Bolivian
conference remained discomforting. When asked about living sustainably today, Indigenous
peoples inevitably confront the ongoing legacies of colonialism that have disrupted their
individual and community relationships with the natural world. For example, what happens when
the medicines, waters, and traditional foods that Indigenous peoples have relied on for millennia
to sustain their communities become contaminated with toxins? What recourse do we have
against those destructive forces and entities that have disconnected us from our longstanding
relationships to our homelands, cultures and communities? By addressing the legacies of
ongoing, contemporary colonialism, this article explores possible Indigenous pathways to
decolonization and resurgence, with an emphasis on identifying some examples of applied
decolonizing practices occurring within communities today.
By asking “How will your ancestors and future generations recognize you as
Indigenous?” I offer a challenge for us to begin re-envisioning and practicing everyday acts of
resurgence. Throughout the article, I engage with similar questions posed by the Indigenous
peoples in Bolivia: “What’s the example that your community is giving to all the surrounding
communities about how to live sustainably with the environment, what are you showing them?”
Being Indigenous today means struggling to reclaim and regenerate one’s relational,
place-based existence by challenging the ongoing, destructive forces of colonization. Whether
through ceremony or through other ways that Indigenous peoples (re)connect to the natural
world, processes of resurgence are often contentious and reflect the spiritual, cultural, economic,
social and political scope of the struggle. As Mohawk scholar Taiaiake Alfred (2009) points out
in his extensive study on the psychological and physical impacts of colonialism on Indigenous
peoples within a Canadian context, “...colonialism is best conceptualized as an irresistible
outcome of a multigenerational and multifaceted process of forced dispossession and attempted
acculturation – a disconnection from land, culture, and community – that has resulted in political
chaos and social discord within First nations communities and the collective dependency of First
Nations upon the state” (p. 52). This disconnection from our lands, cultures and communities has
led to social suffering and the destruction of families and yet “...the real deprivation is the
erosion of an ethic of universal respect and responsibility that used to be the hallmark of
indigenous societies” (Alfred, 2009, p. 43). When considering how colonization systematically
deprives us of our experiences and confidence as Indigenous peoples, the linkages between
colonialism, cultural harm, and the disintegration of community health and well-being become
clearer. Furthermore, this is a spiritual crisis just as much as it is a political, social, and economic
Despite Prime Minister Harper’s assertions, that “we” in Canada have no history of
colonialism” (Ljunggren, 2009), contemporary colonialism continues to disrupt Indigenous
relationships with their homelands, cultures and communities. One of our biggest enemies is
compartmentalization, as shape-shifting colonial entities attempt to sever our relationships to the
natural world and define the terrain of struggle. For example, policymakers who frame new
government initiatives as “economic developmentmiss the larger connections embedded within
Indigenous economies linking homelands, cultures and communities. By focusing on “everyday”
acts of resurgence, one disrupts the colonial physical, social and political boundaries designed to
impede our actions to restore our nationhood. In order to live in a responsible way as self-
determining nations, Indigenous peoples must confront existing colonial institutions, structures,
and policies that attempt to displace us from our homelands and relationships, which impact the
health and well-being of present generations of Indigenous youth and families. Indigenous
resurgence means having the courage and imagination to envision life beyond the state.
Decolonization offers different pathways for reconnecting Indigenous nations with their
traditional land-based and water-based cultural practices. The decolonization process operates at
multiple levels and necessitates moving from an awareness of being in struggle, to actively
engaging in everyday practices of resurgence. After all, whether they know it or not (or even
want it), every Indigenous person is in a daily struggle for resurgence. It is in these everyday
actions where the scope of the struggle for decolonization is reclaimed and re-envisioned by
Indigenous peoples. Decolonizing praxis comes from moving beyond political awareness and/or
symbolic gestures to everyday practices of resurgence (de Silva, personal communication,
. This shift means rejecting the performativity of a rights discourse geared toward state
affirmation and recognition, and embracing a daily existence conditioned by place-based cultural
practices. How one engages in daily processes of truth-telling and resistance to colonial
encroachments is just as important as the overall outcome of these struggles to reclaim, restore,
and regenerate homeland relationships. While decolonization and resurgence are often treated
separately from each other in scholarly analysis, for the purposes of this article they are viewed
as interrelated actions and strategies that inform our pathways to resistance and freedom.
Despite yonega (White settler) encroachment onto Indigenous homelands and waterways, our
cultures and peoplehood (community) persist (Corntassel & Holm, forthcoming; Holm, Pearson
& Chavis, 2003; Corntassel, 2003). A peoplehood model provides a useful way of thinking about
the nature of everyday resurgence practices both personally and collectively. If one thinks of
peoplehood as the interlocking features of language, homeland, ceremonial cycles, and sacred
living histories, a disruption to any one of these practices threatens all aspects of everyday life.
The complex spiritual, political and social relationships that hold peoplehood together are
continuously renewed. These daily acts of renewal, whether through prayer, speaking your
language, honoring your ancestors, etc., are the foundations of resurgence. It is through this
renewal process that commitments are made to reclaim and restore cultural practices that have
been neglected and/or disrupted. As Blackfeet scholar, Leroy Little Bear (2005), states: “A
consequence of the idea of renewal is a large number of renewal ceremonies in Native American
life-ways. It may be said that Native American history is not a temporal history but a history
contained in stories that are told and re-told, in songs that are sung and re-sung, in ceremonies
that are performed and re-performed through the seasonal rounds” (p. 10).
Our ceremonies are cyclical, as our stories need to be re-told and acted upon as part of
our process of remembering and maintaining balance within our communities. It is the stories
that sustain us and ensure our continuity as peoples. The Cherokee story of the first man and
woman, Selu and Kanati (Corn Woman and the Hunter), provides important insights into how we
should conduct ourselves as Cherokees, including our roles and responsibilities. It is about living
in a state of to’hi, which are peaceful, healthy relationships. By extension, one practices
Cherokee governance through gadugi, which is a spirit of community comaraderie where no one
person is left alone to climb out of a life endeavour.
Putting gadugi and to’hi into everyday practice brings us back to a key question from the
Indigenous peoples in Bolivia, “What’s the example that your community is giving to all the
surrounding communities about how to live sustainably with the environment, what are you
showing them?” One example of renewal and resurgence relates to honoring our responsibilities
to atsi’la (fire). Kitoowhagi or Kituwah mound has always been the spiritual and political center
for Cherokees. It was the place where the atsi'la galunkw'ti'yu ("the honored or sacred fire")
perpetually burned and served as the heart of the nation. Located near the junction of the
Oconaluftee and Tuckasegee Rivers in North Carolina, Kituwah was continuously inhabited by
Cherokees for over 11,000 years. Each year, Cherokees traveled great distances to Kituwah,
bringing ashes from their clan town to add to the mound while taking ashes from Kituwah's
sacred fire back to their villages. However, the Cherokee relationship with Kituwah was
temporarily disrupted in 1761.
Under orders from General Jeffrey Amherst during the French and Indian War (1754-
1763), Colonel James Grant and 2,000 British, Chickasaw, and Catawba soldiers were
dispatched to South Carolina in 1761 to "punish" the Cherokees, despite their desire for peaceful
relations with the British government. Cherokee Chief Ada-gal'kala had requested peace talks
but Grant refused. Within twenty days, Grant and his soldiers destroyed fifteen middle towns,
burned over one thousand acres of crops, and forced approximately 5,000 Cherokees to flee into
the mountains. During these attacks on Cherokee clan towns, Kituwah mound was razed by
Grant's troops. As keeper of the sacred fire, A-ga-yv-la ("Ancient one" or "Old Man of
Kituwah") held his ground and attempted to defend Kituwah from British encroachment. In the
end, however, A-ga-yv-la was killed; his bravery and love for the land are remembered to this
By the time Cherokees had reclaimed Kituwah, they were forcibly removed by the U.S.
government in the 1820’s. Over time, the destruction of Kituwah continued and Cherokees no
longer held the land. By the 1990's, the mound had been reduced to 170 feet in diameter and
stood only five feet tall in the middle of a field once used as an airstrip. In 1996, at the urging of
Cherokee activists, such as Tom Belt, the Eastern Band of Cherokees purchased the 309 acres
containing Kituwah mound for $3.5 million. Despite yonega encroachment since 1761,
Cherokees have maintained their relationship with Kituwah over the years by bringing ashes,
dirt, and rocks from their own fireplaces and homes to build it up again. These are the everyday
practices of resurgence that don’t show up on the news or get much attention and yet they are
vital to the sustainability of Indigenous nations. According to Cherokee Elder Benny Smith, "If
we follow the teachings of Kituwah, there will be a return to it."
In 2009, Duke Energy began bulldozing a mountain directly overlooking Kituwah, and
was planning to build a large power sub-station in the area, which was viewed by Cherokees as a
desecration of this sacred place. The leadership of the Eastern Band of Cherokees, along with
support from the Cherokee Nation and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, strongly
opposed the Duke Energy project and joined an alliance with other area residents to form
“Citizens to Protect Kituwah Valley.” With the resulting press uncovering Duke Energy’s failure
to follow proper procedures in the construction of the sub-station along with the threat of a
lawsuit, Duke Energy ceased all construction near Kituwah mound in autumn 2010 (Thornton,
2011). These actions have mobilized Cherokees to honor their responsibilities to protect Kituwah
and it has also led to daily acts of resurgence around this sacred place, whether by bringing ash
and rocks to build up the mound again, or by practicing ceremonies on it again. To paraphrase
Benny Smith, there has been a return to Kituwah through everyday acts of resurgence. These
everyday acts of renewal are needed to combat the main barriers to resurgence: intimidation, co-
optation, and the politics of distraction, which will be discussed in the following section.
The ‘politics of distraction’ (Hingagaroa, 2000) diverts our energy and attention away from
community resurgence and “frames community relationships in state-centric terms” (Alfred &
Corntassel, 2005, p. 600). These are the tools of shape-shifting colonial entities to separate us
from our homelands, cultures, and communities. Nuu-chah-nulth scholar, Umeek (E. Richard
Atleo), discusses how his nation counters the politics of distraction through ceremony:
A central ceremony of hahuulism involves periodically, publicly, and reverently
acknowledging that humans are characterized by short-term memory. Humans
have a tendency to forget; they are easily distracted. Humans have a tendency to
prefer the “quick fix.”…The ancient Nuu-chah-nulth guarded against falling into
such times with a periodic remembrance ceremony called a uuk*aana, which
means ‘we remember reality.’ (2011, p. 164)
Within a colonial context, acts of remembrance are resurgence. As I see it, there are three
main themes that are commonly invoked by colonial entities to divert attention away from deep
decolonizing movements and push us towards a state agenda of co-optation and assimilation.
The politics of distraction are manifested in three distinct ways:
Reconciliation; and
I will examine each of these themes and their responses in order to uncover some deeper
strategies for overcoming the politics of distraction. For example, rather than focus on the rights
discourse, our energies should be directed where the real power lies: our inherent
responsibilities. Additionally, processes of reconciliation are merely reinscribing the status quo;
counter to reconciliation, resurgence takes the emphasis away from state frameworks of “forgive
and forget” back to re-localized, community-centered actions premised on reconnecting with
land, culture and community. Finally, the word resource is a way of commodifying and
marketizing Indigenous homelands; in contrast, Indigenous peoples view their homelands and
communities as a complex web of relationships.
From rights to responsibilities
When addressing contemporary shape-shifting colonialism, the rights discourse can only take
struggles for Indigenous decolonization and resurgence so far. Indigenous mobilization strategies
that invoke existing human rights norms, which are premised on state recognition of Indigenous
self-determination, will not lead to a sustainable self-determination process that restores and
regenerates Indigenous nations. According to Dene political theorist Glen Coulthard (2007), “the
politics of recognition in its contemporary form promises to reproduce the very configurations of
colonial power that Indigenous peoples’ demands for recognition have historically sought to
transcend” (p. 437). By embedding themselves within the state-centric rights discourse,
“Indigenous nations run the risk of seeking political and/or economic solutions to contemporary
challenges that require sustainable, spiritual foundations” (Corntassel, 2008, p. 115-116).
Furthermore, by mobilizing around a rights discourse, there is a danger of buying into an
“illusion of inclusion” being promoted by state-centered forums: “Consequently, a system that
once denied an Indigenous rights agenda now embraces it and channels the energies of
transnational Indigenous networks into the institutional fiefdoms of member countries
(Corntassel, 2007, p. 161). Article 46, part 1 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples is telling in this regard: “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for
any State, people, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act
contrary to the Charter of the United Nations or construed as authorizing or encouraging any
action which would dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political
unity of sovereign and independent States.” While Indigenous peoples do not tend to seek
secession from the state, the restoration of their land-based and water-based cultural relationships
and practices is often portrayed as a threat to the territorial integrity of the country(ies) in which
they reside, and thus, a threat to state sovereignty. The politics of recognition highlights the
shortcomings of pursuing rights-based strategies for Indigenous peoples desiring decolonization
and restoration of their relationships with the natural world.
As I reference in the article above (Corntassel, 2007), rights are derived from state-
centric forums while Indigenous nations’ responsibilities to the natural world originate from their
long-standing relationships with their homelands – relationships that have existed long before the
development of the state system. Rights, on the other hand, are re-gifted rhetoric from artificial
states. As Indigenous peoples we act on our enduring, inherent responsibilities. While there has
been limited success in advancing claims of Indigenous cultural harm/injury in global forums
and judicial bodies, such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, as of this writing
no global forum has yet held Canada accountable to standards related to land-based and water-
based cultural practices, homeland reclamation, and subsistence.
Given that a state-centered rights discourse has limits in terms of addressing questions of
Indigenous recovery and community resurgence, a responsibility-based ethic grounded in
relationships to homelands and community knows no limits. Our ancestors and future
generations will recognize us as Indigenous by how we act on these responsibilities. For
example, Cheryl Bryce and her family have been managing their traditional Lekwungen
territories for centuries and Cheryl continues to harvest kwetlal (camas, a starchy bulb that has
been a staple food and trade item for Indigenous peoples in the region for generations) on park
lands and private properties, despite threats to her and her family’s well-being from settlers
attempting to deny her access to Lekwungen homelands (Penn, 2006). The rights discourse does
little to assist in Cheryl’s everyday acts of resurgence on her family territory. Political/legal
rights-based approaches do not offer meaningful restoration of Indigenous homelands and food
sovereignty. Nor do they address the urgency of the struggle - the revitalization of traditional
foods, as well as community roles and responsibilities, is critical to the future survival and
regeneration of Lekwungen peoples. A community’s cultural continuity is premised on direct
actions to protect these sacred relationships.
Cheryl, her family, and the community youth have been working on their territory to
remove invasive species as well as harvest and traditionally pit cook the kwetlal. However,
invasive species removal undertaken in Lekwungen takes place on “public park lands”, such as
Meegan (a.k.a. Beacon Hill Park), and is prone to challenges by authorities and local citizens
over competing jurisdictional claims. In order to recruit more assistance for her efforts, Cheryl
founded a “Community Tool Shed” in 2011 to establish a network of students and interested
residents to work together towards reinstating traditional food systems. There is a strong
educational component to this work, as Cheryl has developed maps of Victoria with traditional
place names
and has also spoken to several school groups and residents about the history of the
region as well as their obligations to the kwetlal food systems in Lekwungen territories.
According to Cheryl, “The Garry Oak Ecosystem is a living artifact of my ancestors. The
Lekwungen people will continue to harvest and pit cook kwetlal for many years to come. Its
importance is vital to our history, traditions and future generations” (Bryce, personal
communication, 2011).
From reconciliation to resurgence
Reconciliation without meaningful restitution merely reinscribes the status quo without holding
anyone accountable for ongoing injustices. At its core, reconciliation has a religious connotation
premised on restoring one’s relationship with God. In fact, most Indigenous nations don’t have
words for reconciliation in their languages, which is the truest test of its lack of relevance to
communities. When put into practice, whether through a truth and reconciliation commission or
another forum (in Canada, for example, the B.C. Treaty Process as well as in the proposed “New
Relationship” legislation utilize this terminology), reconciliation in practice tends “…to relegate
all committed injustices to the past while attempting to legitimate the status quo” (Corntassel, et
al, 2009, p. 145). As Taiaiake Alfred (2005) points out, “The logic of reconciliation as justice is
clear: without massive restitution, including land, financial transfers and other forms of
assistance to compensate for past harms and continuing injustices committed against our peoples,
reconciliation would permanently enshrine colonial injustices and is itself a further injustice” (p.
152). The permanence of these injustices becomes more apparent as the language of
reconciliation is used to promote “certainty” of land title, which in turn attracts more foreign
direct investment opportunities. Given an overwhelming desire to secure a stable land base to
promote more corporate investment, the Government of Canada, as well as certain provinces,
including British Columbia, have begun to use the language of reconciliation in negotiations with
Indigenous peoples (for example, the B.C. Treaty Process) to establish the “certainty” of a land
claim in such a way as to facilitate the extinguishment of original Indigenous title to the land
(Alfred, 2005; Blackburn, 2005).
An alternative to state-centered processes that prioritize the legitimization of settler
occupation of Indigenous homelands is community-centered resurgence. As Taiaiake Alfred
(2005) points out, “resurgence and regeneration constitute a way to power-surge against the
empire with integrity” (p. 24). This is how we move beyond political awareness to on-the-ground
actions to defend our homelands. An example of community resurgence in action is the “Water
Walkers” movement in Wikiwemikong Unceded First Nation in Ontario, Canada. The Water
Walkers began in the winter of 2002 in response to increasing threats of environmental pollution
to their community lakes and traditional waters. According to one of the leaders of this
movement, Josephine Mandamin, they asked themselves, “What can we do to bring out, to tell
people of our responsibilities as women, as keepers of life and the water, to respect our bodies as
Nishnaabe-kwewag, as women?”
(Bédard, 2008, p. 103). They decided as a group to undertake a
spiritual walk around the entire perimeter of Lake Superior with buckets of water to raise
awareness of the need to protect water. According to Josephine, “This journey with the pail of
water that we carry is our way of Walking the Talk…Our great grandchildren and the next
generation will be able to say, yes, our grandmothers and grandfathers kept this water for us!!”
(Bédard, 2008, p. 104). Our commitment to our relationships means engaging in continuous
cycles of renewal that are transmitted to future generations. These are the new stories of
resistance and resurgence that compel us to remember our spiritual and political principles and
values and act on them. By renewing our roles and responsibilities everyday, future generations
will recognize us as Indigenous defenders of our lands, cultures, and communities.
From resources to relationships
To begin, it is important to understand environmental scholar and activist Vandana Shiva’s
(2005) identification of three economies at work in the world today: 1) the dominant free market
economy; 2) nature’s economy (ecological system, including water, soil etc.); 3) and the
sustenance economy (“women’s economy” where “people work to directly provide the
conditions necessary to maintain their lives”) (p. 14-17). The dominant economy cannot exist
without the other two and yet the sustenance economy and nature’s economy have been
exploited to the point of depletion. Unfortunately, colonization and the false premise that there
are no legitimate alternatives to the market system serve to weaken the confidence of Indigenous
people and challenge one’s ability to imagine anything other than economic development as a
viable pathway to resurgence. Under the guise of a “green economy” or “sustainable
development”, corporations and other colonial entities are “…in violation of natural hahuulic
law” (Umeek 2011, p. 167). According to Umeek (2011), “For corporations, the creation of
wealth has become a purpose in and of itself rather than a fulfillment of hahuulic law’s
requirement for the well-being of family and community, which includes all life forms on planet
earth” (p. 167).
When market transactions replace kinship relationships, Indigenous homelands and
waterways become very vulnerable to exploitation by shape-shifting colonial powers. State
construction of citizenship is one way the politics of distraction takes shape in Indigenous
communities. Altamirano-Jiménez (2004) examines the implications of the market system on
Indigenous peoples and finds that demands for Indigenous citizenship in Canada and Mexico are
driven by neoliberal policies “which tends to separate territory from self-government and
questions the place of land/territory/property in the constitution of citizenship and citizenship
In a globalization context, social citizenship is being displaced by “market citizenship
(p. 351). Consequently, as Altamirano-Jiménez (2004) points out, “Canadian citizenship for
Aboriginal peoples often simply means the restriction of their treaty rights for the sake of formal
equality with other Canadian citizens. Equality, under these circumstances, implies the
transformation of communal land/territory into civil rights/individual property” (p. 352). In
Mexico and Canada, a common trend emerges:
It is a market citizenship that encourages, forces or induces individuals to enter
new relations with global networks where economic criteria and market incentives
are predominant. Indigenous peoples are encouraged to throw away the yoke of
internal colonialism by becoming successful entrepreneurs in the global economy.
(Altamirano-Jiménez, 2004, p. 354)
Altamirano-Jiménez’ case studies of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline in Canada and the
Puebla Panama Plan in Mexico illustrate colonialism’s effects on citizenship constructions.
Given that we’re currently confronting “…manipulations by shape-shifting colonial powers” and
that “the instruments of domination are evolving and inventing new methods to erase Indigenous
histories and senses of place” (Corntassel & Alfred, 2005, p. 601), one should be wary of any
citizenship models grounded in capitalism/neoliberalism to the exclusion of responsibility-based
governance. Rather than emulating Western institutions and nation-building models, the top
priority for responsibility-based communities should be to revitalize local Indigenous economies
where “markets are subservient to a subsistence paradigm and welfare of the people” (Phillips,
2006, p. 535).
As a refutation to a resource extraction-based economy, Indigenous peoples practice and
honor their sustainable relationships. A Cherokee word that describes a sustainable relationship
is digadatsele’i or “we belong to each other”. Belonging to each other in the broadest sense
means that we are accountable and responsible to each other and the natural world. This is also
evidenced by the Kanaka Maoli’s (Native Hawaiian) relationship to Kalo in Hawai’i.
Kalo (taro) is a sacred plant and is considered an elder sibling to the Kanaka Maoli
people. Prior to European invasion, lo'i kalo fields covered at least 20,000 acres (90 square
kilometres) over six islands in the Hawaiian archipelago. Today, after more than 100 years of
U.S. occupation, less than 400 acres (1.6 square kilometers) of lo’i kalo remain (Goodyear-
Ka’ōpua, 2009). Recently, the Hàlau Kû Mäna (HKM) public charter school students and
teachers began rebuilding the ‘auwai and lo’i at ‘Aihulama, which is the first time it had been
functioning in more than a century. As Goodyear-Ka’ōpua (2009) points out, the project of
rebuilding 'auwai and lo'i at 'Aihualama can be seen as part of a larger effort to rebuild
indigenous Hawaiian agricultural and educational systems” (p. 61).
Since their first taro planting under the full moon in 2006, students in Papa Lo'i have
opened approximately one new field per year, and learned and practiced all phases from putting
huli in the ground to putting 'ai (food, especially pounded kalo) in people's mouths” (Goodyear-
Ka’ōpua, 2009, p. 64). When I was invited, along with other Indigenous Governance faculty and
students from the University of Victoria, to visit the lo’i kalo in 2010, we had several
opportunities to work alongside the HKM students at 'Aihualama and they talked about how
much they have learned about their responsibilities to the land/waterways as well as Kanaka
Maoli food security from their semester work in the lo’i kalo. For several of these youth and
participants, this was a transformative experience but it was also something deeper. It was the
regeneration of sustainable Hawaiian technologies by putting them back into everyday practice.
Furthermore, distinctions between education and cultural practice were blurred. Several of the
kumu and students also spoke about their kuleana to the lo’i, which roughly translates into
responsibility, sphere of authority and family.
Goodyear-Ka’ōpua (2009) discusses the
significance of rebuilding of ‘auwai and lo’i kalo (wetland taro field) as going beyond viewing
the ‘auwai as a “material technology” but “…also as a form of indigenous Hawaiian theory, with
its basis in the ancestral, landed practices of Kanaka Maoli” (p. 49). In the “strategies and non-
negotiables” section of her paper, Goodyear-Ka’ōpua outlines four goals that express Kanaka
Maoli relationships to Āina (land): Āina is paramount; water is essential to life; regular and
consistent protocols; and Lo’i teaches us work ethics (p. 69). This is where everyday practices
get reaffirmed as Kanaka Maoli act on their kuleana to the land and water, as well as to their
Overall, the rights discourse has serious limitations in terms of its potential as a remedial
form of justice. Similarly, reconciliation is framed according to the logic of legitimating state
authority rather than offering meaningful restitution for harms committed against Indigenous
communities and homelands. Finally, treating the natural world as a resource for extraction
destroys the sustenance and nature’s economies, while commodifying and marketizing
Indigenous relationships, responsibilities, and resurgence efforts.
If colonization is a disconnecting force, then resurgence is about reconnecting with homelands,
cultures, and communities. Both decolonization and resurgence facilitate a renewal of our roles
and responsibilities as Indigenous peoples to the sustainable praxis of Indigenous livelihoods,
food security, community governance, and relationships to the natural world and ceremonial life
that enables the transmission of these cultural practices to future generations (Corntassel, 2008).
It is basically the implementation of digadadtsele’i as communities mobilize for a spiritual
revolution. According to Alfred (2009), a process of Indigenous regeneration includes collective
community efforts to achieve the following four objectives:
1. The restoration of indigenous presence(s) on the land and the revitalization of land-based
2. An increased reliance on traditional diet(s) among Indigenous people;
3. The transmission of indigenous culture, spiritual teachings and knowledge of the land
between Elders and youth;
4. The strengthening of familial activities and re-emergence of indigenous cultural and
social institutions as governing authorities within First Nations; and,
5. Short-term and long-term initiatives and improvements in sustainable land-based
economies as the primary economies of reserve based First Nations communities and as
supplemental economies for urban indigenous communities. (p. 56)
While the above-listed indicators of cultural regeneration offer several promising pathways
to community resurgence, the adequacy of these measures will vary from community to
community. As Nishnaabekwe scholar Leanne Simpson points out, “Indigenous Knowledge is
critical for resurgence” (Simpson, 2009, p. 75). She outlines a four-part strategy designed to
transcend the politics of distraction and keep the focus on the revitalization of Indigenous
1. Confront “funding” mentality – It is time to admit that colonizing governments and
private corporations are not going to fund our decolonization;
2. Confronting linguistic genocide There is little recognition or glory attached to it, but
without it, we will lose ourselves;
3. Visioning resurgence The importance of visioning and dreaming a better future based
on our own Indigenous traditions cannot be underestimated;
4. The need to awaken ancient treaty and diplomatic mechanisms Renewing our pre-
colonial treaty relationships with contemporary neighbouring Indigenous Nations
promotes decolonization and peaceful co-existence, and it builds solidarity among
Indigenous Nations. (Simpson, 2008, pp. 77-84)
As Simpson’s work highlights, everyday acts of resurgence aren’t glamorous or
expedient. It might involve a personal vow to only eat food that has been hunted, fished or
grown by Indigenous peoples, and/or speaking one’s language to family members or in social
media groups, or even growing traditional foods in your own backyard. For example, I recently
requested seeds from the Cherokee Nation Heirloom Seed Project, including rare types of corn
and centuries-old strains of tobacco, in order to revitalize ceremonies and traditional foods, while
also producing more seeds for future Cherokees. This is small-scale, initial effort that might
work toward regenerating the old trade networks between Indigenous communities as well as
building healthy relationships by increasing food security and family well-being. Overall, one
sees that grassroots efforts like the ones referenced above don’t rely heavily on rights as much as
community responsibilities to protect traditional homelands and food systems. By resisting
colonial authority and demarcating their homelands via place naming and traditional
management practices, these everyday acts of resurgence have promoted the regeneration of
sustainable food systems in community and are transmitting these teachings and values to future
There is also an educational component to the struggle for resurgence. Lekwungen
activist, Cheryl Bryce, who was mentioned earlier, creates teachable moments in order to convey
the history and contemporary struggles of the Indigenous peoples in the region. For example,
Cheryl makes bouquets out of cut-outs of kwetlal (camas) flowers, along with cedar and other
native plants, and brings them to Parliament in order to remind people of the local battles being
waged over the land, as well as honouring the ancestors, women and children who continue to
defend the land. Cheryl also brings wreaths to places where extensive development and
destruction of her community’s homelands has occurred. In one instance, she created a big
bouquet made entirely from invasive species and delivered it to City Hall in Langford. Upon
entering City Hall, she was greeted by police officers. Cheryl informed the public officials
present that the invasive species bouquet represented all of them in the room and that they were
sick because of what they were doing to Indigenous homelands, cultures and the futures of
Indigenous people. She uses these forms of what I would call “insurgent education” to make
settlers uncomfortable and to urge people to practice healthier relationships so that the land itself
can also heal.
The role of mentorships and apprenticeships is crucial to initiating a process of
community regeneration that takes Indigenous peoples beyond performance and into the realm of
everyday practice. Change of this magnitude tends to happen in small increments, “one warrior
at a time” (Alfred & Corntassel, 2005, p. 613). Elders and teachers will need to ready themselves
for the renewed responsibilities of assisting others in their reconnections to land, culture and
community. According to Alfred (2009), “Measurable change on levels beyond the individual
will emanate from the start made by physical and psychological transformations in people
generated through direct, guided experiences in small, personal groups and one-on-one
mentoring” (p. 56).
These are changes that also begin within families by embracing the practice of
digadatsele’i. As Alfred (2011, personal communication) points out, “Our children should have
the opportunity to live more Indigenous lives than we do.”
By understanding the overlapping
and simultaneous processes of decolonization and resurgence, we begin to better understand how
to implement meaningful and substantive community decolonization practices. Future
generations will map their own pathways to community resurgence, ideally on their own terms.
Through our everyday acts of resurgence, our ancestors along with future generations will
recognize us as Indigenous to the land. And this is how our homelands will recognize us as being
Indigenous to that place.
Alfred, T. (2009). Colonialism and state dependency. Journal of Aboriginal Health, 5, 42-60.
Available at:
Alfred, T. (2005). Wasáse: Indigenous pathways of action and freedom. Toronto: Broadview
Alfred, T. & Corntassel, J. (2005). Being Indigenous: Resurgences against contemporary
colonialism. Government & Opposition, 40, 597-614. Available at: Indigenous GOOP.pdf
Altamirano-Jiménez, I. (2004). North American first peoples: Slipping up into market
citizenship? Citizenship Studies, 8(4), 349-365.
Bédard, R. (2008). Keepers of the water: Nishnaabe-kwewag speaking for the water. In L.
Simpson (Ed.), Lighting the eighth fire (pp. 89-109). Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring
Blackburn, C. (2005). Searching for guarantees in the midst of uncertainty: Negotiating
Aboriginal rights and title in British Columbia. American Anthropologist, 107, 586-596.
Corntassel, J. (2008). Toward sustainable self-determination: Rethinking the contemporary
Indigenous-rights discourse. Alternatives, 33, 105-132. Available at :
Corntassel, J. (2007). Partnership in action? Indigenous political mobilization and co-optation
during the first UN Indigenous Decade (1995–2004). Human Rights Quarterly, 29, 137-
166. Available at :
Corntassel, J. (2003). Who is Indigenous?: “Peoplehood” and ethnonationalist approaches to
rearticulating Indigenous identity. Nationalism & Ethnic Politics, 9, 75–100.
Corntassel, J., Chaw-win-is & T’lakwadzi (2009). Indigenous storytelling, truth-telling, and
community approaches to reconciliation. English Studies in Canada, 35, 137-159.
Available at :
Corntassel, J. & Holm, T. (Eds.). (forthcoming). The power of peoplehood: Regenerating
Indigenous nations. University of Texas Press.
Coulthard, G. (2007). Subjects of empire: Indigenous peoples and the ‘politics of recognition’ in
Canada. Contemporary Political Theory, 3, 1–29.
Goodyear-Ka’ōpua, N. (2009). Rebuilding the ‘auwai: Connecting ecology, economy and
education in Hawaiian schools. AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous
Scholarship, 5(2), 46-77.
Hingangaroa Smith, G. (2000). Protecting and respecting Indigenous knowledge. In M. Battiste
(Ed.), Reclaiming Indigenous voice and vision (pp. 209-224). Vancouver, BC: UBC
Holm, T., Pearson, D. & Chavis, B. (2003). Peoplehood: A model for American Indian
sovereignty in education. Wicazo Sa Review, 18, 7–24.
Horn, G. (2010). Canada prevents Mohawks from returning home on Haudenosaunee passports.
Kahnewake News. Available at:
Little Bear, L. (2005). Foreword. In T. Alfred, Wasáse: Indigenous pathways of action and
freedom (pp. 9-12). Toronto: Broadview Press.
Ljunggren, D. (2009, September 25). Every G20 nation wants to be Canada, Stephen Harper
insists. Calgary Herald. Available at:
Lyons, O. (1984). Spirituality, equality and natural law. In L. Little Bear, M. Boldt and J.
Anthony Long (Eds.), Pathways to Self-Determination: Canadian Indians and the
Canadian State (pp. 5-13). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Penn, B. (2006, June). Restoring camas and culture to Lekwungen and Victoria: An interview
with Lekwungen Cheryl Bryce. Focus Magazine. Available at:
Phillips, V. (2006). Parallel worlds: A sideways approach to promoting Indigenous-non-
Indigenous trade and sustainable development. Michigan State Journal of International
Law, 14(2&3), 521-540.
Shiva, V. (2005). Earth democracy: Justice, sustainability, and peace. Boston: South End Press.
Simpson, L. (2008). Our elder brothers : The lifeblood of resurgence. In L. Simpson (Ed.),
Lighting the eighth fire (pp. 73-88). Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing.
Thornton, R. (2011, October 19). Native American-local government alliance stops major
corporation in its tracks. Native American History Examiner. Available at:
Umeek (E. R. Atleo). (2011). Principles of Tsawalk: An Indigenous approach to global crisis.
Vancouver: UBC Press.
Yashar, D. (2005). Contesting citizenship in Latin America: The rise of Indigenous movements
and the postliberal challenge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
!Kahikina de Silva, “Pathways to Decolonization” class session, Indigenous Governance
Program course IGOV 595: Reclaiming Ćelánen: Land, Water, Governance, University of
Victoria, July 19, 2011. This quote is used with Kahikina’s written permission.
See, for example,
For a broader examination of the impacts of neoliberalism on Indigenous citizenship in Latin
American, see Yashar (2005).
Special thanks to kumus Noenoe Silva and Leilani Basham for explaining the concept of
kuleana to me.!
!Taiaiake Alfred, “Pathways to Decolonization” class session, Indigenous Governance Program
course IGOV 595: Reclaiming Ćelánen: Land, Water, Governance, University of Victoria, July
19, 2011. This quote is used with Taiaiake’s written permission.!
... Ao discutir a luta dos povos indígenas na recuperação e regeneração de sua existência, Corntassel (2012) indígenas" 8 . Corntassel (2012) apresenta o conceito de "políticas de distração" -que em alguma medida converge com de mission civilisatrice -que vêm sendo utilizadas no sentido de desviar a atenção e energia do ressurgimento dos povos indígenas, reorganizando suas relações comunitárias para promover sua coexistência com o Estado. ...
... Ao discutir a luta dos povos indígenas na recuperação e regeneração de sua existência, Corntassel (2012) indígenas" 8 . Corntassel (2012) apresenta o conceito de "políticas de distração" -que em alguma medida converge com de mission civilisatrice -que vêm sendo utilizadas no sentido de desviar a atenção e energia do ressurgimento dos povos indígenas, reorganizando suas relações comunitárias para promover sua coexistência com o Estado. ...
... Nesse sentido, o referido autor aponta que, para esses povos, a possibilidade de vida autodeterminada reside no confronto com as instituições, estruturas e políticas coloniais existentes. A mudança do status quo significaria, portanto, a rejeição à performatividade de um discurso de direitos orientado pelas práticas de Estado e o exercício de uma existência cotidiana condicionada pela cultura baseada em costumes locais (Corntassel, 2012). ...
Full-text available
O objetivo deste trabalho é identificar a presença da abordagem teórica de Perspectivas Indígenas nos trabalhos acadêmicos da área temática Teoria das Relações Internacionais publicados nos anais dos Encontros Nacionais da Associação Brasileira de Relações Internacionais (ENABRI-ABRI) ocorridos entre 2007 e 2021. Nas Relações Internacionais, as Perspectivas Indígenas se situam entre aquelas abordagens críticas ao corpo teórico positivista tradicional, oferecendo visões diferenciadas quanto à ordem política e legal, além de questionar o Estado-centrismo no núcleo ontológico da disciplina. Considera-se que as populações indígenas oferecem um potencial transformador para as teorias de Relações Internacionais, uma vez que manifestam conhecimentos próprios acerca das intrincadas relações entre o ser humano e o mundo, enxergando o ambiente internacional através de seus critérios de interdependência com os aspectos naturais e sociais da vida humana. Considerando que a ABRI, fundada em 2005, consolida os principais avanços da produção acadêmico-científica do campo
... This is a process of healing from the trauma of (neo)colonialism, and it entails de-conditioning: unlearning the dominant Western worldview which has forced separations of mind and body, humans from all of life, spirit from the empirical world; and re-integrating language, beliefs, traditions, stories, visions, erased histories and other practices (Ballantyne, 2014;Brayboy et al., 2012;Corntassel, 2012;Duran, 2006;Duran & Duran, 1995;Laenui, 2000;Merculieff & Roderick, 2013;Whyte, 2017;Yellow Bird & Waziyatawin, 2012). Decolonized healing replaces the Western titles of perpetrator and patient with the awareness of self as part of a whole and an agent of change (Duran & Duran, 1995). ...
Full-text available
Human connection is fundamental for a shift toward sustainable societies. Small groups of people working in response to their unique conditions and environment can find joy in the co-creation of a shared existence. A collaborative network of related efforts can contribute to a broader understanding of resilience and adaptation, aiming toward a regenerative relationship with the Earth and all species. Such an approach ameliorates both pervasive loneliness and extreme inequity that have grown from modern consumerist individualism, through a strong focus on trust, respect and authenticity. I have created a structure to pursue these goals as an applied Sustainability researcher and artist. First, I present a tool that measures and guides community-based work to support the values of equity, justice, transformation and connection. I follow this with an in-depth process of qualitative inquiry grounded in an applied participatory design project to gain insight on the act of building connection across perceived divides. Finally, I share “The Building Community:” the group and process I formed with formerly homeless individuals who are co-designing a tiny home ecovillage of transitional supportive housing for homeless human beings in the Skid Row neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles. The Building Community method combines Council-style talking circles with elements of Action and Design research in which equal co-learners embark on a fun and challenging journey to nurture housing security, interconnectedness, and sustainability. The results of this research indicate an opportunity for community- based researchers to further incorporate support for the rights of nature, decolonization efforts and preservation of the commons into their projects. Flexible structure, consistency, balanced effort and shared decision making proved to build a strong foundation for group processes centered on trust. Finally, The Building Community showed that intimate local groups can produce abundant and creative sustainability solutions when partnered with academic guidance and resources. Sustainability scholars have the chance to balance power, amplify voices and make collective visions manifest if they immerse themselves in efforts on the ground.
... As for many other Indigenous peoples around the world, the colonial experience has led to many hardships and privations, which have included the loss of the majority of our traditional land base and a general breakdown in the inter-generational transmission of knowledge for many of the whānau (extended families) that make up our hapū-which has included the loss for many of the ability to converse in our language. As part of an active process of Indigenous resurgence (Corntassel, 2012) as a hapū we have been undertaking a range of activities for a number of years to both rebuild what was lost in terms of our own internal socio-cultural practices, and to re-set and re-situate the terms of engagement in how we relate to settlers who now occupy our traditional lands. We are using design processes as part of this shift, but their use is not unproblematic. ...
Full-text available
Our design processes and tools matter, as our design is always shaped by the processes and tools that we use. Context necessarily shapes the content of our design processes and tools. But, without paying attention to the content emerging from that context, the use of these tools and processes may become oppressive. In the wake of colonialism, the un-reflexive use of design tools and processes underpinned by Western conceptual ideas and schema can lead to oppression for design with non- Western or Indigenous peoples. Even tools and processes designed with a supposedly liberatory intent, such as promoting democratic practice or equality, can lead to oppression in their un-reflexive use. Looking at two experiences from my design practice with my own hapū (clan), this article explores the ways in which ideas of democratic participation and equality raised in these two design spaces could function in an oppressive way to cause a form of violence against our traditional lifeworld. This article proposes some ways in which this aspect of design might be modified to help lead to more just design outcomes, through a more reflective and intentional approach when choosing and applying the design tools and processes we use in our design practice.
... Il est essentiel de se centraliser sur les visions du monde autochtones pour soutenir l'autodétermination autochtone en matière de santé et de bienêtre (Corntassel, 2012). Des tentatives d'intégrer des pratiques de guérison autochtones ont été réalisées dans de nombreux services liés à la santé (Lavallee et Poole, 2010;Muise, 2018), mais cette centralisation n'a pas encore eu lieu pour les systèmes traditionnels de soutien aux personnes handicapées. ...
Full-text available
Cet article explore le concept de handicap à travers la lentille des études critiques du handicap dans le but de comprendre le positionnement des ontologies autochtones dans le discours dominant des personnes handicapées au Canada. Il s’appuie sur les connaissances inhérentes des communautés autochtones (principalement anishinaabek) grâce à une intégration des connaissances émanant des récits et des relations avec les ainés autochtones, les gardiens du savoir et les membres de la communauté. Jumelées à la littérature universitaire, les perspectives autochtones illustrent les points de vue dichotomiques qui positionnent les autochtones, le plus souvent des enfants, comme étant des « personnes handicapées » au sein des établissements non autochtones, sans égard à leur désignation individuelle. Une telle catégorisation suggère que l’étiquette du handicap est une construction coloniale qui entre en conflit avec les perspectives autochtones d’appartenance à la communauté et perpétue les pratiques d’assimilation qui, à leur tour, entretiennent les préjudices coloniaux.
Full-text available
En 1998, la Cour suprême du Canada rendait sa décision au sujet du Renvoi relatif à la sécession du Québec, dans laquelle elle se prononçait sur certains des enjeux les plus fondamentaux de notre système de gouvernement constitutionnel. La Cour a reconnu quatre principes sous-jacents de l’ordre politico-constitutionnel canadien, lesquels inspirent et nourrissent le texte écrit de la constitution. Piliers de l’architecture institutionnelle, ces principes sont le fédéralisme, la démocratie, le constitutionnalisme, ainsi que la protection des minorités. Ceux-ci non seulement représentent des valeurs fondamentales portées par la constitution canadienne, mais sont aussi et surtout des postulats normatifs nécessaires pour penser l’aménagement de la diversité profonde dans les sociétés complexes. Fort de contributions provenant à la fois du droit et de la science politique, cet ouvrage offre une réflexion tant rétrospective que prospective quant à la valeur de ces principes pour ré-imaginer le Canada sur des bases plus hospitalières à l’égard de tous les partenaires de l’association politique.
The fisheries of Nova Scotia have for centuries been the site of struggle and rhetorical dispute between indigenous and non-indigenous fishers, including a rise of conflict in recent years on the wharves and waters of the province's lobster fishery. According to officialdom, the conflict is best understood in terms of 'conservation' and varying approaches to marine stewardship. Based on one year of ethnographic fieldwork, the current study demonstrates that while conservation concerns are prevalent features of the lived experience of the fishery's actors, the current conflict is best understood in terms of the varying relationships and ontological leanings that constitute the ecologies within which each side operates. In other words, the return of an active presence of indigenous harvesters in the fishery marks a return of ecological plurality therein, including a reconfiguration of relationships, ontological assumptions, and the foundations of human-environment relations for all.
As several Australian jurisdictions embark on Australia’s first treaty processes there is growing recognition of the extent to which treaty will recast Indigenous-state relations. The negotiation of treaties means the recognition of other sovereign authorities—not authorities to be created (as these have existed for millennia) but authorities that will require space to be exercised alongside the state. Bureaucracies that have understood their role as primarily one of service delivery to First Nations will have to reorient themselves to become treaty partners with First Nations seeking to exercise greater control and autonomy. While we cannot yet predict the outcome of these negotiations, nor is it appropriate for us to attempt to articulate First Nations’ priorities, it is likely that, over time, treatied First Nations will seek to rewrite the policy relationship with government, pursuing autonomy and self-governance in the place of state authority and control. This chapter explores the possibilities and challenges of transforming public policy-making through treaty, arguing that it will take time to re-write the partnership manual and enable genuinely Indigenous-controlled policy to become the new political norm.
Authored by a small team of settler and Indigenous researchers, all of whom are deeply involved in scholarship and activism interrogating ongoing processes of coloniality in lands now known to many as Canada, this paper critically examines “social” and grounded determinants of Indigenous mental health and wellness. After placing ourselves on the grounds from which we write, we begin by providing an overview of the social determinants of health (SDOH), a conceptual framework with deep roots in colonial Canada. Though important in pushing against biomedical framings of Indigenous health and wellness, we argue that the SDOH framework nevertheless risks re-entrenching deeply colonial ways of thinking about and providing health services for Indigenous people: SDOH, we suggest, do not ultimately reckon with ecological, environmental, place-based, or geographic determinants of health in colonial states that continue to occupy stolen land. These theoretical interrogations of SDOH provide an entry point to, first, an overview of Indigenous ways of understanding mental wellness as tethered to ecology and physical geography, and second, a collection of narrative articulations from across British Columbia: these sets of knowledge offer clear and unequivocal evidence, in the form of Indigenous voices and perspectives, about the direct link between land, place, and mental wellness (or a lack thereof). We conclude with suggestions for future research, policy, and health practice actions that move beyond the current SDOH model of Indigenous health to account for and address the grounded, land-based, and ecologically self-determining nature of Indigenous mental health and wellness.
The Orang Asli are an indigenous population native to peninsular Malaysia. Like many other indigenous groups around the world, their indigeneity is recognised yet they continue to be marginalised by the state and society. While their presence in local media and public discourse is usually low and sporadic in nature, this briefly changed in early 2019 when a by-election was called for Cameron Highlands, the parliamentary seat with the highest population of Orang Asli voters. This provided a rare opportunity to examine how the Orang Asli community and their issues were addressed by political parties wishing to be seen as being attentive to their needs. Using digital ethnography and a critical discourse analysis, our study examines and compares the discursive spaces of the Malaysian online news media and self-managed forums of the Orang Asli community. Our analysis shows that both spaces exist plurally with little overlap—mainstream media continued to address and discuss the Orang Asli community as the stereotypical “Other” in the local context, with limited agency, authority and decision-making power, while in their community forums, the Orang Asli engaged in their own critical discussions as active political actors, emphasising their own community’s values and its place within broader Malaysian society.
Auwai are irrigation ditches developed by Känaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) to enable sustainable, prolific, wetland taro cultivation. This article traces the decline of 'auwai and lo'i kalo (wetland taro fields) alongside the loss of Kanaka Maoli control of our national school system, both driven by a shift in the dominant economic system and sealed by the shock of United States (US) occupation. Drawing on oral history interviews with teachers, and on Corntassel's notion of "sustainable self-determination" (2008), I tell the story of current efforts to rebuild 'auwai and lo'i through a partnership between a Hawaiian culture-based public charter school and the nearby state university. This rebuilding provides a metaphor for educators' efforts to restore pathways of cultural knowledge transmission against continued imperialism. I argue for simultaneous, overlapping efforts to reform education and to rehabilitate the economic and ecological systems that will again allow us to feed ourselves and our 'äina (land, particularly in food production). Indigenous education must engage in transforming the larger political economic structures that organize our relations with the natural resources.
Deborah Yashar analyzes the contemporary and uneven emergence of Latin American indigenous movements--addressing both why indigenous identities have become politically salient in the contemporary period and why they have translated into significant political organizations in some places and not others. She argues that ethnic politics can best be explained through a comparative historical approach that analyzes three factors: changing citizenship regimes, social networks, and political associational space--providing insight into the fragility and unevenness of Latin America's third wave democracies.
This article explores the nature of Aboriginal demands for a citizenship regime grounded in a substantive recognition of cultural difference and inherent rights in Mexico and Canada. It provides an overview of the different evolution of Aboriginal citizenship in each country but focuses on two recent development projects, the Puebla Panama Plan in Mexico and the Mackenzie Valley pipeline in Canada. These cases demonstrate the ways in which neo-liberal globalism is reshaping the substantive recognition of Aboriginal cultural difference and inherent rights. While contemporary neo-liberal rhetoric recognizes cultural difference, the models of development employed effectively separate territory from the ideas of self-government, culture and identity. The article concludes that the neo-liberal turn in the construction of Aboriginal citizenship undercuts potentially much richer conceptions of Indigenous citizenship offered by the First Peoples of North America.
Debate within global forums over establishing definitional standards for indigenous peoples versus an unlimited right of indigenous self-identification has exposed something of a dilemma over standard setting in international law. Requiring strict, definitional standards excludes some indigenous groups from the very protections they need, while reifying their identities. Yet failure to establish an accepted deflnition of indigenous peoples leads to host-state concerns over applying international legal instruments to the world's indigenous populations. After surveying indigenous definitions developed by academicians in the fleld of nationalism/international law as well as practitioners from IGOs and NGOs, it is determined that a balance between self-identiflcation and establishing a working definition of indigenous peoples is possible. Utilizing a model of ‘Peoplehood’ refined by Holm, Pearson and Chavis (2003), the article presents a new working deflnition of indigenous peoples that is both flexible and dynamic.
ngoing indigenous struggles against colonialism consist mainly of efforts to redress the fundamental injustice of being forcibly removed from the land or being denied access to the land to continue traditional cultural activities. Yet there is another aspect to colonialism which is often ignored in the public discourse, and certainly does not form a major focus of either First Nation organization or Canadian government policy efforts. This aspect is the colonially-generated cultural disruption affecting First Nations that compounds the effects of dispossession to create near total psychological, physical and financial dependency on the state. The cumulative and ongoing effects of this crisis of dependency form the living context of most First Nations existences today. This complex relationship between the effects of social suffering, unresolved psychophysical harms of historical trauma and cultural dislocation have created a situation in which the opportunities for a self-sufficient, healthy and autonomous life for First Nations people on individual and collective bases are extremely limited. As is typical in all colonial societies, First Nations today are characterized as entrenched dependencies, in physical, psychological and financial terms, on the very people and institutions that have caused the near erasure of our existence and who have come to dominate us. When one considers the material consequences of Canada's century-long policy of state-sponsored, forcible assimilation, a simple fact emerges: for generations, opportunities to live well as an Aboriginal person have been actively frustrated. Successive governments, committed to the notion that Aboriginal cultures belong only to the past, have made no provision for the well-being of these cultures in the present and future. In the arrangement of Canada's social affairs, only the assimilated Indian has been offered even the prospect of wellness. For those who resisted or refused the benefits of assimilation, government policies assured a life of certain indignity. That is the essence of life in the colony: assimilate and be like us or suffer the consequences (Kirmayer & Valaskakis, 2009, p. xi).
More than eighty years since Chief Deskaheh petitioned the League of Nations for Haudenosaunee self-determination, it is becoming clearer that the existing rights discourse can take indigenous peoples only so far. States and global/regional forums have framed self-determination rights that deemphasize the responsibilities and relationships that indigenous peoples have with their families and the natural world (homelands, plant life, animal life, etc.) that are critical for the health and well-being of future generations. What is needed is a more holistic and dynamic approach to regenerating indigenous nations, and I propose the concept of sustainable self-determination as a benchmark for future indigenous political mobilization. Utilizing case studies of indigenous community regeneration such as the Native Federation of Madre de Dios (FENAMAD) in Peru and the White Earth Land Recovery Project (WELRP) on Turtle Island as well as analyzing the existing research on rights, political mobilization, and ecosystems, this article identifies alternatives to the existing rights discourse that can facilitate a meaningful and sustainable self-determination process for indigenous peoples around the world. Overall, findings from this research offer theoretical and applied understandings for regenerating indigenous nationhood and restoring sustainable relationships on indigenous homelands.
Wicazo Sa Review 18.1 (2003) 7-24 In 1962, in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolution, Thomas S. Kuhn used the term "paradigm"—an example that serves as a model or pattern—to explain the idea that the sciences possess core assumptions on which most research is based or from which it stems. For example, Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection revolutionized the natural sciences because it replaced the assumption of divine creation with a rational, progressive, and seemingly objective view of extinction and the rise of totally new species of animals. Darwinian theory, because it had great explanatory power, rose from the status of theory to a core assumption or paradigm. Today, if a field biologist writes a paper on the star-nosed mole, he or she need not begin with a complete explanation of natural selection. Evolution by natural selection is assumed, and any theoretical construct to explain the star-nosed mole's existence in a particular environment is rooted in this supposition. Significantly, the social and behavioral sciences have embraced the Darwinian paradigm and developed theories that underpin the notion that humans have "naturally" progressed through time. It is assumed that economies, governments, cultures, philosophies, technologies, and social relationships have evolved from the simple to the complex in reaction to various stimuli or as a result of man's innate curiosity. Humans are dynamic and are the perpetrators and the victims of continual change. Similarly, it is assumed that human beings must adopt economic, political, social, and cultural strategies to survive in a competitive world. Each discipline within the social and behavioral sciences rests on a core assumption. Hypotheses regarding human behavior are extrapolated from the discipline's paradigmatic umbrella, a jargon is created that has meaning within the paradigm, and models of human behavior are constructed to support the paradigm's basic argument. Like the old philosophical problem of which came first, the chicken or the egg, no one can really be sure whether or not disciplines came from paradigms or vice versa. Academic disciplines are always marked by their core assumptions, whatever they may be. American Indian studies has been caught in an academic catch-22. Because it is a multi- or interdisciplinary field of study, it does not have a central paradigm and presumably cannot stand alone as a discipline. On the other hand, American Indian studies rests on a substantial body of theory, scholarship, and research produced by individuals well versed in law and policy, U.S. history, anthropology, ethnohistory, business, economics, political science, literature, art, and music. American Indian studies is responsive to contemporary Native America, works within commonly recognized methodologies, supports and sustains professional journals and associations, and now awards doctoral degrees. As Elizabeth Cook-Lynn has pointed out, American Indian studies supports Native American graduate students, develops Native American professors, and seeks to refute and confront a national economy based on the theft of Native lands and the exploitation of natural resources. Relevant, culturally based definitions of ethnicity and race as well as new epistemologies have been built within American Indian studies. Disciplinary validity is measured by American Indian studies' ability to generate and sustain a scholarly body of literature. One of the strengths of American Indian studies is the depth and richness of theoretical constructs developed within the span of the last thirty years. Work within the field also suggests ways in which many of the theories may be reinforced through studies of Native American groups. For example, ethnicity theory can be utilized to add validity to ethnography as methodology. One of the initial goals of ethnography as a method was to avoid dependency on theory, leaving much valuable ethnography consigned to "stories" of a lesser order in the eyes of many academicians. Ethnologies have gained little scholastic recognition because they are often viewed as loose connections of facts specifying ethnic boundaries, ethnopsychology, social and ethnic mobility, ethnolife histories, ethnonarrative, ethnoarchaeology, and revisionist ethnography. Examples of ethnography tied to other critical theories include narratives of Native American women and the accompanying analyses of Battaille and Sands. Other examples include domestic colonialism and Native American Vietnam veterans...