Terese Mailhot. Photo: Southwestern Association for Indian Arts

Terese Mailhot: Decolonization is about removing control over our peoples

The word "decolonization" gets thrown around a lot when discussing indigenous issues. But what does it really mean? Writer Terese Marie Mailhot (Seabird Island Band) shares her journey:
Taking colonization from its locus in my narrative, or cultural history, has been an act of decolonization. The small rez I grew up on was full of abstract ideas and action, and disagreement, and then confluence: two rivers meeting at one junction, peaceful or not—movement felt collective. I wondered, if I came from such activism—where the knowledge of colonization was prevalent among my family, and within the community school system and culture—then where could I go from there to elevate myself and politics? Decolonization is nothing if it does not transform the self and work against oppressive forces: to help the exploited, super-exploited, disenfranchised—the people.

For the writers I love, independence: social, political, cultural, psychological, and intellectual independence, it is liberation. The only way I’ve liberated myself from anything is through story. My transformation has come from framework, recalibrating what’s important to me and true, and giving myself the ability to change.

Before this, I navigated towards the decolonization my mother had envisioned for herself, which felt culturally specific, but based in a pan-Indian ideology that had her attending every conference, gathering, meeting, and protest—which brought about historic change. Through practical application she liberated herself: through diet, practice, ceremony, empathy for those around her, discourse, and through her aggressive desire to re-imagine herself as who she wanted to be, in spite of the daily oppressive forces trying to negate her desires and mobility.

Read More on the Story:
Terese Mailhot: The Decolonization of My Story (Indian Country Media Network 7/14)