On the cusp of Indigenous Peoples Day (October 11th)

Hey Colonizers

Art by Ruben Guadalupe Marquez

Women’s Foundation California, by Torre Freeman, October 6, 2021

If that greeting stings a little bit, this message is for you.

We’re on the cusp of Indigenous Peoples Day (October 11th) and Thanksgiving is right around the corner too. So let’s chat about how we can decolonize our feminism (and everything else too).

Maybe you’re upset that I called you a colonizer, maybe you feel defensive, maybe you’re rolling your eyes because you already know. Whatever your response, if I’ve engendered some big feelings, I’m hopeful that those feelings will inspire you to keep reading. How about we collectively agree to stop it with gentleness that reinforces white fragility.

I want to acknowledge that I’m a white ciswoman and it is not my place to speak for Indigenous People; there’s an endless list of folks who’s stories and perspectives should be heard before mine. But the burden shouldn’t fall solely on the Indigenous community to lead us along this journey of decolonization.

As an intersectional feminist and a person that works for a feminist organization, these are the exact conversations I want to have with our community- How do we show up for Indigenous people? How do we educate ourselves about the reality of American history? How do we lift up Indigenous stories? How do we defetishize our relationship to Indigenous culture? How do we Thanksgiving or do we Thanksgiving at all? How do we rematriate the land? How do we authentically continue these decolonization efforts throughout the year and not just when it’s trending on social media?

For us to heal from the horrors of our colonial past (and present), most of us, as descendants of colonizers, have to acknowledge the ugliest corners of our history and dismantle the mythologies around the pilgrim and “Indian” story. As we approach Indigenous People’s Day we’re committing to radical honesty and fostering a deep understanding of colonialism and how we are (still) perpetuating colonizer violence. From this place of understanding, let us take action to celebrate Indigenous stories, educate our children and our loved ones, give reparations, and support Indigenous artists, changemakers, farmers, and businesses in a deliberate effort to return what we have stolen.

Here’s a few things you can do right now to further this effort:

  1. Native Land Digital – Benicia, CA. (Click image to enlarge. Go here for interactive display.)

    Acknowledge whose land you’re on. Which traditional territories are you residing on? Learn about and honor their enduring relationship to the land. WFC is based on stolen Lisjan Ohlone land. This land (like all land) carries Indigenous stories, knowledge and belongs to the true stewards of our earth.“Land acknowledgements can be a powerful entry point for deeper engagement in the work of rematriation but are also often token or rhetorical acts of performative allyship. Here are a few resources to learn more about how to make land acknowledgements in a way that support real Indigenous sovereignty.” 

  2. Attend a local or virtual event in celebration of Indigenous People’s Day (consult Google or your local tribal headquarters for events near you).
  3. Donate to Indigenous-led organizations that are working to  uphold Indigenous rights and land practices. Our grant partner Sogorea Te’ Land Trust is an urban Indigenous women-led land trust in the California Bay Area working to return Indigenous land to Indigenous hands. Check out their Shuumi Land Tax calculator. 
  4. Make a ruckus change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. Columbus Day should be abolished and Indigenous Peoples Day should have Federal Holiday status.
  5. Learn more about the #LandBack movement & get involved.
  6. Consider thoughtful ways to honor and celebrate Indigenous people this Thanksgiving. Start the conversation with family about how and what you’re celebrating, learn together about the real history of Thanksgiving.
  7. Deepen your knowledge around the epidemic of gender-based violence experienced by Indigenous women and two spirit people through the critical and radical work of organizations like the Sovereign Bodies Institute.
  8. Decolonize your social media feed – follow Indigenous creators – share their stories. Here’s a few accounts we recommend:

Depending on what kind of overachiever you are – you may accomplish all the things on the above list, or just one, or two things. Whatever way you show up to this conversation and these learnings, please remember, this is not some kind of woke Olympics – justice is not an event where we’re competing for a gold medal. But we can strive to grow in our knowledge, support, and celebrations of Indigenous/Native communities, their contributions, their stewardship, and their stories.

Hopefully you leave this blog, take action, and share in this feeling: there is momentum building as we continue this process of learning, unlearning, and relearning. I can’t help but feel a little sanguine (& that’s a big deal for this full-time cynic here), that we are moving toward a new beginning, that the Indigenous People of this world could someday be reunited with what belongs to them. Until that day comes- keep learning, keep listening, keep changing and keep Maya Angelou’s refrain on repeat: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”