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Got decolonization?

Over the years there have been many revisions to the look and feel of our ‘new’ old house. It was built in the 1850’s, and not surprisingly the backyard has been a little neglected. After the spring melt I went out to do some cleaning, spending the better part of the afternoon raking the leaves and twigs.

Over the years there have been many revisions to the look and feel of our ‘new’ old house. It was built in the 1850’s, and not surprisingly the backyard has been a little neglected. After the spring melt I went out to do some cleaning, spending the better part of the afternoon raking the leaves and twigs.

Looking at the whole yard was overwhelming. It was trashed from the ice storms and years of neglect. I didn’t know where to begin! After a lot of thinking and assessments I made a plan. First haul away the big branches. Next tackle trash that blew in over the winter. I found dishes, clothing, toys and food packages everywhere. Then finally I got to raking up the leaves and twigs. Once I was finished I discovered that we didn’t have a ‘lawn’ per se. Just a pretty plot of mud.

By about 5pm I was too tired and hungry to go on, so I gave up. Satisfied with how far I’d come I went inside my house, flopped my butt down on the couch, cracked a Diet Pepsi and turned on the PVR to catch up with the Young and the Restless. I felt like a boss having taken ownership over the lawn. On the other hand, I felt incredibly guilty that I admitted defeat and happily embraced the goings-on of Genoa City in exchange for the goings-on in my own backyard.

This started a self-analytical internal storm. Sometimes I was laughing at myself for being a die-hard soap fan, other times plagued with guilt that despite all my knowledge about society, the system, the corporation and ‘the man’ I relish the stay-cation that is Y&R, a soda pop and my couch.

Trying to break free from my mind funk I decided to check into Facebook. Which, by the way is never a good idea when feeling self-conscious. Social media brings much to our lives, but with it comes a daily dose of selfies and self-righteousness with the potential of making one’s insecurities multiply in spades. And I definitely got what I deserved when I went looking to Facebook for consolation. Sure enough meme’s and links filled my newsfeed with how I need to decolonize, live in an earth ship and stop drinking diet soda lest I die.

As they say on social media, ‘Oh-em-gee.’

I started going into meltdown from there; despising everything around me. And thinking ‘if I was only more like so-and-so then I would be happily decolonized and living an effective indigenous life truly making a difference in the world.’ Swoon. Barf. Lies.

After I gave myself a slap back to reality I really started to think about this thing we call decolonization. Is it possible? Is it necessary? Or is it just the new trend? Back in the nineties it was all about ‘solidarity’ and I’m not sure we ever achieved that as a nation. Or did we? Maybe I was I too busy watching Y&R to notice.

Therein lies the problem. In my mind, I think that I want to decolonize. Maybe. If I actually knew what decolonize meant. It sounds good. But what about all the time I save buying granola bars instead of planting a field full of oats to make my own? I love the idea being Ongwehowe and reclaiming my relationship to the earth, but everything I plant dies. I think I have a black thumb. What if, in the process of decolonizing I am exchanging the sort-of-lowly position I manage to sustain in society now to an every worse position in a decolonized society? What’s a rez girl to do?

Sometimes I see folks on social media putting forward an image that they know what it takes to be decolonized. That loftiness makes me feel fear that they are looking down upon my innocent can of Diet Pepsi and assuming I bear a great lack of knowledge, thereby faulting me as ‘part of the problem’ and an abomination to my indigenous roots. Can an indigenous person really live in North America in the year 2014 and effectively decolonize?

Logically I suppose I need to understand the process of colonization before I can understand decolonization. And if that is the case, shouldn’t the goal as a nation be to identify what is wrong with the colony before you can identify what is right without it? Now I’m getting dizzy.

Then I thought about my piles of twigs and leaves sitting in the backyard. Had I not started somewhere I wouldn’t be as far along in cleaning up that big mess. Maybe it’s the same with decolonization. Making an effort to clean up our collective past and making healthy decisions to restore our authority in our own land has to be vital to our future. Even if it’s just for the better part of an afternoon. The question is: where do you begin?

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Nahnda Garlow

Nahnda Garlow

Nahnda Garlow is Onondaga under the wing of the Beaver Clan of Six Nations. Nahnda has been a journalist with the Two Row Times since it's founding in 2013. She is a self-proclaimed "rez girl" who brings to the Two Row Times years of experience as a Haudenosaunee cultural interpreter, traditional dancer and beadwork aficionado. Nahnda is a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists and the Native American Journalists Association.

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