Foods We Gave to Europe (AKA Foods the Colonizers Stole from our Ancestors)

Maize (from Taino, mahiz)

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Tomato (from Nahuatl, tomatl

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Papaya (from Carib, pawpaw)

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Potatoes (from Taino, batata; from Quechua, papa)

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Squashes (from Narraganset, askutasquash

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Tobacco (from Taino, tobaco

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Vanilla (from Latin, vaina)

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Chilli Peppers (from Nahuatl, chilli)

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Pineapple/Ananas (from Guarani, nana nana

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Avocado (from Nahuatl, ahuacatl

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Peanuts/Cacahuate (from Nahuatl, tlalcacahuatl)

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Pecans (from Ojibwe, pakan/bagaan)

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Chocolate (from Nahuatl, xocolatl/chocolatl)

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#DecolonizeHistory is about interrupting space, addressing colonial roots and undoing processes of white supremacy.

Historical narratives are most often presented without the context of colonization, slavery and imperialism despite the huge role they play on all aspects of life. 

Hoping this project raises awareness about injustices towards Trayvon Martin, subject to a system of racism that never served to protect his life, Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen arrested and detained in Guantanamo Bay when he was only 15 years old, and Assata Shakur & Huey Newton, labelled “terrorists” for actively resisting systemic racism on stolen land. 

This is the beginning, there are so many more narratives to be shared and #DecolonizeHistory aims to illuminate the role that processes of colonialism continue to play out in society. 

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"From these examples we learn what tattooing meant for these women. They were seen as not only more beautiful, but also possessing emotional and physical fortitude to endure pain and hardship, including the pain of childbirth. A woman’s tattooing was an affirmation of her strength and inherent spiritual power, procreative endowment, and as a form of clothing, an enhancement of beauty and a proclamation of her status. Finally, the tattoos were a form of recognition that allowed the soul of a woman to pass into the afterlife and join the glorious chain of her ancestors."

-Lane Wilcken, Filipino Tattoos: Ancient to Modern


Women from the Philippines from various ethnic groups were also known to showcase their tattoo’s along with men, not just for beauty purposes but because also because it was a form of clothing.

Unlike men who had to earn their first tattoo by doing some brave deed such as killing their first enemy during a raid or war, women received their first tattoos at puberty as a symbol and representation of their coming-of-age and their transition from a young girl into womanhood. For women the tattoos she received represented meanings of fertility, bravery, and strength, meanings that represented her as woman and her gift of life and what she would need for childbearing.

By enduring the pain of getting tattooed from the needles tapping and piercing through ones skin it was symbolic in that if she could endure this pain, she can endure childbearing. Those who weren’t tattooed were considered barren.

Some tattoo motifs represent different aspects of their lives and as a symbol of womanhood. Some were of seeds, rice plants, crosses and dashes put on ones face to mark her as a woman ready for marriage along with confusing bad spirits of enemies that were beheaded. Some were representations of the ancestors and their protectiveness over their kin, which were believed to keep the wearer safe from harm and prevent one from getting diseases. Other tattoo motifs were given as a type of medical tattoo which were to believed to treat an ailment.

Our tattoos were also not just for beauty purposes and representing our womanhood, but they also had spiritual meanings behind them. A belief shared among many of the ethnic groups who practiced tattooing was that one who wasn’t tattooed would not be accepted into the land of the dead, as the ancestors would not recognize them.

wanna Decolonize?

let’s start with a few basic questions

whose land are you on right now? What is the history of this land and the peoples who have occupied it since time immemorial? what names do those peoples have for this land? how have you come to be on this land? what are the processes that made this land available to you? what about the land you grew up on? or land your parents grew up on? etc.

One of the supposed characteristics of primitive peoples was that we could not use our minds or our intellects. We could not invent things, we could not create institutions or history, we could not imagine, we could not produce anything of value…we did not practice the ‘arts’ of civilization. By lacking such virtues we disqualified ourselves, not just from civilization but from humanity itself. In other words we were not ‘fully human’…Imperialism provided the means through which concepts of what counts as human could be applied systematically as forms of classification…In conjunction with imperial power and with ‘science’, these classification systems came to shape relations between imperial powers and indigenous societies.

The European powers had by the nineteenth century already established systems of rule and forms of social relations which governed interaction with the indigenous peoples being colonized. These relations were gendered, hierarchical and supported by rules, some explicit and others masked or hidden. The principle of ‘humanity’ was one way in which the implicit or hidden rules could be shaped. To consider indigenous peoples as not fully human, or not human at all, enabled distance to be maintained and justified various policies of either extermination or domestication.

- Linda Tuhiwai Smith | Decolonizing Methodologies

NATIVES READ TOO

NATIVES READ TOO

Browsing the internet, found some free PDFs to read:

You have here, writings that detail Indigenous topics covering or in the style of: manifestos, creative writings, political, cultural, “feminist”, environment/ecosystems, and Natural Law. 

Enjoy the readings!

Homeless tenters in Oppenheimer Park say they’ve received an eviction notice from the City of Vancouver.

However, the tenters say they have the support of First Nations leaders from the Downtown Eastside and they’re not going anywhere.

Today (July 20), they’ve issued their own eviction notice, effective immediately, to the city. It reads:

We, the indigenous people here today in Oppenheimer Park, do hereby assert our Aboriginal Title, as established in law by the Supreme Court of Canada in Tsilhqot’in v British Columbia. Our people have held title to this land since time immemorial, and we are exerting our right to exclusive authority, recognized as an inherent element of our title, over this land and this camp. The City of Vancouver recognizes the unceded and enduring existence of our Aboriginal Title here. Under this recognition, we now require that you leave this place and cease any attempts to remove people or their belongings from this place. Because we are the title holders to this land, we assert that you do not have jurisdiction over this place until such time as our title to it is lawfully resolved. Any actions against this camp are thereby unlawful actions against our title; we demand an immediate cease and desist of action or the threat of action against this camp or those within it.

A news release from the tenters and their supporters says that about 30 percent of homeless people are aboriginal due to the “effects of colonization and poverty”. It also notes that the 1,798 homeless people counted in Vancouver in March was the “highest number ever counted”.

Referring to the Downtown Eastside local area plan, the release also claims: “Vision Vancouver approved a plan for the Downtown Eastside that seeks to displace 3,350 residents.”

On June 25, city council voted to formally acknowledge that the city lies on the unceded traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

The goal of colonialism is not just to kill colonized peoples, but to destroy their sense of being people. It is through sexual violence that a colonizing group attempts to render a colonized people as inherently rapable, their lands inherently invadable, and their resources inherently extractable.
—  Heteropatriarchy, A Building Block of Empire — Andrea Smith

Kenyan author Ngugi Wa Thiong’o discusses the problematic elements of colonial languages and the hierarchical tendencies, and power dynamics, they encourage in countries that, through colonization, have adopted them as their lingua franca.

Wa Thiong’o firmly states that, “English is not an African language, period”, and that in using English as a default tongue, we are simply contributing to the expansion of this dangerous form of cultural suppression, still submitting to the hierarchy of colonial languages.

HARDTAlk host Gavin Esler notes that his form of decolonizing African minds and tongues is in stark contrast to writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who says that, “English is mine, I have taken ownership of English”.

Wa Thiong’o then goes on to say that claims made in the same vein of Adichie are related to the ‘metaphysical empire’, a sort of abstract reclaiming of ones own identity in relation to history and the power dynamics of language in the world, as opposed to penetrating the systematic structures of language as a tool of oppression.

I must agree with the stress Wa Thiong’o puts on first writing in ones mother tongue, and then translating it into other languages, as not only does it promote the importance of African languages, it also creates and stressed a need for not only Africans but people around the world to pay attention to African languages, perhaps learning them in the process, countering the idea that writing in African languages somehow limits the reach of ones work.

It’s a cultural shift that won’t happen overnight, but a transition that is very necessary and ultimately holds a great deal of weight in global cultural power systems and structures.

Watch the discussion here.

Related post.

Idle No More ain’t Occupy. It’s all those voices rising up that many in the Occupy movement resisted when they/we called on Occupy to decolonize, learn anti-oppression, and understand the systemic differences of inequality amongst the ‘99%’. Idle No More is what Occupy perhaps aspired to be, but couldn’t fully be (in many, though not all places) because of it’s lack of grounding in the lived experiences of those communities most marginalized. Humble request to Occupy - join and support Idle No More - don’t co-opt or attempt to assimilate it. PS: Idle No More also isn’t just a movement; it’s more than that. It is about Indigenous nationhood, based on centuries of resistance to colonialism and an affirmation of inherent rights to self-determination.

Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is?

Most people haven’t heard of him.

But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in your stomach as when you read about Mussolini or Hitler or see one of their pictures. You see, he killed over 10 million people in the Congo.

His name is King Leopold II of Belgium.

He “owned” the Congo during his reign as the constitutional monarch of Belgium. After several failed colonial attempts in Asia and Africa, he settled on the Congo. He “bought” it and enslaved its people, turning the entire country into his own personal slave plantation. He disguised his “business transactions” as philanthropic and scientific efforts under the banner of the “International African Society”. He used their enslaved labor to extract Congolese resources and services. His reign was enforced through work camps, body mutilations, executions, torture, and his private army.

Most of us – I don’t yet know an approximate percentage but I fear its extremely high – aren’t taught about him in school. We don’t hear about him in the media. He’s not part of the widely repeated narrative of oppression (which includes things like the Holocaust during World War II). He’s part of a long history of colonialism, imperialism, slavery and genocide in Africa that would clash with the social construction of the white supremacist narrative in our schools. It doesn’t fit neatly into a capitalist curriculum. Its bad to “say racist things” (sometimes), but quite fine not to talk about genocides in Africa perpetrated by European capitalist monarchs.

Mark Twain wrote a satire about Leopold called “King Leopold’s soliloquy; a defense of his Congo rule“, where he mocked the King’s defense of his reign of terror, largely through Leopold’s own words. Its 49 pages long. Mark Twain is a popular author for American public schools. But like most political authors, we will often read some of their least political writings or read them without learning why the author wrote them (Orwell’s Animal Farm for example serves to re-inforce American anti-Socialist propaganda, but Orwell was an anti-capitalist revolutionary of a different kind – this is never pointed out). We can read about Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, but King Leopold’s Soliloquy isn’t on the reading list. This isn’t by accident. Reading lists are created by boards of education in order to prepare students to follow orders and endure boredom well. From the point of view of the Education Department, Africans have no history.

When we learn about Africa, we learn about a caricaturized Egypt, about the HIV epidemic (but never its causes), about the surface level effects of the slave trade, and maybe about South African Apartheid (which of course now is long, long over). We also see lots of pictures of starving children on Christian Ministry commercials, we see safaris on animal shows, and we see pictures of deserts in films and movies. But we don’t learn about the Great African War or Leopold’s Reign of Terror during the Congolese Genocide. Nor do we learn about what the United States has done in Iraq and Afghanistan, potentially killing in upwards of 5-7 million people from bombs, sanctions, disease and starvation. Body counts are important. And we don’t count Afghans, Iraqis, or Congolese.

There’s a Wikipedia page called “Genocides in History”. The Congolese Genocide isn’t included. The Congo is mentioned though. What’s now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo is listed in reference to the Second Congo War (also called Africa’s World War and the Great War of Africa), where both sides of the multinational conflict hunted down Bambenga and ate them. Cannibalism and slavery are horrendous evils which must be entered into history and talked about for sure, but I couldn’t help thinking whose interests were served when the only mention of the Congo on the page was in reference to multi-national incidents where a tiny minority of people were  eating each other (completely devoid of the conditions which created the conflict no less). Stories which support the white supremacist narrative about the subhumanness of people in Africa are allowed to be entered into the records of history. The white guy who turned the Congo into his own personal part-plantation, part-concentration camp, part-Christian ministry and killed 10 to 15 million Conglese people in the process doesn’t make the cut.

You see, when you kill ten million Africans, you aren’t called ‘Hitler’. That is, your name doesn’t come to symbolize the living incarnation of evil. Your name and your picture doesn’t produce fear, hatred, and sorrow. Your victims aren’t talked about and your name isn’t remembered.

Leopold was just one part of thousands of things that helped construct white supremacy as both an ideological narrative and material reality. Of course I don’t want to pretend that in the Congo he was the source of all evil. He had generals, and foot soldiers, and managers who did his bidding and enforced his laws. It was a system. But this doesn’t negate the need to talk about the individuals who are symbolic of the system. But we don’t even get that. And since it isn’t talked about, what capitalism did to Africa, all the privileges that rich white people gained from the Congolese genocide are hidden. The victims of imperialism are made, like they usually are, invisible.

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For a modern day example of the callousness of Western imperialism, read my post about the famine in Somalia “20,000 billion dollars for banks, 1 billion for millions of Africans suffering from capitalist famine“, also on this website.

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