Decolonization – Julia Wack

Decolonization is the process of deconstructing pre-existing colonial approaches to knowledge, research, and technology. For this to be possible, there is a need for prior understandings of the colonial nation’s violent histories. The histories of U.S. lands were Indigenous, but these lands are still Indigenous (Jacobs). Indigenous people cannot be treated as a relic of the past. We must dismantle the confining Western structures which have centered themselves upon the exclusion of Indigenous perspectives.

In her guest lecture, Dr. TallBear details the extent of how damaging colonized approaches have been to Indigenous communities throughout history. Masculinized hierarchies have otherized those not considered normative and casted them out from scientific conversations, as they have been on the receiving end of the scientific gaze. Colonized scientific conservation efforts have attempted the erasure of Indigenous knowledge by discounting it as completely separate from, and less than, Western science. Dr. TallBear references Rauna Kuokkanen’s definition of Indigenization as “a move to expand the academy’s still-narrow conceptions of knowledge, to include Indigenous perspectives in transformative ways.” Decolonization calls for the return of all that has been stolen from Indigenous people, including: land, resources, and governance. Instead of asking us to adapt to preceding systems built on colonial violence, decolonization calls us to instead ask how future systems can adapt to us. Looking forward, it is our responsibility to correct these unjust colonial structures that are alarmingly normalized. Though these have been historically ingrained in the U.S. capitalist society, especially to those benefiting from the hierarchical exclusion of Indigenous people; it is time we return bureaucratic autonomy, land management, and other basic rights to Indigenous people. We must, considering that an ethical approach in the scientific community is essential to future conservation efforts.

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