Week 7 Reflection: Decolonization is Not a Metaphor

This week I really focused my attention on the article by Tuck and Yang Decolonization is Not a Metaphor (2012). This article I have seen referenced numerous times in many of the readings I have done for other classes. However, I believe that this is such an important topic and work that settlers need to understand, thus I find it important to discuss some main takeaways from the article.

Take-Away #1: Decolonization must involve the repatriation of land

Tuck and Yang (2012) argue that the use of decolonization as a metaphor allows settlers to reconcile their guilt. By using decolonization as a metaphor does not address the elephant in the room, land and land issues. I think of the many times that I have heard the word “Decolonization” or have used it myself as a buzzword, truly not understanding the meaning behind the word. I think about how we have used the term “Decolonizing our schools” or “Decolonizing our libraries” and not really taking into account that these are easy ways to interpret decolonization. Tuck and Yang, state that these are “empty signifiers” to be filled by any track towards liberation.

Take Away #2: “I am one of the good ones”

Although the saying “I am one of the good ones”, was not stated by Tuck and Yang (2012). The notion of the ways that settlers try to avoid feeling uncomfortable is the same. Shared is the idea of settler nativism, which focuses on the long-lost Indigenous relative (Usually a distant grandma) as an excuse of trying to identify as Indigenous and not take responsibility to fix the wrongdoing of settler ancestors. Furthermore, the idea of settler adoption fantasies highlights white centring and the acceptance of a non-Indigenous person allows for the perception of innocence. One recent example I can think of is the adoption of Justin Trudeau honoured by the Tsuut’ina First Nation near Calgary, Alberta. The symbolic gesture of presenting Trudeau with a headdress is nothing more than a symbolic gesture. Four years have passed and we still have numerous land issues, water issues, and continue to perpetuate issues of colonialism.

Take Away #3: Critical Consciousness is not Enough

I have recently looked into Paulo Freire, and his idea of conscientization, or becoming critically conscious. However, again, becoming aware of our own identities is not enough when it comes to decolonization. We must address the land issue. Tuck and Yang (2012) state, “the experience of teaching and learning to be critical of settler colonialism can be so powerful it can feel like it is indeed making change”. The use of the metaphor and comparison of colonization and oppression are distinct, and not the same. By using colonization as a metaphor for the oppression we conveniently bypass the question of “What is colonialism?”.


Something that I have struggled internally with is that is the idea of Treaty Education, and learning about Treaties, and the Treaty partnership further distracting from the idea of the rightful owners of the land? Does Treaty Education give us a harmonious view of Indigenous-settler relationships while bypassing the issue of land rights?

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