The best way to understand the idea of decolonization starts with understanding colonization, which is a process of war that one nation wages against another. Colonization is the means by which an invading nation or empire forcibly enters the territory of another nation or people in order to overtake that nation and to exploit for profit the lands and resources of the invaded nation to whom the lands and resources rightfully belong.
Because the lands and resources rightfully belong to those who are already living in that invaded place, the invaders need intellectually powerful individuals who are able to mentally develop arguments that will create the false appearance that the colonizers’ unjust and unlawful actions are just and lawful.
Chief Justice John Marshall demonstrates this role, particularly when he says in Johnson v. M’Intosh that an “extravagant pretension” (false pretense) becomes “the law of the land” if the country of the United States and its economy depend on the pretension (falsehood) being so regarded.
White men such as Marshall, Story, and others used ideas and metaphors as their primary weapons of choice against our Original Nations. Those are the weapons that are continuously brandished against our nations and peoples, no matter who is in power. Today’s generation of U.S. office holders in the apparatus of the United States government don’t have to do the heavy lifting by creating those ideas and arguments from scratch. They simply use against our nations the colonizing ideas and arguments handed down to them by U.S. government officials from the past.
The fact that ideas and metaphors are products of the mind means that we’re locked in a high stakes mental struggle-of-wits with the United States. The idea system that the United States uses against our nations makes our predicament analogous to being made to play chess, without a queen, while your opponent has all their chess pieces. The context is designed and set up for you to lose, because you don't have your most important piece.
Colonization requires a tremendous amount of skillful mental activity. It therefore stands to reason that decolonization requires a great deal of skillful mental activity. A given language is a repository of ideas and arguments. Nations that have been invaded and dominated must work hard to master the language of the invaders without losing their own ideas, using the necessary amount of mental activity to effectively challenge the colonizers’ ideas and arguments that are being used to justify the invasion and the imposed system of oppression.
Once the invading nation has forcibly entered that other nation’s territory, it then begins to use terror to impose a reign of domination and control, enforcing its own ideas on those who are already living there. The step by step process by which one nation forces a system of domination on another nation or people has been commonly called a process of “civilization,” “the forcing of a cultural pattern on a population to which it is foreign.” I simply call it by the name it most deserves, domination.
The United States has devised a U.S. federal Indian “law” system of domination. It is an idea-system comprised of concepts and arguments meticulously designed to empower and benefit the United States of America, while disempowering and robbing our Nations. America—Ame (love) Rica (riches and wealth). The American dream is the dream of Riches and Wealth based on overrunning the lands and taking the resources of our Original Nations.
The U.S. intellectual elite, working on behalf of a love of riches and wealth agenda, have spent more than two centuries of time, effort, energy, and money designing ideas and arguments to dis-empower and rob our Original Free Nations. The U.S. Federal Indian “Law” Domination System is comprised of ideas. Ideas are products of the mind and mental activities (thought). This is why the liberation of our Nations requires a great amount of mental energy and mental skill. Decolonization begins in the mind, with skillful thinking, and a passion for building powerful counterarguments.
Because our Original Nations have been colonized (invaded, oppressed, and robbed), we must gain mastery over the invaders’ language system. We must then gain mastery over their system of ideas and argumentation. Then we have to devise our own unique set of counterarguments. This can take decades of patient and intensive activity to accomplish. A massive amount of research, writing, and mental activity is required to accomplish all this. In this Trump era in which we now find ourselves, which is also an era of short attention spans, "reality" tv, and hectic schedules, how many of our people have the time to devote to the massive task at hand?
One barrier standing in the way of decolonization is the large number of our own people who have been able to gain some mastery over the Invaders’ language system and system of argumentation, and only to make a “career” out of functioning within that system, rather than to critique it. Unfortunately, there are a great many of our own people who are not willing to engage in the amount of reading and difficult mental work necessary to break free of and challenge the American Empire’s well-designed system of ideas and arguments.
Because language constitutes and creates reality, staying within the confines and limits of the colonizers’ system of ideas and arguments, particularly those found within the U.S. federal Indian law system of domination, amounts to staying within the confines and limits of the colonizers’ reality-system of domination.
I believe there is a strange unstated belief by which many of our own people are subconsciously hindered.
Some people have a sense that it’s against law” to challenge the domination system.
Here’s the message we ought to collectively deliver to the Trump administration: There is no such thing as a rightof domination.
The next four years are going to make it necessary for our Original Nations to consolidate our efforts and mobilize ourselves more effectively than we ever have before, as if our lives and those of our future generations depends on it. (Stand with Standing Rock. Water is Life!)
Steven Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape) is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, and author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (Fulcrum, 2008). He is a producer of the documentary movie, The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code, directed and produced by Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota), with narration by Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree). The movie can be ordered from 38Plus2Productions.com.