Unsettling the Settler Within – part 2

Every Sunday, for the duration of the traveling community art exhibition Reconciliation: What does it mean to you? – from August 13 to December 2, 2017 – to honour the complexity of the task, I will publish a post about my process of decolonization.

a call to unsettle

November 20, 2016 – writing workshop with Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, a renowned Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer and artist.



Stepping more and more outside of my own world and words of reference, and behind Indigenous leaders, women, activists, it was obvious that I was quite ignorant of their struggles, stories, demands. I didn’t even know if ignorant was the right word to express how little I knew. What was closer to the truth was how much I didn’t know that I didn’t know.

In a desire to get to know, understand, relate more, I registered to a Quebec Writers’ Federation writing workshop given by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, expecting to be introduced to the Indigenous worldview and beliefs from the point of view of an Indigenous woman writer. And from the experience, learn about there actual situation in Canada.

How far from reality I was.

Nothing was as I expected. Everything was unsettling. The way the Indigenous participants introduced themselves in relation to their land, their culture. The many words and concepts dealt with that was totally foreign to me. The fact that I was a settler, a privilege white woman, which I had no clue and will not, really, until 6 months later.

It was not about, it was the Indigenous ways of doing things.

As I was trying to find my stance in this confusing, out of reference moment, I felt so unappropriated. So beside my shoes. Nothing to grab on. Nothing.

Except that I needed to decolonize myself. Without even knowing yet that it was the word for it.

As an intellectual intervention and decolonizing process, the Métis can look at the world through a Métis lens, using Métis language forms in a Métis cultural context. Spending time in the third space may occur when Métis people are together, sharing stories and participating in cultural activities. The third space is a place where belonging can be experienced, and the sense of Métis self is strengthened both individually and collectively. (2)

It took me many more months, readings, rallies, exhibits and workshops, hours of study, of silent contemplation, of in depth discussions to realize that part of my discomfort was linked to feelings of rejection and guilt, all blended in an indiscernible puree. To understand that if some of those spaces were not centered on me, as a settler, even as a settler who wanted to become an ally, it was because it was centered on them. Centered on and for their survival, their resurgence (3). Around there needs be together, to express and explore, to re-envisioned (3) their own culture. Far from the necessity to explain and justify themselves. Far from the reality that they were still living under colonial oppression, up to this day, whether I was aware, acknowledging it or not. So they could shine and laugh, create bold and unapologetic words and images in which they could see themselves (4), and celebrate the fact that they were still alive (5).

(1) article shown in the picture : Land & Reconciliation | Electric City Magazine

(2) “Belonging Métis”, Catherine Richardson, PhD/Kinewesquao, ©2016, JCharlton Publishing, p.58

(3) Re-envisioning resurgence: Indigenous pathways to decolonization and sustainable self-determination

(4) Dayna Danger has a powerful message for gender non-conforming folks: ‘This is for you’

(5) “Bryce projected that the death rates stemming from residential schools were closer to 42%, much higher than originally thought.”, Indigenous-Canada, University of Alberta, online course, Module-5 Residential Schooling Part 1




Typo or mistake, let me know, I will be very grateful

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