Defining Colonialism together

We are just putting some finishing touches on the Learning from the Land Guide, a step-by-step resource for putting on the workshop series we did in Hamilton last summer. One interesting conversations that’s come out of our work on this guide has been to seek a concise definition of colonialism. We’d like to share with you what we have so far with the hope of receiving comments, suggestions, and critcisms to make this a really useful definition before we release the whole guide. Thanks for your help!

Our simple definition of colonialism is that it is the violent, racist, patriarchal process of breaking Indigenous People’s connection to the land in order to destroy traditional lifeways and forms of communal living. This process is fueled by greed and a desire to dominate – it forces both people and the land into the logic of the economy for the benefit of the powerful. Humans become workers, trees become timber, and anything that remains outside of the colonial order becomes a threat to it.

Colonialism most violently impacts Indigenous Peoples and cultures, and these are the communities most active in resistance to it. Settler communities also have their roots in a more distant history of colonialism – a person must be uprooted themselves before they can be sent to uproot another. These physical and emotional clearcuts lead us to forget that things were ever different, and the wide diversity of human stories is replaced by a singular and narrow idea of progress.

We believe that an understanding of colonialism, both historical and ongoing, is a crucial part of understanding our own alienation from the wild, and how the land and human cultures here came to be the way they are. We see building a connection with wild nature as a form of decolonizing and as part of a wider struggle against the culture of death that continues to spread across every bit of our vibrant, living earth. When we are firmly rooted in the land where we live, we are well prepared to take a strong stand to defend it.

We believe that decolonizing is inseparable from broader struggles against capitalism, the state, industrial development, and all the forms of oppression and alienation these bring. We believe it to be particularly important to act in solidarity with Indigenous communities of resistance, who have long been the front lines of this struggle.

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