Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back

Dancing On Our Turtle's Back

I just finished reading Dancing On Our Turtle's Back by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. She speaks to the regeneration of Indigenous culture which must fuel decolonization efforts.

Which is kind of obvious, but she writes about it in such a way that it makes decolonization feel inevitable. And it explains why projects like Adam Sings In The Timber's Indigenizing Colonized Spaces feels so powerful and meaningful.

Every act of resurgence of culture has an impact.

Most of books I have read about decolonization are written from a political/legal perspective.

And, as she says in this book, that's an important perspective to understand.

BUT - it's fighting colonization using the tools of the colonizer. Our political and legal systems are colonial, they have so many colonialist perspectives embedded in them, it is really hard to use them to create the kind of radical change we need to see.

So this book helped me to see a whole new WORLD of possibilities for HOW decolonizing can happen and what it could look like.

This book impacted me in a big way.

She shared a Nishnaabeg prophecy that had told people that the colonizers were coming over 500 years before they arrived.

Over 500 years, each generation moved further west, and spread out so that by the time the colonizers arrived, the Nishnaabeg were not as easily found.

They knew they couldn't stop the genocide that was coming.

They also knew that their own culture would be the thing that would save them.

So that's why they moved west and spread out, so that pockets of culture would survive - even when Canada made their language and spiritual practices and ceremonies illegal, even when Canada stole their children and tried to force them to assimilate to white culture.

Pockets of culture remained. And the prophecy told them that the occupation would eventually become less violent and there would be some space for a resurgence.

Now, each small act of resurgence helps to generate the conditions for Indigenous culture to be restored.

The final part of the prophecy is that Indigenous culture will help save settler culture - that only once the settlers saw that their ways were poisoning the water, air and land and threatening to destroy the whole planet, would they be open to change.

I'm not sure settler culture deserves to be saved.

But what really stood out to me is the long term thinking and planning.

The kind of leadership and community it takes for everyone to work together like that for 500 years so that they could save generations so far off in the future (!)

That's what CULTURE is.

We don't have that now. We're not even able to band together to save our own grandchildren from climate change. Or save each other from Covid!

Settler culture is garbage culture.

So I am thinking about the pandemic, through this lens.

What if taking care of each other was our ONLY priority?

We don't have the political will it would take to make different decisions about how we use our resources.

I would like to live in world where it wouldn't even be a difficult decision, where OF COURSE we just focus on taking care of each other.

I don't want to romanticize Indigenous wisdom.

That's one of the ways that the New Age has colonized Indigenous wisdom.

The world is complex.

But this book helped me see how a better world is possible, by focusing on culture, it's got me thinking in a different way and I wanted to recommend it.

Also, if you are white - read more books by Indigenous authors! It really helps you to see from a different perspective.

Dancing On Our Turtle\'s Back