Colonialism Day: Or How to Have a Conversation About Nation Building

While most people have long since moved on from Columbus Day as just another “holiday” where they can’t get to the bank or mail a past due bill, it still remains a contentious national holiday that educators and cultural activists grapple with every year.

Savage Family(1) “Don’t Forget Who We Are”

I am lucky to live in an area where universities, museums, cultural centers, advocates, and community leaders all work together to create “counter programming” around the first encounter between Columbus and the indigenous groups of the Americas. As part of that effort, we have slowly developed from a place of acknowledging genocide, to celebrating diversity, to critically examining nation building and what it has meant primarily for the indigenous peoples of the Americas but also all of the other cultural groups and identity groups (women, queer, two-spirit, black, differently-abled, etc.). That discussion has led us to think about nation building in critical post-colonial and anti-colonial ways that have also opened the door to questioning how a nation’s foundation & subsequent foundational myths embed enduring inequalities or potential equalities based on how it was founded.

I want to speak more about this on the blog, in order to highlight exactly what it is we are “celebrating” today that goes beyond genocide (my usual theme for today) as well as unquestioned national or ethnic (Italian) pride to discuss inequality, resilience, and reclamation. And I want to do so in a way that continues to shine a light on the domestic and sexual violence, unequal educational attainment, disproportionately high suicide rates, and other forms of colonial trauma that plague indigenous communities while we as a nation look away, forget, or pass & uphold laws that exacerbate the problem. Though this seemingly represents a narrowing of focus from some of my previous Colonialism Day posts which intentionally expanded the discussion beyond the U.S. to the entire Americas and Caribbean, trust that I’m still a historian and know the impact of American nation building was a global one.

So bear with me, dear readers, as I go a little academese on the blog and work out this post in small increments between amazing panels, events, and celebrations of indigenous culture that I am grateful to be invited to today. And if it isn’t done by sunset, I am going to take my cue from the Dine who say things are done in their own time and not by the clock.


(1) For those unfamiliar with Savage Family – This is their mission statement from their first album:

SAVAGE FAMILY (savage from the root words salvaticus and salvage meaning “of the woods”)/HGS (HIGHERGROUNDS OF STRUGGLE)is a collective movement of indigneous mc’s/lyricists and producers along with the many who have helped to establish the concepts and beliefs that drive our music. SAVAGE FAMILY /HGS is spread throughout the United Snakes primarily based out of the Northwest and the Midwest regions.WE ARE THE PEOPLE. THE UNWANTED, THE IGNORED, THE MARGINALIZED AND FORGOTTEN. WE DO NOT ASSUME THAT ONE IS ANY BETTER THAN ANOTHER AND HAVE COME TO THE REALIZATION THAT AS LONG AS OUR COMMUNITIES ARE UNHEALTHY WE CANNOT CONSIDER OURSELVES TO BE HEALTHY INDIVIDUALS REGARDLESS OF WHAT WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO ACHIEVE OR ACCOMPLISH. UNTIL ALL ARE FREE WE ARE ALL IMPRISONED AND WE HAVE COMMITTED OURSELVES TO LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND IN OUR STRUGGLE FOR TRUTH AND RECOGNITION OF OUR PURPOSE TO EXIST AS PEOPLE AND SPIRIT. The basis of the movement is to utilize traditional and contemporary wisdom of our indigenous peoples for the means of empowerment. The lyrics represent a voice of indigenous revolution for social change in communities that are plagued by the social ills created through colonization and genocide. SAVAGE FAMILY /HGS was not founded or established by one person or a particular group of people, instead the foundation of the SAVAGE FAMILY THEORIES OF (r)EVOLUTION movement is in our indigenous brothers and sisters worldwide and the ideologies that have driven our peoples since time immemorial. The movement has embraced the art of lyricism and spoken word to be a useful means of spreading messages of hope, pride, and empowerment into our communities. WARRIORS ARE BORN, SOLDIERS ARE MADE. “You can cut the flowers, but you cannot stop the spring from coming.” “ONE DOES NOT WAIT FOR ALL CONDITIONS TO BE RIGHT TO START THE REVOLUTION, THE FORCES OF THE REVOLUTION ITSELF WILL MAKE THE CONDITIONS RIGHT.”

One thought on “Colonialism Day: Or How to Have a Conversation About Nation Building

  1. Pingback: Colonialism Day: Or How to Have a Conversation About Nation Building « Like a Whisper « Raven’s Eye

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