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Native American Decolonizing Pedagogical Praxis

 

By Deidra Suwanee Dees

 

As a Native American from Muscogee Nation, I am working on my doctorate in cross-cultural Education at Harvard in order to contribute to decolonization practices among Native American and non-Native educators in postcolonial settings. My research on cross-cultural curriculum addresses indigenous dissertations regarding the impact of European colonization exploring the challenges people are forced to live with that affect many parts of the world today. Utilizing critical and creative language arts, this curriculum affirms traditional indigenous values as a conduit of resistance while under occupation and neo-occupation. This research supports cognitive preferences and traditional learning styles that sustain decolonizing pedagogical praxis including cultural restoration, language retention and regaining tribal sovereignty. 

 

Components of the language arts curriculum are being submitted which deal with the literary deconstruction of colonization in the postcolonial era. The comprehensive curriculum addresses pedagogical praxis relating to indigenous languages, history, religions, cultures and education.

 

10 Lines

Muscogee Feathers: Decolonizing Manifesto

 

when I was a child

I used to hide my Muscogee feathers

because I thought they represented my shame,

 

when I became a woman

I began to wear the wounded feather

to honor my nation’s devastating pain,

 

now that I’m a mother,

I boldly wear the eagle feather

to show my ride into the enemies’ eyes

making them accept their blame

 

 

16 Lines

Missionary: Institutionalizing Religion as a Tool of Postcolonialism

 

in sunday school you

showed me

tools and tales of primitive culture,

 

compelling me to embrace them,

compelling me to live among

them in the land of primitive,

with tools and tales of primitive culture;

 

I grew up and found you were

a cruel usurper,

not saving souls at all, but stealing

tools and tales of primitive culture,

stealing lives,

stealing souls,

sealing the fate of your own;

 

you became

tools and tales of primitive culture

 

 

17 Lines

A Peat Bog in Windover

 

I saw you on tv

scraping brains

 

from my skull

in a peat bog in Windover,

 

how easily you held the trowel,

white

smiles

for the camera,

 

building

your career on my

 

dead bones

before

 

NAGPRA forced

 

you to return me to my people

 

 

 

18 Lines

Urban Indian: Native American Diaspora

 

dispersed, detached

living in tall

concrete and steel,

how do I live without my tribe?

 

where is my tribe?

don’t know my tribe,

searching for tribe,

how do I live without my tribe?

 

scattered, severed,

matriarchs and medicine,

dances no more,

how do I live without my tribe?

 

suit and tie,

briefcase of leather,

working for whiteman,

but how do I live without my tribe?

 

 

10 Lines

Epistemologies on Being Owned By White People

 

your grandmothers

 

were owned by white people

—my people were not

 

they did not buy and sell us

they did not make us to cook for them,

 

clean toilets,

pick cotton,

 

they did not

force us to lay down for them,

 

but now we do it for free

 

 

 

16 Lines

Neo-Colonialism: Impact of the Oppressor on Native American Identifiers

 

there’s lots of space and it’s quiet in the house,

the hallway emanates only a faint creaking,

all alone—never took a spouse,

there were more important goals her heart was seeking;

 

Muscogee traditions have long faded to the back

giving way to whiteman awards and commendations,

they too have dwindled down to matter-of-fact,

now she dies insignificant in her generation;

 

images of Indians dancing with the chief

sometimes replace her hours of silence,

contrasting misguided assimilated beliefs

that torture her conscience without deliverance,

 

following privilege of the master with all of her heart

she traded her identity to play the hero,

becoming white—the highest of whiteman arts,

only to find out she has arrived at zero

 

 

13 Lines

no money

 

no

money

for Bell Air Mall

 

daddy

pierced Ellanae’s ears

 

when she was twelve,

 

school kids laughed

 

when they found out…

 

but we’ve

done

it

this way for ten thousand

years

 

 

16 Lines

Dying Turtle’s Call

 

you invaded my space with anti-climatic explosion,

you purged my tongue with a new breed of speech,

my muscogee values descend upon erosion,

how can you still drive me into retreat?

 

your concern for the Jews in the great holocaust

makes me want to believe you hold sympathy,

but my indigenous nation is almost lost,

why can’t i convince you to believe in me?

 

when muscogees ruled, we all had enough to eat,

every child went to sleep at night in a warm place,

there were no radiated rivers nor dreaded disease,

but now you behold an emaciated race;

 

absent of trees, land and all that belonged to me,

i am the essence of a dying turtle’s call,

you’ve stolen everything—even my dignity,

how can you hurt me more when i’ve already lost it all?

 

 

16 Lines

Speculative Discourse with Powerful Leaders of European Conquests

 

White Slave Owner called my name

to see if he could accept the blame

for buying and selling Negro people

under protection of the steeple,

 

Mr. Slave Owner, it’s painfully late

for you to resolve ungodly mistakes;

without the comfort of ill-gained wealth

you now burn in the pit of hell;

 

White Indian Killer called my name

to see if he could accept the blame

for killing off the Redstick men

at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend,

 

Mr. Indian Killer, it’s too late

for you to renegotiate,

Muscogee land was not for sale

now you will always burn in hell

 

 

17 Lines

adopting weapons of the oppressor

 

muscogee culture survives

oppression,

 

laceration,

tribulation, genocide

 

we still dance the way

our ancestors danced around

 

the sacred

fire

 

strong like the

Moai statues of Easter Island;

 

adopting weapons of

the oppressor

 

our enemy no longer white—

muscogee

battles muscogee

 

like the Rapa Nui of Easter Island

 

we learn

to destroy ourselves

 

 

28 Lines

Theoretical Deconstruction of the Legacy of Conquests

 

they celebrate 

a day off from work and school

—swaddled in patriotism,

the heralded navigator

and renowned explorer;

 

sitting alone

I know your exploits of

countless christian sins—

stealer of land and children,

cold slave owner,

 

building your house on the

blood of natives,

filling your hunger on the

nectar of virgins—

clumsy navigator,

crucible murderer—

 

come close to me

and smell my nectar,

rub your hand

against my nipple,

cast your

finger below my navel,

 

Mr. Columbus, let me whisper,

come closer to me;

my breath like fire 

erases your existence

when I whisper

genocide

 

 

38 Lines

While You Were Sleeping

 

while you were sleeping

thieves moved into Muscogee Nation

steeling our land and animals and displacing

our children

 

while you were presiding

over land that was not your own,

Muscogees retreated into the woods of the land

we were born upon

 

while you were dictating

from your lofty domain, Redsticks fought

to save our nation from slavery and annihilation

 

while you were sipping

your wine overlooking the terrace of Monticello,

mothers searched for food for 

starving babies

 

while you were writing

about the pursuit of happiness the blood of

my people was crying from torment and despair

 

while you were experimenting

with American colonization,

atrocities against Black and copper people grew

with staggering momentum

 

while you were sleeping

in the bed with injustice,

my nation was stripped

of its rights of ownership and self-governance

 

while you were speaking

on the principle of benevolence and amassing

collections of “knowledge,” Muscogee knowledge

was destroyed and replaced by your own

 

while you were dying

Muscogees were being moved on the Trail of

Tears to another tribe’s territory

that would soon be taken away

 

now, Mr. Thomas Jefferson,

while you are burning

in the flames of hell,

Muscogee Nation is rebuilding and rising

 

 

12 Lines

Trapped Inside Cotton Clothing

 

 

my body has not been

cleaned for

many days

 

—smell of my body grease

trapped inside

cotton clothing,

 

decomposing dishes 

overflowing my

sink,

 

the nightmare of the

colonial master from my childhood

has

returned to me

 

82 Lines

I Want to Ride A Fast Horse

 

borrowing a beast of the colonizer

I want to ride a fast horse

to Gulf Shores collecting rents that are mine

from dwellers in tall concrete and steel

who are living on my real estate

 

I want to ride a fast horse

to the BIA granting federal recognition to

Indian tribes that are not currently acknowledged

by the United State government

 

I want to ride a fast horse

to the Library of Congress burning

worthless whiteman words in treaties that

were never honored

 

I want to ride a fast horse

to your Wall Street casino removing your

addiction to gambling on my loss

 

I want to ride a fast horse

to the U.S. Supreme Court replacing

justices that not mine with Wilma Mankiller,

Russell Means, Leonard Peltier

 

I want to ride a fast horse

into your history of archeology before you

plowed up my grandmothers

and built a parking lot

 

I want to ride a fast horse

to the Department of Immigration deporting

white people as illegal aliens

unless they are given a Green Card by me

 

I want to ride a fast horse

to the FBI empowering them to convict

themselves for crimes against the American

Indian Movement

 

I want to ride a fast horse

to the United Nations adding seats for

ambassadors from every indigenous nation with

full voting power

 

I want to ride a fast horse

to the Department of Agriculture removing

pesticides and steroids that are not mine

restoring Mother Earth to beauty and health

 

I want to ride a fast horse

to the Department of Education

removing white heroes that are not mine:

Hernando de Soto, Christopher Columbus,

George Washington

 

I want to ride a fast horse

to where your children live

taking ….

 

I want to ride a fast horse

into the American Revolution holding war

crime trials for crimes against Indians

 

I want to ride a fast horse

to the United States Congress

passing laws that guarantee tribal sovereignty

which can never be revoked

 

I want to ride a fast horse

into your consciousness and rip out Manifest

Destiny, Christianization, Colonization

 

I want to ride a fast horse

to the Department of Defense replacing bombs

and guns that are not mine

with bows and arrows so you can kill

only one person at a time

 

I want to ride a fast horse

burning down your churches so you can

feel the pain I felt when you took

away our sacred fire on the Trail of Tears

 

I want to ride a fast horse

into your city streets removing crack, cocaine,

and meth that are not mine by pushing them

down the drug lords’ throats

 

I want to ride a fast horse

into your history of Black slavery

forcing you to make restitution for every

human you bought and sold

 

I want to ride a fast horse

into your soul replacing your belief

in white supremacy with Indian community

 

I want to ride a fast horse

into the American-Indian Wars and

write a peace treaty that—for the first time—

really works

 

I want to give my horse rest

in this land I’ve created returning Mother Earth

to balance, peace and harmony

before we reach the place where

we can never go back

 

THE AUTHOR MAY BE CONTACTED BY E-MAIL: Deidra Dees