Decolonization, A Guidebook For Settlers Living On Stolen Land.

Tres Rosa
10 min readDec 26, 2020


I learned something yesterday….

When I share with a person they can not decolonize on stolen land they get really really fragile and pissed that yet again, another brown azz takes away their new shiny thing…


The process of decolonization is a violent, brutal, and involuntary act. It costs lives and destroys cities. Decolonization is the rematiration of tradition and culture to Indigenous people. Decolonization is the repatriation of land and sovereignty to Indigenous people.

It is not for White people, Black people, or P.O.C. people to do while on stolen land.

Decolonization is for Indigenous people only. To assume as a settler, that it is possible to decolonize while still benefiting from systems of oppression, is like the white guy appropriating from the Wixárika people, while erasing their existence by calling them Huichol, and when asked what he does to give back to the people he takes from responds…”I try to sing their songs to the best of my ability” while insinuating he is saving their culture from themselves.

I know I am guilty for using decolonization as a metaphor and the group I am honored to steward, Global Decolonization Initiative, was created traipsing the line of decolonization and social justice. For that I apologize for my misstep, and am doing the work to correct the misinterpretation of the term- as well as bring awareness to the depth of vigilance it takes to keep settler colonizers from colonizing decolonization while completely erasing Indigenous sovereignty in favor of another rung in the race to supremacy.

The more we progress towards collective liberation, and the more that I and y’all are learning, the more important it is to give back the term of decolonization to those that have been harmed by colonialism the most-

Indigenous peoples globally.

For clarification, settlers can UNCOLONIZE, as that is voluntarily distancing, detaching from colonial moreys. However to truly decolonize, is a commitment I’m pretty sure a very small percentage of you reading this is willing to accept.

Settlers….this is a guide for you. This guide is for you to use as a basic understanding of what decolonization is NOT and how to recognize when decolonization is being used as a metaphor. It is a guide for you to use in being vigilant and humble when walking the path of uncolonizing your inner world and to give space to actual decolonization efforts led by Indigenous people globally.

This list is compiled from the many ways I’ve seen decolonization being used as a metaphor, as well as those that see the phrase and use it incorrectly as a buzzword for social justice.

Please be mindful of when your triggers come up reading this, as the deep reality of those triggers are that they are coming from a place of domination. Hundreds of years of not listening to Indigenous voices, of talking over Indigenous voices, of bypassing Indigenous voices in favor of a default to a settler colonialist narrative. Which is exactly the reason for the depth of importance and the vital need for this clarification….

What decolonization is NOT and tools to correct the narrative:

Settlers can not “Decolonize their minds”

Decolonizing a settlers mind would look like forcibly taking a settler, hooking them up to torture machines until they denouce and release all aspects of colonization including privileges, narratives, land, and the perceptions of what was taught to settlers about how to hold power over **I.B.R./B.I.P.O.C. and then, deporting the settlers to their land of origin.

  • Indigenous, Black, Racialized- Each letter is said individually- Indigenous honors the First Nations, Black honors those of the African Diaspora, Racialized honors all those that comes to western countries and are intantly racialized upon arrival.
  • Black, Indigenous, People of Color- each letter is said individually much like LGBTQ

Settlers can not “Decolonize time”

Time can not be decolonized as time is neither a thing or a land. Settlers can let go of their idea of what time is and uncolonize out of the domination/supremacist concept of punctuality and colonial impatience.

Settlers can not Decolonize Yoga

Yoga is an ancient technique stewarded by lineage keepers from India. True decolonization of Yoga is the letting go of Yoga completely and specifically going to decolonial minded, Native South Asian Yogis, who are indoctrinated into Yoga as far back as when they were in their grandmother’s womb and are doing the work in their sphere of influence to uplift and heal themself and community from the wounds of colonialism.

Settlers can not Decolonize their spirit

A settler on stolen land is a settler full stop and to decolonize one’s spirit, said settler would need to go to their mothers land and connect with their ancestors traditions to detach and heal from colonial wounds amongst the indigenous people in their land of origin.

Settlers can not Decolonize spaces

A space is not decolonized when I.B.R./B.I.P.O.C. only are present. Only when the space is Indigenous centered and led, can the space be considered decolonial.

Settlers can not Decolonize futures

The future can not be decolonized as the future is not a tradition, culture, land, or sovereignty for Indigenous people. While the future can look to Indigenous sovereignty, the use of the word decolonization and future must relate to centering Indigenous people and working with Indigenous people to ensure our future sovereignty.

Settlers can not Decolonize themselves

A settler is not an Indigenous person of the land, when they are on stolen land. To decolonize self, a settler would need to give up their land, privilege, and identity, in favor of uprooting themself and their families back to their land of origin.

Settlers can not Decolonize social justice

Social justice is the path of collective liberation. Decolonization, is a massive revolution to remove all people not native to stolen land, back to their land of origin, and returning government control, community control, resources, processes, and sovereignty to Indigenous peoples.

You see, decolonization is not a shiny new buzz word for social justice or uncolonizing.

Decolonization is the rematiration of tradition and culture as well as, repatriation of land and sovereignty to Indigenous peoples.

When an Indigenous person tells you “you need to decolonize your mind” either they have a misunderstanding of the word or they are checking you out to see if you have the courage to say, “naaa, as a settler, decolonization is not an option. However, I will do everything in my power to support the decolonization efforts of Indigenous peoples by centering the voices, processes, and initiatives of Indigenous nations that invite the settler voice to speak to those that willfully ignore Indigenous voices.

Which leads me to this very important point- there is so much beginning to be discussed over what decolonization is, and not a lot of what decolonization is NOT or how to recognize when decolonization is being used as a metaphor. In the above guide we discussed examples of what decolonization is not- in this next segment, we explore the various ways decolonization is used as a metaphor so that you are aware of how to recognize when the intergenerational trauma of domination overrides the deserved respect for the Indigenous peoples who’ve been impacted and are continually impacted through oppression from the colonial empire.

This specific guide segment is education of how to not “tokenize” and make decolonization into a metaphor for woke cookies and ego stroking of settler colonialism based in unpacked colonial trauma in B.P.O.C. and whyte folks.

Once again, I bring awareness to the triggers this guide may bring up. I encourage you to be aware of when the colonial narrative based in domination arises and invite compassion into the triggers and the manifestations of the triggers itself.

Ways decolonization is used as a metaphor and tools to correct the narrative:

“Decolonizing Creativity”

Decolonization is the repatriation of Indigenous land and life; it is not a metaphor for settler initiatives based on arts and crafts or settlers teaching “traditional native” anything to “improve” B.P.O.C. communities and schools.

***The uncolonized term for “decolonizing creativity” is Liberating Creativity.

“Decolonizing Business”

This is the realm of how to approach diversity and inclusion from a different perspective. In order to truly decolonize a business, a corporation/organization would need all of the settler heads of business to step down and place Indigenous people to lead, create, and guide the organization from an Indigenous perspective with Indigenous values as a foundation for company policy.

***The uncolonized term for “Decolonizing Business” is Liberating Business.

“Decolonizing Healing”

The basis of a domination based society is to control all things including anything mystical by cherry picking from all cultures and creating a new supremacy based, dominant pseudo spiritual culture, that centers capitalism and exclusion while using words like “conscious capitalism” and “community”. While in reality charging through the roof prices to spread and encourage domination and exclusion while the cultures they take from receive no benefit.

***The uncolonized term for “decolonizing healing” is Liberating Healing

“Decolonizing Change”

Settlers move to innocence creates the opportunity to bypass any actual efforts to uncolonize, by not acknowledging the responsibility of calling out complacency and internalized bias. This level of colonial bypassing also shows up as resistance to doing the personal work to mind shift out of a cultural narrative based in domination and supremacy. This is remedied by doing the outer work to educate and bring awareness to the culture of dominance amongst settler communities.

One can not change oneself when one is clouded by the lens of colonial values that are based in the race to supremacy.

This very delicate aspect of the lean to repackage decolonization into a metaphor creates deeper lines of division in the diverse group of settlers with bypassing complacency in settler colonialism.

***The uncolonized term for “decolonizing change” is Liberating Change

“Decolonizing Leadership”

The only way to “decolonize leadership” is to place Indigenous people in leadership positions full stop.

***The uncolonized term for “decolonizing leadership” is, Liberating Our Leaders


When thinking about how you want to present your social justice initiatives- look through a lens of liberation, a lens of “critical consciousness”.

Decolonization is the rematriation/repatriation of land for Indigenous peoples. It is giving back what was viciously taken through violence, theft, enslavement, and genocide as justification for the colonial empire to expand its resources.

Decolonization, is not a sweet social justice term- or a buzzword for collective liberation.

Decolonization, is not a metaphor for facilitators, business partners, and artists that are Black or Brown or both. Using the term decolonization as a metaphor, tokenizes Black and Brown people while actively participating in the erasure of Indigenous peoples, completely bypassing what decolonization actually is.

The rematriation/repatriation of traditions and land to Indigenous peoples.

Decolonization is not a label, or a description of an event.

It is a vicious, incommensurable process that is bigger than a website, or a FB group or a settler led pseudo “decolonization” event.

While decolonization is rooted in LIBERATION, that liberation is for Indigenous peoples of the global diaspora, to reclaim, re indigenize, and re root in the lands that were STOLEN during the process of colonization.

Decolonization does not mean to go back to the 1700’s and go live in pre contact environs. That is not possible in this day in age- decolonization from the inside out for Indigenous peoples of the southern and northern hemishperes, live in the acknowledgment of one’s inner colonizer and learned how to flip, how to navigate, how to meet with compassion, the inner colonial narrative from domination to community.

In the article, “Decolonization is not a metaphor” written by Eve Tuck, the description of how the colonization process of the Chattel slave complex and the impact of colonialism in Indigenous peoples from the lands affected by colonialism, being extremely different, provides the opportunity and context to witness when well meaning settler colonialists, Black, Brown and White, take the idolization of decolonization and use it to further divide while completely missing the point of decolonization itself. (Indigenous remaitriation of culture and tradition as well as repatriation of land and sovereignty to Indigenous Peoples) The misunderstanding/misinterpretation of decolonization, leads to serve the division between Black, Brown and Indigenous peoples who have been led to believe in a narrative based in domination, which is not rooted in collective liberation nor is it in the reality of decolonization.

While oppression is not an Olympic sport, the way the oppression was and is maintained is vastly different for Black people, Brown people and Indigenous peoples of the land called America.

The oppressions of the different demograpics are not the same. There are similarities, yes, to say they are the same…Is a disservice to the unique experiences the colonial empire has inflicted on all persons of color. One of the ways to tell when settler domination is present, is when settlers use oppression or settler fragility, as a way to justify using decolonization as a metaphor.

When one is witnessing oppression being used as a way to justify the misinterpretation of decolonization, please be mindful the person you are communicating with either has no idea of the reality of decolonization or is using the inherited narrative of domination to claim a word, an event, a revolutionary act that the settler can help facilitate while on stolen land, and can only do when they themself step foot on the land that was stolen from them.

Thus we ask of you, when an event, website, or social justice organization is using the word decolonization, please do your due diligence to correct their mis-step, misinterpretation, misunderstanding, to bring awareness to the colonization of decolonization they are promoting.

Decolonization is not a metaphor and when it is used as such, bypasses what decolonization actually is, making the organization or person that is using decolonization as a metaphor, appear uninformed and is best summed up by these two quotes…

“It means removing the asterisks, periods, commas, apostrophes, the whereas’s, buts, and conditional clauses that punctuate decolonization and underwrite settler innocence. The Native futures, the lives to be lived once the settler nation is gone.” -Decolonization is not a metaphor, Eve Tuck

“To agree on what [decolonization] is not: neither evangelization, nor a philanthropic enterprise, nor a desire to push back the frontiers of ignorance, disease, and tyranny…” (Cesaire, 2000, p. 32)

Edited to relfect evolution of time and the use of the word decolonization 2.27.2023