The following is a transcript of the keynote panel session of a three-day international webinar “Decoloniality And Disintegration Of Western Cognitive Empire – Rethinking Sovereignty And Territoriality In The 21st Century”, held April 14-16, 2021. The panel consists of Walter Mignolo and Catherine Walsh, co-authors of the book On Decoloniality (Duke University Press, 20180 and eminent Native American scholar Tink Tinker as well as University of London professor Fernando Herrero. It is moderated by Victor Taylor, Executive Editor for Whitestone Publications. The transcript is in two parts. The first part can be found here.
The program for entire conference, for which video recordings are available for each presentation, can be found here.
Victor Taylor: Thank you, Walter, thank you very much. I think, before we move to Professor Tinker, I just want to say that, between Walter and Catherine’s discussion, if you read On Decoloniality, you see how these two scholars create a wonderful dialogue, so I just want to re-emphasize that this book is very accessible and is shaping our conversation tonight. So, it’s a pleasure to now turn to Professor Tinker to talk about decoloniality. I think some of this was discussed in the earlier session that we had, and I really appreciated your analysis. But to come back to the three main questions that have been suggested, about how do you understand decoloniality, and the tension between theory and practice, and then, today, where is the urgency? Where do you see the urgency for thinking about decoloniality?
Tink Tinker: It’s my pleasure to be a part of this conversation. And let me say as strongly as I can how much I appreciated reading On Decoloniality. I really, deeply appreciate much of the analysis there the Catherine and Walter are engaging, and it captures much of the kind of analyses that American Indians have engaged both in community and in academics over the years. But as I said the other day, I guess it was Monday, Walter, when I was in your class at Duke, it seems to be my job as an American Indian scholar in the world to make things more difficult. To increase the complexity. So, I’ve got to offer my critique of the book On Decoloniality and hope that it promotes useful dialogue and discussion, as well.
Let me start by saying that it’s really difficult for American Indians to abandon our languaging that names the process of oppression and genocide that we have experienced for 400 years and continue to experience to this day so that I would object to narrowing the definition of the word decolonizing to those attempts at flag independence in Africa, Asia, and other places, after World War II. That’s not good enough because we’ve been fighting decolonizing since the first of the euro Christian invasion of our land here on Turtle Island. And we haven’t stopped because colonization has not stopped. The colonizing of our euro Christian relatives continues to this day.
Part of the problem is, I think, as I read this book and thought about it, is when I’m in an academic discussion and I was 33 years a Professor in higher education and teaching adjunct in higher education for 15 years before that so I’ve had an almost-50-year career of teaching in higher education, participating in academic conferences, it’s always difficult for me to find a way to buy into some academic conversations, because the language presumes a certain normativity. Not that you presume a normativity, but the language you use presumes a normativity that isn’t automatically there for me. See I’m speaking a colonial language, I’m speaking English. And some of you, you know, Walter, speak Spanish as native tongue. That’s another colonial language and my native relatives in the south speak Spanish as a you know, a way of accessing the outside world outside of their own communities.
Yet, the presumption of normativity and that use of language means I have to really undo some of that language before I can get involved in a conversation. Let me give you a couple of examples. Notions like natural and supernatural, sacred and profane, Eliade’s book, there’s no way I can get involved in that conversation because in Osage we don’t have a word for “sacred” or for “profane.” We don’t have a word for “natural” or “supernatural.” To pick up on Walter’s discussion and. Chapter six, Walter, or seven, where you talk about nature, count me among those whose language has no word for nature. We can’t separate ourselves from nature because nature is that that must be me, isn’t it? Me and everything else. And if it’s me and everything else, it’s everything that’s alive, including Carlos de la Torre, what I said in the last session, stone. And I have my own stones right here with me that keep me powerful and safe.
If it’s everything that’s alive, why not just say life instead of constructing this abstract noun “nature”? Well, that that will bring me to a second concern. Namely, those colonial languages, European languages generally, are what we call noun-based languages where nouns, nominals, reign supreme. Best example, of course, of that is German because in German, they capitalize every noun. Just to make sure you know what’s important they capitalize it. You may not know what it means, it may be so abstract that it requires a full-volume text to unpack with the noun means, but the noun reigns supreme. And hence in academic discourses it’s the nouns which are so wonderfully abstract that they can make and break academic careers and people can write dissertations, and not just dissertations but books, monographs in order, not just to get a job, but to get promotion and tenure, and eventually a full professorship, and if you’re really good at unpacking abstraction you get a named professorship.
But then it’s really difficult for a native person to buy into that without abandoning our whole world of languaging and adopting just the colonial discourse with its abstractions. And decoloniality is, for me, that kind of nominal abstraction. So, I read this wonderful book On Decoloniality and I have to say when I finished it, I did not yet know what decoloniality exactly was, it’ll probably take another three volumes for you all to explain it to this poor Indian before I can begin to see light at the end of the tunnel. Decolonizing is a verb. That’s the work we do in our communities. That’s what my relatives were doing four winters ago up at Standing Rock outside of the community of Cannonball when they were trying to stop the invasion of Dakota Access Pipeline digging a tunnel underneath their water supply, underneath the Missouri River in order to ship this dirty buck an oil field, fracked oil, crude oil South so they could ship it out of the country so that other people in the way… It’s not even being used in the U.S. It serves one purpose only, and that’s the colonizer purpose of making more money. Pure and simple. Inventing money.
And of course, The Lakota people from Standing Rock Reservation were arguing, this is unceded, non-treaty Lakota land. It may not be a part of the reservation, but the abstraction of American law came to the rescue with Dakota Access Pipeline. Namely, this isn’t your land, you have your reservation over there, this is now private property, never mind that you never ceded it in treaty. But it belongs to someone else, and they’ve given us the okay to tunnel from their land to the other side in order to ship this pipeline south to Houston. And so, the courts always decide in favor of the colonial abstraction, the legal abstraction. And we’re left to protest it, to try and stop it and, of course, my relatives up there were successful for a long time and delaying that process. It costs the oil company millions of dollars.
But at the same time, eventually, the colonial matrix of power, another abstraction, Walter, but one that I like, the colonial matrix of power wins again. See for us our languages are verbal, verb based. They’re rooted in the ongoing living of life. What’s happening now. What you all might call praxis, so that when I write an essay, and I’ve published half a dozen books and nearly 100 chapters in journal articles, almost every one of those pieces of writing have been circulated in the Indian community before I publish them. Because if they do not float in the Indian community, if they don’t understand what I’m writing, then I’ve got to scrap it and go back to the drawing board and rework it in a different way. It must make sense to my people or it isn’t any good. It’s too abstract. And even at that, you know, my first book was Missionary Conquest and my own clan father, Morris Lookout told me, “Son, that was a wonderful book. I read it twice. But, son, I had to buy a dictionary to read it.” And I thought it was pretty accessible. But there’s an occupational hazard when you teach in the academy that even my stuff had begun to become too rooted in academese, in those nominal abstractions. And I realized that even as I critique On Decoloniality, for us, colonialism, I said, is ongoing. And it’s colonized us deeply, colonized our use of language.
So then, when we have a meeting to talk about particular sites that are important to us, sites where our interpreters go in order to talk to the Wanagi who live in those sites, our political leaders will talk about them as if they were sacred sites. So, they’ll talk about this site has been sacred to my people since time immemorial. But wait a minute, the land where I am right now is sacred. Every land is sacred. Every inch of Turtle Island is sacred. If every place and everyone is sacred, and what is the word “sacred” mean? Why don’t we just say everything, or since we don’t have a word in Osage for “thing,” we’ll say everyone is sacred, including especially that one who is most involved in giving life and taking life: our grandmother, the Earth herself, the land. So, instead of talking about sacred sites, we need to talk about why it’s much more complex than that, it’s not just that this site is sacred. Indian people haven’t read Eliade, they haven’t read Durkheim.
They’ve just picked up this word because it’s been imposed upon them by Christian missionaries. The missionaries came and they wholesale re-worked our languages, one at a time. And they picked words so that they might signify as those abstract nouns that work for them in their Christian theology. So suddenly we have word noun Osage that means “sacred”: wakan. And the great wakan, wakanda. Ah, the missionaries latched onto that one and said that your word for God. And immediately took our collateral egalitarian culture and turned it into what I call an up-down image schema, picking up on the language of cognitive linguistics in George Lakoff and company. Suddenly we have a God, or male sky God even, called wakanda. But see, what that does is it makes that word completely unusable in its old way for us so that we have to decolonize our own language in order to reclaim it. In order to say, wait a minute wakanda is that energy force that is life-giving for the cosmic whole. And it’s not up here – it courses through every living person. That is every stone, every tree, every lake, every mountain, every buffalo, squirrel, eagle, sparrow, and me, and you. See, when you make it that sky God suddenly it’s no longer useful that way because Osages today have been converted to Christianity and they think wakanda, our word, means that Christian male sky God. That’s the trouble we’re in and why we must decolonize.
One last example. I spent years, 25 years, a quarter-century, volunteering my time as Executive Director and Spiritual Elder here in the Denver urban Indian community at an institution called Four Winds American Indian Council. And once a week we would get people together for a ceremony, give people a place to gather, a place to be Indian, a place to talk to one another. A place to be Indian just for, you know, two or three hours, have a meal together. But when we first started, I’d go around the circle starting to my left and give every person a chance to pray. And every person would take time to pray until about five years of doing that some of those people began to question me in terms of decolonizing ourselves: “Tink, isn’t prayer a colonized form?
Doesn’t it involve that up-down hierarchy? Doesn’t prayer mean petitioning some higher power?” I had to stop and think, yeah, the Osage word for prayer is [wada]. And wada just means “to talk,” what we’re doing in this conference, wada. Only we’re inviting in, at this collateral egalitarian level, the Wanagi from the Wanagi world. And we’re just talking to them. We’re not petitioning them, they’re not above us, not below us. So, we’re just talking to our ancestors as equals.
And hence, we had to abandon the use of the word “pray” and it was the most natural thing in the world for us to use the colonial language. And when we abandon it, the most natural thing, once we decolonized it, the most natural thing in the world for us to abandon the word “prayer” and do you “talk.” So, we would sing our songs, have ceremonies, invite the Wanagi in from the Wanagi world, and give everyone a chance to talk to the Wanagi. That that’s what we’re up against and why when you read Indian titles, they don’t talk about decoloniality, they talk about decolonizing. Because that’s our project here on Turtle Island. I don’t know about natives in the south, but here on Turtle Island and Canada and the U.S. that’s our project and that’s my initial critique of On Decoloniality which, if you remember, I already said, I deeply appreciated the analysis and we’ll go back to it again and again.
Victor Taylor: Thank you very much, Professor Tinker, I thought, maybe before we open it up to general questions, that the panelists would like to respond to each other. I would imagine that Walter and Catherine would like to comment on Professor Tinker’s reading of On Decoloniality.
Tink Tinker: yeah, let me just add one thing, Victor, I go by “Tink,” I don’t presume a colonial title.
Victor Taylor: Okay, thank you. Catherine or Walter?
Catherine Walsh: Thank you, Tink, for your precious words, for the teachings that you gave us in this short time, and from speaking from the land. Here in Ecuador in the Andean region, as you said, many of the words that dominant languages like Spanish, like English assume as nouns don’t exist in Kechua, as we call the majority indigenous language here and Equator, but also in other native languages. I think the politics of language, of languaging, the politics of naming is part of the colonization of genocide and linguicide. Of how to destroy languages, and in destroying languages how to destroy the base and the interconnectedness of thought and life. Here the notion of Pachamama, or Mother Earth, Mother Nature is a concept that is extremely distinct from nature in the dominant way that it’s used. But extractivism also is a way to extract the significance and lived meaning of Mother Earth, to destroy and to create a notion of nature’s resource. So, I think those learnings, teachings that you shared with us that are that are collective from your tribal nation, but also from your indigenous relatives throughout Turtle Island, but also the relatives, here in Abya Yala, in Turtle Island South, or Abya Yala South, connect in many, many ways. And I think certainly with relationship to the book and in the difficult task that Walter and I assumed together to each write from our places, but also to write from a legacy that a close friend, Anibal Quijano, that Walter mentioned, gave us.
So, we didn’t create the notion of coloniality nor decoloniality, but one of our now ancestors gave us that term which we sort of extend to the notion of a colonial matrix of power, yes, but also to something that people that live the reality, the colonial continuation of colonialism, with its genocide and destruction that continues and continues in multiple ways, doesn’t need a word to name it. They know what it is. So, our I think part of our difficulty in thinking the book was also how to think coloniality and decoloniality in ways that make it more of a verb and less of a noun. Less as a set state of things, but also as this ongoing construction.
And so, in different places of the book I think we maybe assume some of that verbalizing of language, rather than making it nouns all the time, but I think it’s also important to think about what the action of decolonializing is. What it means in different territories and lands and for different peoples, what it means for first nations, but also what it means for people who have been racialized by a system that continues to not just inferiorize and negate or sub-alternize, but to actually exterminate. And so, I think it’s important to sort of think about how also the decolonizing work that needs to be done is being done. How does it take place? Who and how do they do it? And what does it mean in each context? And I think that takes us away from the fear that what we’re talking about can become somehow put into universal academic language, which is exactly against what we’re arguing. We’re talking about life and about it that some people’s lives or everyone, in your language, Tink, everyone’s life matters. Whether that’s a human life, if we want to use the term “human,” which is also another term that needs to be rethought, but to think about all living beings and how that’s being destroyed today and how it’s targeted. So, because of time I won’t go on, but I want to thank you again for your words, for your teachings, for the learnings that you assumed, that you shared with us today that I take to heart, thank you.
Walter Mignolo: Thank you, Tink, I’d like to continue the conversation we started on Monday. A couple of things, I mean, I agree with you it’s just I don’t have… Let me put it this way: My ancestor Italian went to Argentina at the end of 18th century. And they were kind of all the kind of big great immigration. They were poor Italians because Italy didn’t provide a good living. So, and the government was trying to kind of populate because they were exterminating indigenous people and they needed to replace the country and they were bringing the British railroad and the British debt and the British want all the kind of the cow and the Syria to just go to London, so they needed people to work. So, the government gave 100 hectares to each family and then I learned later on that those lands belong to Indios Ranqueles, as the history of Argentina says. So that was a kind of moment in which I began to understand coloniality from my own kind of experience.
And also, when I wrote The Darker Side of the Renaissance I got very much into languages because my training is in semiotics and philology, so I constantly go to philology. And the chapter you mentioned, I think it’s seven, I put nature on quotation marks because I said more or less what you’re saying, that nature is a kind of ontologization of the flow of life, and I think I used the flow of life, and in the universe, in the cosmos, in earth, etc, etc. So, I agree with you. The question you have for us for, Catherine and I, and you said Spanish is an imperial language. We are into languages in which the noun prevails. So, if Heidegger was kind of Osage he could not have written Being and Time. He wrote Being and Time because, in German, all the nouns are capitalized and he could not write a kind of an ontology of relation, an ontology of flow, an ontology of everything moving would have been quite difficult.
So, that is one thing. But I agree with Cathy, we just study because when Quijano, after defining coloniality, he said, what is the task of decoloniality epistemic reconstitution? So epistemological reconstitution. Why? Because the Code, the colonial matrix of power, has four key operations, classifications. Quijano wrote about a lot of that. Hierarchy, racist, sexist, nature separated from the human. Exclusion, all kinds of exclusion and regulation. So, the regulation of the classification is we kind of maintain this code making us believe that this is reality represented by the science, by the discipline, etc. So, that is there for me, the task of recoding, and when we start talking about recoding we are learning for you people and from kind of the African before colonization.
And what we are learning now from you, I mean, instead of learning from Aristotle and Plato and Heidegger, we are learning that to recode we have to recode our relationship with the cosmos, our relationship with Earth, and our relationship with land, and at the same time, get out of the kind the noun and be aware that everything is in constant flow. So, that’s kind of the recoding. The recording goes from Earth, land, relationality, duality instead of dualism, complementarity and duality. I take your critique on nouns very, very seriously, but at the same time, I just want to add that what gave me an energy, a new way of thinking about these things is coming from you.
Fernando Herrero: Many, many things that one can say. First, I also love Quijano, but we should not forget, Walter knows that he’s coming from also grey Latin American tradition, and we can mention Leopoldo Osio, [OTHER LATIN AMERICAN FOLKS] and even [LATIN AMERICAN PERSON] and his critique of the universalism of Western cultures in 1957. So, again, we love Quijano but I think we should vindicate, particularly because I’m going to Americanize my response in the sense of zeroing in on the USA. But we always need to vindicate Latin American thinking that may be an avant garde type of thinking. And it doesn’t have to be perfect, but that critique of the universalism of Western cultures is already happening in in the 50s, if not even earlier. And I want to echo Tink’s critique of Walter and Catherine Walsh, but I want to do this from a critical solidarity standpoint. The Darker Side of the Renaissance is, for me, is my favorite book a book of Walter’s, and I think decoloniality, to me, grabs me less.
So, because we do not have a lot of time, let me say why. I want to echo Tink’s comment about the generality of the general approach in the book. I think both Walter and Catherine are guilty, I’m going to say just like this, I think they’re guilty of idealism, nominalism, and a certain degree of generality. And perhaps I may say, too easy a way of explaining things which sometimes falls into the formulaic. Shat am I talking about? I’m talking about that if I tell you what I am drinking and instead of saying, “I’m drinking Diet Coke.” And then you ask me “what are you drinking?” “I’m drinking a Coke product.” And then you ask me again, “what are you drinking?” “I’m drinking a beverage.” What are you drinking? Refreshments. What do you mean? What are you drinking? Liquidity. I think the move in the book is towards the liquidity instead of the concreteness of the historical and the specific situation of colonial situations. And perhaps Walter and Catherine will say, look, in relation to the western cognitive empire, we do need also our big abstraction.
So, we do need colonial situation, we do need that big singularity, we do need a big noun to, I suppose, because we’re dealing with big processes and complex situations, we, I suppose, we have to be, I’m going to say it with quotation marks, we have to be somewhat simplistic in our discourse in countering that big phenomenon. And I will close down again with the same type of critique of a little bit of a, I say this carefully and empathetically, a little bit of a simplistic explanation that essentializes racial and ethnic categories, because what Walter did there is a very simplistic painting with the palettes of the white, brown, yellow, red, and brown. Now, if we look at 500 years, I don’t know about you, but you know, after two or three generations, I get tangled up. Things will be very complicated precisely because we’re dealing with complex processes and transformations. So, if we approach a country like Mexico, or a country like India with a colonial label or decoloniality label, in the last three, four, five hundred years on, unless we historicize carefully what we’re talking about, we are going to be ending up in some type of general formulaic dichotomy of colonizer/colonized that, to me I think, at times, it will not help understand much less get out of situations.
And I will close out with the following general problem that is I embrace the problem myself. I’m not throwing the problems out; I’m embracing the problem. If the West is The House of Being, I suppose, both Walter and Catherine’s wager is to go red, to go indigenous. Now, why not brown? Why not Latino? Why not white or ethnic white? They zero in on the indigenous, so the automatic question is why that operation, what he says, a leap into the void? Is it a way of presenting, as opposed to racist structure, something that they’re not going to take and simply is a way of a provocation? You cannot be, Walter, or you can say you’re learning from Tink, and Tink only. You cannot essentialize the source of information, the native source of information, and disregard all the things, because otherwise you’re simply privileging what I said before at the very beginning, the minority route or path into an honest production. So again, that is, I suppose, points of challenge to issues and complications that are not – if we put decoloniality with different categories, not essentialize the category, it cannot just be a feeling. It cannot just be an essentialist assumption of something. If we put decoloniality with the category of labor or geography and temporality. I said before, time spaces, anytime spaces, there will be a plurality of collectivity doing a plurality of things. So, therefore, there are no givens. And I close out with the following: here we are in the digital world. So, what does it mean to appeal to land or time-space when we’re dealing with the increasing penetration of other digital culture and the colonization of data and very complex phenomena that we’re all trying to understand or catch up with that are taking us all by surprise and disrupting all the categories that, speaking of code, that is the dominant code nowadays? The Amazons, the Netflix. Thank you.
Catherine Walsh: I have a number of responses, Fernando. First, I think, and this isn’t my response, it’s not justification, but it’s also thinking with what the project of the book was. It was to open a book series to begin to introduce the categories, the processes, the actions, the postures, the attitudes that underscore the series, but not to go into major abstraction or depth because it was an introductory book with the idea that this is a collective project, which is the series, and that other texts will follow from different authors, from different places, from different perspectives. So, we were both, I think Walter, if I can say this, we were both very careful about not assuming an authorship or an ownership of many of the issues that we cover. In my own case, as I mentioned in the beginning, we wrote in two different parts because part of our argument was, yes, this is different voices and different and different embodied people writing this from different histories, herstories and trajectories.
So, in that sense, my part takes what I consider essential is thinking from a lived praxis, both from a praxis that has crossed and been part of my story, but also or many of those social movements, communities, and people’s which I’ve been asked to sit and listen to and work with. To thank, with more than anything. So, at least I can say in my part it’s not a generality but it’s rather thinking from people I’m in conversation continually with. Everyone, every example that’s included in this first part is somehow part of my own road of walking, and asking, and thinking with which was a challenge in and of itself, because I had to leave a lot out. We had a. certain length of the book that we had to keep in mind. But I also feel somewhat uncomfortable, Fernando, with some of your language, both in your comments now and your comments before. To think about minority-majority, to think about non-white as a category which, I believe Shamanth put in one of the chats doesn’t exist, which I agree does not exist.
In the notion of third world, the notion also that diversity and inclusion, that democracy or democracies are maybe part of decoloniality, which I would strongly disagree with. This is part of a much longer conversation that maybe we can have in some other space, but I’m very fearful of what I’ve referred to in the book as “decolonial dangers,” as the notion of decoloniality is as true as Eve Tuck and Wayne Yang say making decolonization a metaphor, making it mean everything and taking away its significance of struggle, of doing, of action and of the intertwine of thought, of being, of knowledge, of life. So, that’s my short response but I think we also need to be very cognizant and that goes back to Tink’s words before of how we use language and what language signifies and constructs in terms of a particular view of peoples, of world, of struggle, of life.
Walter Mignolo: I disagree now with Fernando. First I agree and now disagree. I think you missed the point, you missed the target by far on two counts, and I will just mention the two counts. This is not a book on the tradition of Latin American philosophy or thought. It’s like if you say to a psychologist kind of after Freud, you said, “Well, why don’t you think about young and there are many… No.” Quijano is our Freud, is our Marx, is the way we began to think about that. If you read my The Idea of Latin America, there you have a woman. No question about that. But Quijano offers something, he opens up the colonial matrix of power. So, you missed the point on that. And the second point is when we talk about brown and yellow, etc. – it’s not us, it’s Immanuel Kant. It’s Immanuel Kant that established the classification of people of color according to the four continents that was kind of already canonized in the 18th century.
So, the first target that you missed goes to the second. My part of the book is addressing Western epistemology as kind of, as I said before, as kind of breaking the code. So that is the main thing. I am not talking about The Wretched of the Earth; I am talking about how The Wretched of the Earth were possible. What is the logic, the system that made that possible? And once we know how the system works and continues to work, so what are the kind of possibilities we have to get out? And that is where decoloniality is kind of name the grammar of many ways of decolonization. And I said in my first part that people are kind of doing today, trying to delink, get out, extricate themselves from what modernity, coloniality, neoliberalism or Marxists want them to be.
So that is what pluriversality means, it’s where people began to take their destiny in their own hands, and they are starting to take destiny in their own hand because they began to realize that it’s not just capitalism; it’s larger than capitalism that’s kind of controlling our life. So that is the structure. So, the question is, we have a macro-history of western micro-history and macro theory. So, if we don’t do that, I say, well, you see, I told you. These people are not able to think by themselves. They need our theory in order to kind of understand themselves. That is the big point of my book. It’s up, not down.
Tink Tinker: Thank you, I will in just a few words because we only have a few minutes left. If I talk about what we American Indians in the United States, indigenous peoples, native peoples on Turtle Island hope for, we do have a vision that is beginning to congeal about what we want to happen for our children and grandchildren. I ended a piece I wrote a year ago with the question: When I die and I go into the Wanagi world, will my ancestors recognize me as Indian? As native? As wazhazhe? I’m a citizen of the Osage Nation. Will they recognize me? Or will I have been so colonized that they, the old ones, will no longer recognize me as one of themselves? That’s my greatest fear. I have a 12-year-old daughter. I have sons who are in their 40s and 30s, but I have a 12-year-old daughter and I’m really trying to coach her into understanding what it means to be wazhazhe.
How to handle herself as a wazhazhe woman so that our ancestors will recognize her when it’s her time to cross over into that Wanagi world. That means we’ve got some serious decolonizing ahead of us. Some serious decoding of this colonial matrix of power and all that that represents. It’s a matter of attacking all the institutions around us because none of them have any distance from or freedom from being colonizer institutions. Museums are filled with artifacts stolen from our ancestors’ villages 100, 200 years ago. Those are colonial institutions of power. I’ve been invited to come look at exhibits that come to museums in Denver and I usually declined saying I’m just not a museum person, I can’t give the museum that kind of credence. And it gets done the same way, all over the colonized world. In Taiwan it’s Mandarin peoples who are the colonizers and so there’s a new museum on the east coast of Taiwan in a city called Taitung, a new museum to indigenous people of Taiwan. And there are some 20 or 30 indigenous communities all isolated on the east coast of Taiwan. I went into the museum; my son lives there and he wanted to take me. I was struck with how this museum is just like every American Indian artifact anthropological museum in the U.S., and it’s brand new. So, they had one nation, they call them, again, tribes just as colonizers do here. They want to make sure we’re not called “nations,” because that gives a status equal to the United States, they want to make sure we know we’re less than so they call us “tribes.”
Even the word nation is one of those nominative abstractions that doesn’t quite work. But as I went from one room to the next room the museum had model exhibits of one tribe after another and all of their artifacts. So, we can’t get away from colonialism even by leaving the United States and going to some place like Taiwan. That means we’ve got a lot of work to do. And I think that work is decolonizing – it’s a verb, it’s an action and it’s really tough, for me, Catherine, to try and make decoloniality a verb, it really is. And impossible for me to go into an Indian community and tell them decoloniality is a verb. But I respect you all and look forward to more conversation. That’s all I had to say.
Victor Taylor: Thank you very much, Tink. And, if I may, just very quickly, Roger, Charles H. Long, the great historian of religion taught for many years at Syracuse, went to Santa Barbara, he used to tell a story. I don’t know the origin of it, but I’ll sort of paraphrase it. There was a museum exhibition of an indigenous group of people, and they invited some members of the community to attend the opening and one ethnologist and anthropologist after another gave a report on the community and the people. And, at the end of the session and they turned to the representatives of the community and they said, well, what do you think of our exhibit? and Professor Long said, the response was from the community, “these sound like very interesting people, we hope to meet them someday.” If you knew Charles Long you know the significance of his of his stories.
Thank you very much. H was a remarkable professor and person. I want to thank everyone, especially our panelists tonight, I think it was a wonderful discussion, it was a wonderful day, actually.