I used to say I lived in two worlds as an Indigenous person.
The indigenous world and the white world.
Until my partner challenged that notion. And I began to think differently.
To say that that we live in “two worlds” is to downplay the reality that we are simply putting more energy into living in colonial systems vs living in indigenous systems.
To say we live in “two worlds” is similar to how the colonizer perceived (and still often perceives) indigenous peoples, and indigenous systems.
A whole new world.
A new world to colonize, take over, assimilate, commit genocide on, and massacre.
To say that we live in two worlds shows an “othering” of indigenous systems.
It was like saying that indigenous systems existed on another foreign, distant, planet that we only visit when it is convenient .
When in reality, indigenous systems, what I used to call one of the “two worlds,” exists as their own sovereign system within a world that formerly thrived off of indigenous systems, wherein now it is a world dying off of colonial systems.
If I were to say I was living in “two worlds” today, I would want the colonial world far, far away, in some distant universe.
And a life fully immersed in indigenous systems. In a world free of global warming, stolen lands, genocide, assimilation, raped and murdered indigenous children, women, and mothers.
And a world that knew how to heal.
The only “other” worlds that exist within indigenous systems are “worlds” that the star people come from, the little people and Sasquatch live in, the worlds where our ancestors live, and the countless others where the ones who watch over us, protect us, warn us, and can even scare us, live. But they’re not considered other “worlds.” Because in Indigenous systems, all of these places remain together, only showing themselves when necessary. There is no “othering” in indigenous systems.
I don’t have one moccasin in the “indigenous” world and one in the “white world.” For both of my feet stand firm in my Indigenous identity, who I am and where I come from, and both feet allow me to practice my sovereignty and practice daily acts of homage to my bloodlines and generations of matriarchs and medicine women who existed before me.
As an Indigenous person attending university classes, working in a colonial job, or living in a city does not mean one is “walking in two worlds.”
While sitting in the classrooms, sitting in the offices, or sitting in the house on the city street, we are one hundred percent indigenous through and through. There is no need to dissolve or sacrifice our values, morals, or beliefs as an indigenous person just because we are going to university, working a colonial job, or living in a city.
We do not change who we are or where we come from as an Indigenous person just because we are living and operating within these colonial systems.
And the land? The world? It remains as one in the same no matter where we walk as indigenous peoples. The lands where many of these cities and universities stands were the very same lands that buffalo were hunted, nomadic lifestyles were lived, kinship systems were built, and Indian wars took place. They are lands that indigenous systems were practiced on, and the land fell in love with those practices.
It was never split into a “colonial world,” these lands. Colonial systems are just attempting to “steal” and overtake land that lovingly supports indigenous systems.
The challenging part that we see unfolding? Its when indigenous peoples begin operating and believing that colonial systems are superior over indigenous peoples, with the belief that cities and urban settings are no longer places for the land to fall in love with indigenous systems. Therefore they begin to prioritize colonial success over the practice of indigenous ways of being.
This is often the outcome of having the belief that there are “two worlds,” and that we have to “choose” one within our lives. In these situations, colonial systems are chosen versus the practice of indigenous systems.
If the two world idea dissolved, indigenous peoples could easily operate as indigenous peoples, with their beliefs, values, morals, and ideas completely intact within colonial systems, and still manage to commit to practicing their ways of life within indigenous systems.
Or even better, indigenous peoples could easily recognize that colonial systems (not the colonial world, because it’s their systems, not a world) are full of toxic beliefs, stereotypical idealizations, and assimilation tactics that are poison to our children and our nations, and focus fully on gaining the knowledge needed for practicing indigenous systems.
We see it in how indigenous families are raising their children, sending them off to colonial schools to focus on a future within colonial systems. We see it in the trap that indigenous young people often fall into when they strive to thrive in colonial systems. We see it in indigenous adults as they attempt to find their “indigenous self” while living in colonial systems (when realistically their “indigenous self” already exists and thrives within them, colonial systems have just trained their brains to keep it hidden.)
However there is a magic. The magic is in the babies and the old ones. Indigenous babies and our old ones idealizations of “two worlds,” or of making a life in colonial systems is non-existent. An infant knows who they are and where they come from, being as they have just made the journey straight from source, straight from their ancestors. And the old ones? They have lived and thrived within indigenous systems, even though residential schools, the 60’s scoop, the child welfare system, and every other act and policy of assimilation and genocide occurred in their lives. Even though colonialism continues to attempt to force the old ones to live in colonial systems, they remain fully committed, and invested in, indigenous systems,
To indigenous babies, and the old ones, “two worlds,” and the concept of living in “colonial systems” is mostly an idea that is not even a choice.
There may be a few that believe otherwise, however, many of our old ones have generations of knowledge based on indigenous systems that it has become interwoven in their DNA, bloodlines, and etched in their skin.
The reality is, the only one feeding the “two world” concept is colonialism. The idea is fed in day care and preschool classrooms to our tiny children, in public school systems to our children and young people, and in university, city settings, and all non-land related settings. It is almost as if these settings reiterate the importance of getting a “good colonial education” and a “good colonial job” in the “colonial world” in order to survive.
While indigenous systems wait quietly, and patiently, for these children, young people, and adults to come home and rebuild their connection with the knowledge in the ground and in the waters.
The scare tactics often seen in colonial systems for indigenous peoples to make a “choice” and commit to colonialism continues the toxic facade of this “choose the colonial world” logic that many indigenous peoples are complying with.
It’s not only in stolen indigenous lands where colonial systems are built on now that we see this “choose the colonial world” logic occurring. It’s even within indigenous communities, where individuals strive for chief and council positions that are fully regulated, and based on, colonial principals and ideas. It’s apparent when colonial chiefs tell their communities to comply to pipelines rather than complying to natural law. It’s evident when community members are telling others to vote “yes” on colonial projects that will wreck havoc on the land and destroy indigenous territories.
If we followed the truth, that there are no “two worlds” and instead saw colonial systems for what they truly are- our energy, time, and commitment would flow abundantly into indigenous systems- which in itself is a direct act of love to our children and future generations.
I used to think I lived in “two worlds” as an indigenous person. The Indian “world” and the white “world.”
Now, I know that indigenous systems are my priority. Therefore dissolving the notion that indigenous systems live on some foreign, distant planet, and instead exist naturally within me, around me, and makes up all of the universe.
Artwork by: Melanie Cervantes
Andrea Landry is Anishinaabe from Pawgwasheeng (Pays Plat First Nation) but currently resides on Treaty Six territory in Poundmaker Cree Nation. She holds a Masters in Communications and Social Justice from the University of Windsor. She teaches Indigenous Studies and for the University of Saskatchewan, and formerly was heavily engaged with international Indigenous politics at the UN level, travelling the globe to find justice in community level issues. Yet her real passion lies in her work in the areas of grief and recovery, suicide prevention, family systems, and community healing. Her life right now is focused on the path of motherhood and healthy parenting as she raises her new baby, River-Jaxsen, alongside her partner. She is also available for speaking engagements and for workshops on a variety of topics for young people and adults.
Andrea Landry believes that the route to healing from colonialism comes from the heart work that most people avoid in our communities and through how one chooses to raise their children. Through forgiveness, overcoming colonial systems being seen as a means for solutions, and prioritizing indigenous ways of being over colonial ways of being, Andrea believes our communities can become as healthy as they were prior to colonization. For our nations to thrive, we must thrive as parents, families, and communities.