Building an Indigenized Future

Building an Indigenized Future

News articles about COVID-19 regularly ask, “When can we return to normal?” As Indigenous people working at an Indigenous-led organization, we’re asking a much different question: “What could a new normal look like?” Rather than returning to the pre-COVID-19 world, we’re trying to build an entirely new one. 

Now, more than ever, we’re thinking about how to rebuild our systems in a truly Indigenous way. Native nations are resilient. We’ve managed to hold onto our culture and values, despite great odds. We’re innovating through our Tribal colleges, language revitalization programs, and our sustainable food and energy systems, to name just a few examples.

The work to Indigenize our communities is still ongoing, though. Internalized oppression is real. Sometimes, rather than honoring the knowledge held by our elders for centuries, we use colonized structures to lead our nations. Lateral oppression causes us to bring others down, too. So, while we’re making progress, there’s still a lot of space for us to grow. 

We are building new systems.

The COVID-19 crisis is inflicting serious pain on Indian Country. The virus has exacerbated existing inequalities that stem from hundreds of years of colonial violence. The federal government’s failed promises to provide us with adequate healthcare services are now even more visible. Our people suffer from underlying health conditions and compromised immune systems as a result of historical trauma and environmental racism. Tribal leaders, along with grassroots Indigenous changemakers, are working around the clock to keep our communities safe, oftentimes with limited resources.

COVID-19 has dismantled the world as we know it. While many mourn the loss of our “normal” way of life, we see this moment as a positive path forward for Indigenous changemakers. We’ll certainly face many difficult days during the coming weeks and months. We’ll also find space to dream. Don’t be afraid to envision a new future. Think about a world that’s Indigenous-led and beautiful. What do you see? 

We are excited to take this journey with you. Conversations about rebuilding are happening in Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) communities around the world, and we can’t wait to learn from them. This article is the first in our new series focused specifically on building an Indigenized future. Over the next several months, we’ll dig into a variety of topics related to rebuilding post-COVID-19. Our series will be informational and inspirational: by reflecting on what inspires us, together we can build a new Indigenized future. 

Where we’re finding inspiration:

Pearl Walker-Swaney (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, White Earth Nation) does amazing work supporting Indigenous changemakers as a program manager at Native Governance Center. In addition, she inspires us through her poetry and her writing. Check out her blog, and follow her on Instagram (@constantmotionpoetry).

“A woman’s strength// backbone,” Pearl Walker-Swaney:

Constant motion woman poetry