The Five Stages of Decolonization

A few colleagues and I have discussed where our programs are positioned in relation to the stages of decolonizing. So when Amber McZeal recently shared the Five Stages of Decolonization by Poka Laenui in her Decolonizing Somatics course, it just clicked for me:

  • The first stage is a call to rediscovery and recovery, where a colonized of previously colonized region actively rediscovers it roots in order to reclaim the value of its own culture, history and traditions of its own particular region. This stage, for example, has been observed in Hawaii beginning around the 1960’s, with new movements in Hawaiian music and literature.

  • The second stage is labelled as the stage of grief and mourning, where people as a community, process and understand any trauma that the colonized may have experienced. This is often expressed in the form of anger, frustration, and protest.

  • The third stage of decolonization, often labeled as the most crucial, is the process of building the future of the proposed new culture. This takes place most commonly through debate or consultation where discussions involve the future of the culture, the governing procedures and body and the reestablishment of culture.

  • The fourth stage comes as a result of a successful third stage, where the fourth stage is about commitment to a single decided cause and direction for the culture. This stage is a collection of all of the people’s voices that are unified in a direction so clear cut that the culture can proceed to the final stage.

  • The fifth and most commonly final stage of decolonization is the action (or postactivism as Báyò Akómoláfé says) that towards said unified goal, which can express itself in a variety of ways, through reclaiming what was once theirs. The process of the previous four stages sometimes cannot be afforded to a culture if they are under serious threat, in which case the fifth stage tends to manifest itself faster. Although often unavoidable, this could lead to potential issues, such as a lack in unification of further future goal of the culture.

Decolonizing Time and liberating Flow are places for dreaming in collective to create new ways of being that are grounded in ancestral traditions, traditions that ensured our survival to be alive and awake in this Time.

When we lead from initiated places of postactivism we aren’t coming from unresolved anger or out of touch know-it-all that can be soaked in a righteous white saviorism that has tainted so much of the activism of this Time. The outcome of that dreaming is a deep sense of commitment coupled with relationship to Place/Space/Time/Cosmos.

Stages 1 & 2 rediscovering/recovering cultural roots and grieving and mourning what was lost inform the dreaming and connect us back to our ancestors’ resilience to thrive.

Having rituals and collective accountability ensures that the characteristics of white supremacy culture are kept in check in an essential daily practice, because those systems of oppression dominate how to be in this world. And when we are edgewalking new ways of being (fugitivity as Báyò Akómoláfé says), we must not walk that path alone.

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Land Lineage

I was raised and bore children on the traditional, unceded and stolen lands of the Coast and Central Valley Miwok (colonized as Petaluma, CA) and Nisenan (colonized as Sacramento and Fair Oaks, CA), past, present, and future. I also write, work, and live at the base of Huitepec in the highland forest of the traditional, unceded and stolen lands of the Winik Atel (Tzeltal) and Batsil Winik’ Otik (Tzotzil), past present and future, in what is known as San Cristobal Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.