Has society learned anything from the devasting effects of colonialism?
One of the primary reasons people have such strong reactions to news about colonialism is how it irreversibly altered the course of many Indigenous cultures. Many Indigenous people worldwide had their land seized and resources exploited during colonial times. Many argue that this led to economic and cultural devastation for the original first peoples. Even after the end of colonial rule, these effects are still felt today.
In many ways, the economic damage caused by colonialism is similar to that caused by natural disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes. It is impossible to reverse either type of damage once it has occurred. To reconcile with the damage of colonialism, we must examine and understand the cause of it to ensure it can never be repeated. Next, reconstruction efforts must occur so Indigenous lands can again be home to thriving cultures. Without both of these, there’s no way that the healing caused by colonialism can begin.
Present-day Indigenous peoples still feel the effects of colonialism. For example, many argue that the poverty rates among Indigenous people in North America are still affected by how European colonists treated them in the past. And one of the most destructive acts to Indigenous culture was the construction of Residential and Indian Day Schools, most run by the Catholic Church.
The brutal, inhumane facilities were established to “Kill the Indian” in Indigenous people. In the process, tens of thousands of Indigenous children and people were displaced from their homes, and many of them never returned. And those who made it home endured unimaginable sexual, emotional, mental and physical abuse.
In addition, many unsettled land claims have been tied up in the court systems for decades. Their ancestors originally owned this land, which was only taken from them due to colonialism.
At first glance, it seems like there’s no way to begin to reconcile with the Indigenous people for the damage caused by colonialism. After all, greedy colonists did irreparable harm to Indigenous lands and cultures long ago. That being said, a few things can be done in response to this behaviour.
First, it’s essential to financially penalize those who stole from the Indigenous people in the past through taxes and other means of reparation. This will help pay off debts incurred by colonists centuries ago while also repairing some of the cultural damage done to those cultures in the first place. After that, reconstruction efforts must occur so that these Indigenous lands can again be home to thriving cultures. E
Based on what we know today, it’s easy to see why so many people have adverse reactions when they hear stories about colonial times- especially when it comes down to economic or cultural devastation or mistreatment of the Indigenous peoples’ histories and heritage areas. However, it’s important to remember that these effects are still felt decades after colonization ended.