A Brief Definition of Decolonization and Indigenization

March 29, 2017

Decolonization once viewed as the formal process of handing over the instruments of government, is now recognized as a long-term process involving the bureaucratic, cultural, linguistic and psychological divesting of colonial power [1] 

Make indigenous; subject to native influence [2] 

 cultural assimilation-128432-edited.jpg

Ever since the release in 2015 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s summary report on residential schools there has been an awakening on the part of non-Indigenous Canadians to the harsh realities of the Indigenous experience in Canada. The Commission’s 94 calls-to-action (CTAs) have ignited organizations and institutions to examine their operations and identify ways to answer and implement applicable CTAs. These actions and initiatives often lead to discussions on a broader context about decolonization and indigenization. But, what do those terms mean? This article provides a very basic explanation of a very complex topic.


  • Decolonization restores the Indigenous world view
  • Decolonization restores culture and  traditional ways
  • Decolonization replaces Western interpretations of history with Indigenous perspectives of history

Decolonization is about shifting the way Indigenous Peoples view themselves and the way non-Indigenous people view Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Peoples are reclaiming the family, community, culture, language, history and traditions that were taken from them under the federal government policies designed for assimilation. Some communities are reclaiming control via self-government agreements, treaties, or other negotiated agreements. It’s about revealing, renewal and rediscovery.

For more on self-government, download our free ebook An Overview of Indigenous Self-Government

Decolonization requires non-Indigenous Canadians to recognize and accept the reality of Canada’s colonial history, accept how that history paralyzed Indigenous Peoples, and how it continues to subjugate Indigenous Peoples. Decolonization requires non-Indigenous individuals, governments, institutions and organizations to create the space and support for Indigenous Peoples to reclaim all that was taken from them.


  • Indigenization recognizes validity of Indigenous worldviews, knowledge and perspectives
  • Indigenization identifies opportunities for indigeneity to be expressed
  • Indigenization incorporates Indigenous ways of knowing and doing

Indigenization requires non-Indigenous people to be aware of Indigenous worldviews and to respect that those worldviews are equal to other views. Indigenization is about incorporating Indigenous worldviews, knowledge and perspectives into the education system, right from primary grades to universities.

It must be acknowledged that there is not a homogenous Indigenous worldview, and that each Indigenous nation or community will have their own worldview. There may be similarities and common points but it is a frequently made assumption that they are all the same. Therefore, when an organization, say a school district, makes a commitment to indigenize their curriculum they need consult with the Indigenous community on whose land the schools stand for input on how to incorporate their knowledge and ways of doing into the curriculum.

Both decolonization and indigenization require the cooperation of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, governments, organizations and institutions. We hope this basic explanation provides some food for thought and will inspire you to learn more about decolonization and indigenization.

[1] Linda Tuhiwai Smith 2012

[2] Oxford Canadian Dictionary

Here's a free ebook that explains Indigenous self-government. Click the image to grab your copy.



Topics: Indigenous Awareness

Indigenous Corporate Training Inc., provides information on this blog for free as a resource for those seeking information about Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Readers looking for more detailed information, or who have questions, can sign up for our fee-for-service training. Also, ICT encourages everyone who reads this information to use their best judgment given their own circumstances, vulnerabilities, and needs, and to contact a consulting or legal professional if you have more specific questions. Join the conversation over on our Linkedin page.