Self-location is an important cognitive function. It shows us how perception and action are interrelated, how one’s self-perception and one’s capacity to act–and the range of replies they find available to themselves–are connected.

Self-location, when discussing indigeneity and imperialism, encourages listeners and participants to reposition themselves in the conversation. Self-location is a pushback at colonialism. It requires that people consider, often for the first time, how they arrived here, why they are here, who they share this space with, and what that might mean for others.

Some questions to consider:

  • Who are you? What is your name? Your name tells a story–what is that story?
  • Who are your ancestors? Your family, biological or fictive? What are your ties, and which way to they extend? (Out, down, up, all three?) Who roots you?
  • What brought your ancestors to North America? To the U.S.? To Tennessee?
  • Do you know the history of the land you live/work on? Does that history encompass indigenous narratives, or just settler narratives?
  • Have your family or ancestors been impacted by colonization, oppression, structural violence, or war?
  • Have you benefitted from settler systems in North America?

The purpose of this exercise is not to make anyone feel excluded, or unwelcome. The purpose is to help people position themselves appropriately for the discussion.

Establishing where we exist in relation to the thing we’re going to do is critical, as decolonizing is about doing.



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