decolonization poster campaign hits hard but finds an audience at MRU

inspiration came through past poster successes


do you think Indigenous people get everything for free? if you do, your mind is colonized.

 

is your mind colonized? a poster campaign at mount royal university is challenging students, faculty and staff to think deeply about their beliefs and biases regarding Indigenous Peoples and colonization in canada.

and while the posters have become a familiar sight and talking point on campus, the campaign by the office of Indigenization and decolonization has also captured the interest of a number of schools and institutions around alberta as canadians as a whole continue down the road to reconciliation.

the concept of Indigenization and decolonization can be complicated, challenging, even overwhelming. the idea behind the campaign is to capture attention with a short question (see sidebar) in the hopes it will lead to investigation and deeper contemplation about what it means to live with a “colonized mind.”

“if you think about decolonizing and indigenizing, it means changing the way a person is thinking,” dr. linda manyguns, phd., AVP, Indigenization and decolonization at mount royal, says.

“i thought back through history to other initiatives in canada where the social context of people’s minds had been changed. one of the most significant postering events occurred during the second world war when the government needed women to step out of the kitchens and taking care of children to go to work in factories, welding, or riveting etc. that campaign changed society's attitude about the role of Canadian women. this change took place through their postering campaign.

“if they can do that, changing gender roles, that’s radical. this is radical, too, and if we can create posters that jar people with ideas they may never have heard of, it can open up that process of inquiry, make people wonder, ‘gee, I never heard of that,’ or, ‘gee, is that true?’ as long as you can get them to ‘oh, gee,’ then no matter what the message is you’ve already jarred their thinking, and so that is the impetus for the campaign.”


if you think Indigenous people had no agricultural knowledge - then you have a colonized mind.

 

the poster questions, manyguns says, were unfortunately easy to come up with as Indigenous people live with these stereotypes every day. sadly, they are a part of canadian society, not through education but through the lack of education. government(s) promoted continued assimilation by literally removing truths about Indigenous Peoples from school curriculums.

the truth and reconciliation commission’s final report, which included a number of calls to action directed towards post-secondary education, and more recently this summer’s discovery of unmarked graves at many former residential school sites, has brought Indigenization into sharp focus.

"mount royal is committed to Indigenization and decolonization, and to the calls to action of the truth and reconciliation commission," says dr. mike quinn, phd, vice-provost, associate vice-president, academic. "that work can take many forms and with this campaign linda has taken a direct and impactful approach to encouraging all members of our community to stop and think hard about their preconceived notions and biases. hopefully this inspires us all to learn more about the Indigenous experience in canada."

to help those who read the posters along their own journey to Indigenization, the mru.ca/decolonize page is a repository of information about Indigenization at mru with links to other sites with information about Indigenous Peoples and their history and culture.

manyguns, who credits the mru library for helping pull together a vast trove of information, says it was important to her to expand this initiative beyond the classroom.

“it’s fabulous that institutions have native studies courses but very few people actually take them. it’s a small population so all that wonderful work and research we’ve done is only available to a very narrow group of people. the website opens up access to new information that’s been emerging over the years and is available through native studies.”


if you think Aboriginal people had no justice system - you have a colonized mind.

 

manyguns said she was prepared for some negative feedback when the posters went up. instead, she says the reaction has been largely positive.

“Anybody i met who has seen the posters says: ‘oh, yes, i saw the posters. this is great.  because it’s hitting everything right on the nail.’ We’re going right into the stereotypes.”

the students’ association of mount royal university’s vice-president, student affairs, joseph nguyen agrees the campaign has been received well by students.

“the decolonization posters are incredible: simple, clear, insightful, visually appealing and straight to the point,” he says. “students have been sharing pictures of these posters on instagram, facebook and twitter to spread awareness. there's lots of great feedback on it. i am happy to pass the posters every day to see that mru is heading towards decolonization and Indigenization.”

school boards around alberta, including calgary public, rocky view, Siksika, Blood, Peigan and grand prairie public, as well as the rocky mountain school district centred in invermere, b.c., will be bringing the poster campaign to their schools. each poster will have the mru logo to let participants know the university is behind the initiative.

“now we’re rolling out the for-profit segment and we have many corporations that are interested as well,” manyguns says. “we’re asking for a donation from them. that donation will help bring elders to mru and into our classes to help support and build the flow of traditional thinkers' knowledge.”

back at mru, a new set of posters will be unveiled next semester. The current posters are being rotated so each location has different messages periodically.

manyguns says she’s “hoping in the future that students will give me the comments and questions so they can come directly from them.”

 

Questions that have been turned into large posters around campus:

 

do you think Indigenous people get everything for free?

if you do, your mind is colonized.

 

do you think Indigenous people have not contributed to society?

if you do, your mind is colonized.

 

do you think Indigenous people have the same opportunities as other canadians?

if you do, then your mind is colonized.

 

were you surprised when they found the children’s bodies?

if you were, then your mind is colonized.

 

decolonize your mind with the office of Indigenization and decolonization’s knowledge-sharing website.

dec. 8, 2021 — peter glenn

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