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  • Kim Senklip Harvey

Indigenous Theatre Must Be Anti-Imperialist

I saw this tweet this morning:

Now, I've had my fair share of traumatic western medical experiences, so I try and take a white male with me every time I have an appointment. This got me thinking about the complex navigations IBPOC peoples have to do, to ensure our safety and ability to thrive in a imperial dominated state.

I began diving into how detrimental this colonial positioning is because of its effective entrenchment into imperial patriarchy. We are positioned to have to navigate so many systems that force us to adopt state approved, white supremacist ways of being and this results in IBPOC's becoming state agents.

For IBPOC's if we're not ingraining ourselves with state approved ontology - aka becoming convenient canadians, we're having to exhaust ourselves with canadian choreography to advocate for our safety - like bringing white men to hospitals with us.

But what does having a white male/or imperial sidekicks do to a person?

By being forced to use white guises, the proximity and comfort they bring is sure to leave residue, this is the insidious and systemic dexterity of imperial colonialism. And you can only be conscious of the residue, if you're conscious of using a guise. Many IBPOC peoples have yet to become conscious of their colonial imperialism and thus have always been state agents.

In both these scenarios, the result is the relinquishing of IBPOC power to imperial systems and people which cause some incredibly frustrating and disappointing scenarios that oppress Indigenous matriarchy and uphold imperial patriarchy.

I watched Remember the Titans the other day, now this movie has it's problems but it was enlightening and to be honest difficult and uncomfortable to watch, how many times Coach Boone was undermined.

How many times people questioned is approach, method, authority and abilities.

I don’t think people really get how often white folks are undermining IBPOC's. If they aren’t questioning our authority, they are accosting us with varying outbursts of colonial violence. Where most times nobody says anything because being violence to IBPOC peoples is so acceptable.

I don't think a lot of people understand how challenging and complex it is for leaders to curate environments that are not only attempting to create compelling results, but simultaneously create entirely new systems and methodologies, truly is.

This imperial violence undermines the preparatory work I've done.

It undermines the process.

It undermines IBPOC power.

It undermines IBPOC knowledge.

It undermines IBPOC sovereignty.

And no matter how "good" the intentions were of the person, I know when I'm dealing with state agents, and people embodying state agent conditioning and characteristics and I don't need it ever because it's anti-Indigenous.

This does not mean my leadership is perfect, thinking it could or would ever be is amateur leadership and a form of self harm because those are impossible expected outcomes. I know success is built on a collection of failures, like golf, one of the most frustrating sports where you literally walk to your mistake and you do that again and again and again.


So imperialists people and organizations attempting to come in with white power to try and "save" IBPOC people from challenges, undermines our sovereignty.

From coaching Team Canada Men's Roller Derby, I know when skaters need to fall and fall and fall and fall so their success becomes their own, my leadership style is informed by this transformational methodology. I create soft places for my artists to land, with talking circles and wellness tables, but the work and my ethics are hard because that is what it's going to take to dismantle imperialism in Indigenous creation practice.

And those undermining this is colonially violent. I'm thoughtfully and meticulously making leadership decisions to try and get these almost impossible sovereign outcomes: 1. compelling results and 2. new methodology.

But white people being violent is not new and not surprising so what’s most disappointing, is how the imperial conditioning makes state agents out of IBPOC’s. colonial conditioning has gone unchecked for so long, the generations above not only permiss violent by behaviour - they protect and uphold it. So many IBPOC leaders are thrusted into positions they have no training they become state agents who endorse imperial colonialism.

The more leadership positions I take, the more IBPOC peoples I find who have been indoctrinated into colonial ontology. IBPOC peoples appreciating and sanctioning violence against our own. For the fear of troubling imperial hegemony is often too great, the status quo colonial state becomes comforting and safe not just for white settlers but for IBPOC imperialists.

And I get it, truly, I get why this conditioning happens, for many of our people have endured a lot of trauma and they need white guises, sidekicks to "help" "protect" them, I get it. But this doesn't work in Indigenous theatre, this level of imperialism undermines it.

So now I'm hyper focused, on how I navigate this curation, this weeding out imperialism.

I’m not really interested in whose a settler anymore, I’m concerned with whose been indoctrinated by imperialism. Whose upholding “canada” the crown, imperial ways of being and systems makings: and you don’t have to be white to be an imperialist.

I’ve been doing a lot of deep work and have realized Indigenous theatre for me, is not about the content of the play, it’s not even about the race of whose creating the team - which I originally thought it was - it’s about the artistic teams ability to assert Indigenous sovereignty and refuse colonial imperialism.

And because many Indigenous peoples perpetuate this, I won’t curate my teams just by whose Indigenous, they are going to be assembled with people who inconvenience themselves, who thrust themselves out of colonial dogma, who refuse imperial hegemony.

This is the path of Indigenous resistance.

I’ve realized that’s why the Kamloopa company worked, there were no imperialists, Indigenous methodology was embodied at all stages, nobody clinged to colonial frameworks. If we were struggling, we humbly sat and chatted through it, from an Indigenous paradigm with what I look back on now as astounding level artistic self-awareness - I'm beyond in awe of what that team accomplished.

I will continue to curate my teams from these Indigenous ontological metrics. I have no time for any type of imperialists because the work is challenging enough. I don’t need state agents in complex creation moments, I need anti-imperialists with guts and grit.

With deep love and hope that IBPOC agents will consciously and courageously come home, and the excitement to work with artists with grit,



p.s I'm off to the University of the Valley today to guest lecture two courses and I'm beyond excited. Limelet Michelle LaFlemme for making this space and centering Indigenous Matriarchy.

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