Let’s Talk About Decolonization

Uneasy about discussing colonialism—and its related issues like Standing Rock and Indigenous-led resistance—with your students? Here are some resources to get you started.

The Standing Rock protest thrust the historic and continued colonization of the United States into public consciousness. It also presented an uncomfortable reality—a whop on the side of the head—that as non-Indigenous people, we are settlers living on colonized land.

From the landing of Christopher Columbus through Standing Rock, Indigenous peoples of many different tribes and cultures have resisted the colonization of their land.

Some teachers are hesitant to unpack and discuss challenging issues like this with their students because it feels complex and uncomfortable. But thoughtfully talking about controversial topics also cultivates critical thinking.

Our sixth “Let’s Talk About” is on decolonization. It centers on stories about Indigenous-led movements to “decolonize,” or to expose and resist the continued colonization of the United States. These stories will encourage your students to imagine just societies for all people—and get to the truth. 

How to Use This Collection 

Suggested below are steps to a thoughtful and meaningful discussion with your students about school shootings. Choose what is appropriate for your class.

1. Students complete a pre-survey (optional).
2. Choose at least one YES! article and one outside article for a robust compare and contrast.
3. Use the discussion questions—or craft your own—to gauge your students’ understanding and opinions.
4. Students complete a post-survey (optional).
5. Explore curriculum if you’d like to dive deeper.

Reading Materials

YES! Articles

5 Places to View Pre-Colonial America

Don’t Just Resist. Return to Who You Are

What Standing Rock Gave the World

How This Tribe Got Their Coastal California Lands Returned

The Indigenous Collective Using Tattoos to Rise Above Colonialism

*You’ll find more stories of strength and resilience by Indigenous writers and photographers in The Decolonize Issue of YES! Magazine.

Outside Resources

What Decolonization Is, and What It Means to Me

How the U.S.-Mexico border has split the Tohono O’odham

‘This is Not a Trend’: Native American Chefs Resist the ‘Columbusing’ of Indigenous Foods

Discussion Questions

1. Where are your ancestors from? How does knowing your history and culture inform and influence your life?

2. How is Native American history and contemporary culture taught in your school? Based on what you’ve learned, whose perspective is emphasized? Is the settling of the United States referred to as colonization in your school’s curriculum? If not, how is it described?

3. If you live in the United States, you’re living on colonized land. Do you know whose land you are living on?


Standing with Standing Rock (No DAPL) Role Play (Zinn Education Project)

Standing Rock Syllabus (NYC Stands with Standing Rock Collective)

Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State (K-12) Place-based, integrated curriculum endorsed by all 29 federally recognized tribes in Washington state.

Inspiration in Your Inbox

Get the free daily newsletter from YES! Magazine:
Stories of people creating a better world to inspire you and your students.

Sign Up