The Indigenous Abolitionist Study Guide by the Toronto Abolition Convergence offers a comprehensive guide to decolonizing and abolishing punitive practices of carceration and social work rooted in settler-colonial ideologies. The guide compiled by the collaborative engagement of Indigenous and Black people as well as POCs, white folx, activists, queer, trans, 2-spirit people, subjects of and activists against the incarceration and deportation system reflects an interlocking approach to the overlapping grid of racial, gender, and sexual violence.
The guide while acknowledging the significance of the first Prisoner’s Justice Day (PJD) of August 10, 1975, as the stimulus for reflecting on the violence of the criminal ‘justices’ system, traces the genesis of police, prisons, and social workers as a means of enacting settler-colonial violence on indigenous lives. With an emphasis on Canada’s historical and ongoing subjugation of indigenous peoples and cultures, the guide adds to a rich corpus of abolitionist literature by Black feminists, thus explicitly connecting the intersecting histories of violence and terror on brown and black bodies by European settlers in the West. Combining anti-colonial activism with abolitionist praxis, the guide broadens an urgent conversation around the need to analyze the material, social, cultural, and physical violence meted out by the penal system on Indigenous peoples.
Offering an introduction plus study materials for seven weeks, the guide provides an overview of the ways settler colonialism displaced the pluralistic “political, legal, social, cultural, and economic systems” already in place across hundreds of Indigenous nations spanning what is now Canada and the U.S. The forcibly enforced, singular interpretation of settler onto the Indigenous peoples took the form of creating the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) force in Canada, which later became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), meant to oppress the indigenous populace of the prairie provinces. The settler legal system undermined and punished indigenous ways of living by breaking down communal ways of living through removing and isolating individuals away from their land, families, and communities. While the penal system is the ugly and obvious face of settler colonialism, the study guide identities the role of the social worker as the covert mechanism of “white supremacy, superiority, benevolence, and salvation.”
A liberated and decolonized future, according to the activists and contributors of the Indigenous Abolitionist Study guide is founded upon a feminist, “Two-Spirit, and Trans justice” praxis.