The Fourth of July: Nationalism and Colonialism

The time seems right to share this post from years ago as fiery flowers once again light the sky in a celebration that I don’t share.

Voices from the Margins

Carol A. Hand

As the date of the quintessential celebration of colonial oppression for Indigenous Peoples in the U.S. approaches, signaled by loud explosions in the night, an image from my childhood comes unbidden to mind – a child crouching, head bowed, eyes closed, hands tightly covering ears.

crouching child

Photo Credit: Carol A. Hand

I remember how much I disliked attending these events with my family, surrounded by crowds of people cheering and oohing and aahing in the local park as the symbolic missiles of war blossom like booming “fiery flowers” in the darkened evening sky. I didn’t know the deeper symbolism then for Indigenous Peoples, but the mindless and frenzied fascination of the crowd frightened me. I realize it still does. It brings to mind a story I wrote about my experiences in Missoula, Montana, during the U.S. invasion of Iraq.


Mount Jumbo montanalandtrusts dot org

Photo Credit:

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18 thoughts on “The Fourth of July: Nationalism and Colonialism

  1. i’m remembering this strong,
    skillful sharing about so-called
    independence day, Carol!
    i’ll be avoiding those explosions
    and rockets red glare this year, myself.
    much sadness felt for what was done
    to indigenous people & the land
    by those who took, & continue taking
    it all for free 😦

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Carol, with your permission, I will be reblogging the original tomorrow, along with three other articles that show my utter disdain for this annual event and every other American event glorifying colonialism/US hegemony and war, death and destruction.

    Thank you for reposting this, I guess this was before I knew about your blog.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks, Carol, Buster and his old pap would also like to share your accurate and sad words. One of Buster’s first blogs was a plea for our educational systems; so many current day Amuricans (that’s Buster’s silly word for citizens of the USofA (not so much U here at the moment) have no idea of the real history of this continent and it’s exploitation by our visitors from Europe. Such a shame; only by the study of history can we hope to improve. Thanks again for your beautiful reminder!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Buster. It is a sad fact that few learn “real” history in our educational system, making it possible for people to be fed misinformation and outright lies.


  4. Hi Carol, I am not much for fireworks myself. I was hired once to photograph them. It was a crystal clear night. Right after I headed for the mountains to watch the Milky Way. I remember thinking all the firework fans were missing out, the greatest show was above them all along. It is true that Canada and Independence Day celebrate colonialism and the harm it perpetrated on Aboriginal People. In Canada I like to think we are working towards a day when First Nations will be considered nations within Canada with autonomous powers for their own betterment. Where there will be some kind of reconciliation. But I’m probably fooling myself. How could the harm ever be reconciled? My son and his girlfriend came to visit us this weekend. On the way home there was an accident that closed the highway. Many people took a highway across native land, although it was a public road a group of men set up a barricade and charged a toll. My son refused to take it. Thinking it wasn’t any different from the price of water being tripled on a hot day at a concert. To Hunter, they were opportunists and it didn’t matter the colour of their skin. But I’m not sure if this is the whole story. I heard the worst racism is the racism that goes unnoticed. I think that’s where I fall in. I’m proud to be Canadian, I like to think the best, my father and grandfather got shot up for it. I don’t want to be part of the problem, but recognize I am. I don’t know what reconciliation looks like. Maybe it’s generations in the future. In the meantime it worries me. Bob
    PS sorry for the long comment – I don’t blame you if you tell me to get my own blog.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Bob. I love reading stories about your experiences and deep, honest reflections. It’s almost as if we are sitting around a campfire beneath the night sky.

      I don’t think there are any easy answers to the questions you raise about reconciliation. I have worked with tribal communities on a range of issues and witnessed how deeply and profoundly colonialism has effected people on every level (spiritual, physical, emotional, social, economic, and environmental). I have also experienced the intractable prejudice of Euro-Americans residents of border communities. Northern Wisconsin is the only place I’ve lived where I knew what it was like to live without “white skin privilege.”

      The question is how to bring diverse communities of people together in forums where they can learn to see each other as human beings who share so many things in common. I was trying to work on a research proposal in the last university where I worked to test out that idea. Unfortunately, the time wasn’t right for a whole host of reasons. I keep hoping I will be able to try it in the future…

      I understand the need to feel a sense of belonging and rootedness to a place. I have felt it most keenly when I lived in the woodland where my Ojibwe ancestors originally lived in New England and northern Wisconsin where they settled during their migration. It’s where trees and land and ancestors have made themselves known to me most clearly. But it’s not a nation that makes me feel at home, or even a culture. It’s a connection that makes me feel I belong, like the one you describe with your parents and the stars. Connections to cultures and nations can divide us if they blind us to the humanity of others and our connections to each other, the earth, and all her wonders.

      So instead of telling you to get your own blog, dear friend, let me tell you how grateful I am that you are willing to share here, too. ❤


      1. Hi Carol, thank you for your reply. I appreciate your outlook and opinions. Maybe it will be the value of nature, of other living things that will bring people back together. Perhaps someday we will share in the miracle of it all. Take care. Thanks again. Bob

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Former students give me hope, Bob. Some are creating small changes in communities all around that will have a positive impact on families and children, reweaving connections to nature and each other.


  5. I experience that here. I like that we celebrate that we are somehow together as a peoppl ein some ways, but there is pain for our indigenous people as for them it is a reminder of white invasion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Paul, the brutality of colonialism, traumatic legacies, and ongoing hegemonic oppression are very similar in former British colonies – the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Other nations around the world are also still struggling as a result of colonialism – India, Pakistan, and Palestine to name just a few…

      Liked by 1 person

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