Global health and wellness has evolved from colonial and Western cultures, and has steadily crowded out traditional and Indigenous wellness practices throughout the world. These colonized systems were created to control oppressed populations and make exploitation easier. Unfortunately many of these same systems, designed to oppress under-served populations, are still pervasive in the wellness space today. Read on to learn more about decolonization and how Indigenization is becoming the new and better way.

Decolonizing wellness is a movement that encourages people to question and fight against ingrained colonial or Western systems, as a way to improve the health of the general population. An example of colonized wellness can be seen in the Western perspective of research-based knowledge as being superior to the lived experience of Indigenous peoples and cultures. 

In order to decolonize wellness, we must reclaim the wellness practices that are rooted in various cultures and religions through Indigenization; while also making these practices more accessible to everyone, regardless of wealth, race, body size, and physical ability.

What is Decolonization?

First, it is important to understand what decolonization means. According to the 2021 missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people national action plan: Ending violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people; decolonizing refers to using Indigenous perspectives to challenge colonial influences and dismantle and replace structures that perpetuate the status quo. 

Decolonization also asks us to re-evaluate our knowledge systems which include colonial ideologies of the superiority of Western thought and ways of life. This process involves acknowledgment of inherited Western biases, and revitalizing Indigenous knowledge and approaches which have deep value and have long been suppressed.

Continuing on the concept of knowledge, decolonization necessitates self-reflection with respect to the values, beliefs and knowledge we carry. This process facilitates an examination of how we came to adopt these beliefs and to consider what we need to do to change misconceptions, prejudice, and assumptions about Indigenous Peoples; it changes our frame of reference. Specifically for individuals of settler identity, decolonization is the process of examining beliefs about Indigenous Peoples and culture, and learning about oneself in relation to the Indigenous communities we interact with and unceded land on which we live.

Decolonizing vs. Indigenizing

Another concept that has been gaining momentum, especially in the education system is “Indigenizing”. So what exactly is the difference between decolonizing and Indigenizing? Decolonization is a component of Indigenization, because it means challenging the dominance of Western thought and bringing Indigenous thought to the forefront. You might also consider that, if decolonization is the removal or undoing of colonial elements, then Indigenization could be seen as the addition or reincorporation of Indigenous elements. Indigenization moves beyond tokenistic gestures of recognition or inclusion to meaningfully changing practices and structures. 

To create meaningful change from a lens of Indigenization, is to merge Western knowledge with Indigenous knowledge systems with the intention of harmonious transformation of spaces, places, and hearts. Indigenization can be understood as weaving or braiding together two distinct knowledge systems so that learners can come to understand and appreciate both: it is a deliberate coming together of these two ways of knowing.

It is important to note that the process of Indigenization is the role of Indigenous peoples to undertake, otherwise appropriation or tokenizing Indigenous culture may occur.

How do we decolonize wellness?1

1) Understand the roots of the wellness practices you enjoy.

There is no need to quit yoga if you’re not Indian, but more than likely, your current wellness practices have cultural roots to them. Take the time to educate yourself, understand those practices and how they have been culturally appropriated and/or historically suppressed. For example, yoga and Ayurveda were banned in India under British rule, so approximately eight generations of Indians were denied the right to their own ancestral practices. 

2) Recognize when wellness practices have been altered to fit mainstream culture and encourage acknowledgment. 

Most natural wellness practices being utilized today have cultural origins in East Asian herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, African and Native American plant medicine, and more. Speak with your practitioner about the methods they use and how they are respecting cultural roots. 

Who should decolonize?

According to Indigenous Corporate Training Inc., “Decolonization requires non-Indigenous Canadians to recognize and accept the reality of Canada’s colonial history, accept how that history paralyzed Indigenous Peoples, and how it continues to subjugate Indigenous Peoples. Decolonization requires non-Indigenous individuals, governments, institutions and organizations to create the space and support for Indigenous Peoples to reclaim all that was taken from them”. Despite the specific reference to Canada, this principle can be applied on a global scale. It is everyone’s responsibility to decolonize places and spaces, including but not limited to the wellness space.  


Decolonization and Indigenization needs to occur in every industry, and at every level. It begins with each and everyone of us recognizing our biases, educating ourselves with accurate information, and actively working to create a conducive space for Indigenous people to thrive in, express their culture and individuality, and restore all that has been taken from them. In the wellness space specifically, to create an environment where their beliefs and practices are not treated as inferior, but as normal as other Western practices and perspectives.


  1. Mandaloju, S. (2021, April 21). What is Decolonizing Wellness [web log]. Retrieved September 27, 2022, from

2. Collective , I. L. (2022, June 20). Decolonizing Business and Entrepreneurship [web log]. Retrieved September 27, 2022, from