Workshop Wednesday: Systems That Spread Empire & Oppression

This poster is a visual tool for sighted folks that can be used in conjunction with The Taking Tree tool or separately as a way to explain how oppression based on Western empire has spread and continues to spread by capitalism, franchise colonialism, settler colonialism, and neo-colonialism. The purpose of this tool is to add another nuance and dimension in understanding how oppression works, with the end goal of discovering ways to resist and transform it.

Activity Ideas

  • Group Work: Divide participants into two groups, with one of them explaining the different iterations of capitalism since it began roughly 200 years ago, and the other group explaining colonialism and its two main types (franchise and settler). As part of their presentations, have them search for historical and current examples using news articles. After they present to each other, ask all of the participants to explain how the two systems combine to create neo-colonialism, and how some of their examples can be changed to reflect a neo-colonial process as opposed to simply a capitalist or colonial process. Remember to give your own examples of neo-colonialism to help the participants along. If you need examples, message me on my Patreon page or send me an email.
  • Puppet Theatre (Intro): You can either use puppets or have participants do the group activity above, but with puppets. The reason I suggest using puppets instead of having the participants act it out is because it reduces re-traumatization of participants who have lived through generations of colonialism and/or capitalistic exploitation. Please have supports in place in case it is still triggering for folks. As for the puppets, they can be as simple as a set of objects like markers representing people, and two desks representing different areas of land.
  • Puppet Theatre (Migration & Colonization): Start the puppet show with explaining migration by moving the group of people from one land to another. Then explain colonization by having two areas of land, then one group (orange markers) topples the second group (green markers) and declares control of both pieces of land. Franchise colonialism can be explained with the first land filled with orange markers and the second land filled with green markers and one or two orange markers controlling the rest of the green markers and having them send money back to the first land, where the money can be represented by scrap paper. Settler colonialism can be represented by green markers being killed off through engineered diseases or murder, so that more orange markers can take up that area of land, that way the scrap paper doesn’t have to be sent over, they can just enjoy the land and all the scrap paper that comes with it.
  • Puppet Theatre (Capitalism): When explaining capitalism, add an extra object, like erasers, and another set of puppets– perhaps blue markers. Have one orange marker declare that it “owns the means of production” by writing on a piece of paper that it owns this entire piece of land (one of the desks) and all the rubber trees that grow there. The orange marker lives on the other piece of land without the rubber trees, but hires green markers to work and pick the trees. The blue markers haves scrap paper, i.e. money. The orange marker makes a second declaration, that the green markers will earn a “wage”, that is, for every hour they work, they will receive one scrap of paper. Then, the orange marker makes a third declaration, that erasers made from the rubber trees will cost 5 scraps of paper. All the green markers work for an hour and each produces an eraser. A blue marker buys an eraser from the green markers and hands the orange marker 5 scraps of paper for each eraser. The orange marker gives out 1 scrap of paper to each green marker. Where does the rest of the scraps of paper go? To the orange marker. Have a discussion with the participants about how they would enact the corporate side of capitalism with the puppets, as well as how the green markers can fight for their labour rights if one scrap of paper per hour isn’t a living or thriving wage. For an added bonus, you can also show how capitalism is related to slavery by having the orange marker refuse to give any scraps of paper to the green markers, and keep all the paper scraps to themselves while threatening the green markers with death if they stop working.


The poster is beige, with font in dark blue. There are four dark blue rectangles with white font inside, and three large circles with dark blue shadowed effects. One circle is orange, the other green, and the bottom one yellow. The title of the poster reads “SYSTEMS THAT SPREAD EMPIRE & OPPRESSION”. The orange circle has a dark blue rectangle near the top of it that reads “FRANCHISE COLONIALISM”. Inside the orange circle is text that reads “Foreign invaders that exploit and rule with violence + indigenous majority and/or stolen/enslaved indigenous majority”. The yellow circle, which is attached to the orange circle, continues with text that reads ” + genocide/depopulation and apartheid segregation of indigenous/original inhabitants + settlers taking over the now “vacant” land”. The yellow circle has a dark blue rectangle attached to it that reads “SETTLER COLONIALISM”. The green circle on the right of the poster has a dark blue rectangle with the text “CAPITALISM”. Inside the green circle is the following text: “wage labour + worker exploitation + production for exchange and profit + private ownership of means of production + corporations treated as legal persons”. There is a dark blue rectangle that touches all three circles, and it reads “NEO-COLONIALISM”. At the bottom right of the poster is text that reads “PATREON.COM/LUKAYO” and “LUKAYO.COM“.

Want to have access to the larger full colour updated 2018 poster, the original photograph of the hand-drawn 2016 poster, and other anti-oppression related teaching tools? Click on the link below and subscribe for as little as $3/month. By becoming a patron, you support healing work among my communities, and the indigenous Elders that mentor me.