This project is close to my heart, and I am very much looking forward to sharing its coming into being with my dear friend and collaborator, Jannie Edwards. There are many crossings-over and interweaving between this writing and the creation-research project 40 Chains a Side that I have been developing for my MFA these last (nearly) two years. The Letters have been another way in, another way to process what I have learned – about ongoing and historical settler-colonial harms, and the responsibilities settlers have within this still-dominant, still-destructive system of relations.
As a settler and uninvited guest wherever I walk in this country, I recognize that many people will be sporting Orange Shirts tomorrow. This action, like the (now ubiquitous) Land Acknowledgment, risks becoming a perforative gesture that assuages guilt temporarily, or (as bad or worse) is seen simply as ‘proper’ to do.
My choice is to step back, shut up, and make room – on September 30th, of all days. Yes I will wear an orange shirt; as a mother and grandmother, I can think of nothing more traumatic or horrendous than to lose a child. As a human being, I feel deeply my responsibility to learn and understand, so that I may better assist in appropriate ways to make things better where I can. As a settler, I cannot make a move to claim innocence, when I live within and benefit from the ongoing harms the Settler-Colonial systems in play in this country are still operating.
I am a deeply imperfect work in progress, trying to find the best way to live better in relation. One day at a time.
I leave the following here, as I feel Paulette Regan expressed my thoughts better than I ever could:
For me, Canada’s apology [11 June 2008, then-Prime Minister Harper] was a call for settlers to take seriously our collectivemoral responsibility for the systematic removal and institutionalization of Native children, some of whom were abused and most of whom were deprived oftheir family life, languages, and cultures. Although the debilitating impactsof sexual, physical, and psychological abuse upon children are self-evident, andCanadians condemn such practices, the problematic assimilation policy thatgave rise to such abuses is less understood by the Canadian public. To those whoargue that they are not responsible, because they were not directly involved withthe residential schools, I say that, as Canadian citizens, we are ultimately responsiblefor the past and present actions of our government. To those who say thatwe cannot change the past, I say that we can learn from it. We can better understandhow a problematic mentality of benevolent paternalism became a rationaleand justification for acquiring Indigenous lands and resources, and drove thecreation of prescriptive education policies that ran counter to the treaty relationship.Equally importantly, we can explore how this mentality continues to influenceIndigenous-settler relations today. Failing to do so will ensure that, despite ourvow of never again, Canada will create equally destructive policies and practicesinto the future. To those who argue that former IRS students should just get overit and move on, I say that asking victims to bury a traumatic past for the “greatergood” of achieving reconciliation does not address the root of the problem –colonialism.
Paulette Regan, Unsettling the Settler Within, p.4
To those whoargue that they are not responsible, because they were not directly involved with
the residential schools, I say that, as Canadian citizens, we are ultimately responsible
for the past and present actions of our government. To those who say that
we cannot change the past, I say that we can learn from it. We can better understand
how a problematic mentality of benevolent paternalism became a rationale
and justification for acquiring Indigenous lands and resources, and drove the
creation of prescriptive education policies that ran counter to the treaty relationship.
Equally importantly, we can explore how this mentality continues to influence
Indigenous-settler relations today. Failing to do so will ensure that, despite our
vow of never again, Canada will create equally destructive policies and practices
into the future. To those who argue that former IRS students should just get over
it and move on, I say that asking victims to bury a traumatic past for the “greater
good” of achieving reconciliation does not address the root of the problem –
FROM Unsettling the Settler Within, Paulette Regan, UBC Press 2010, p.4
I have compiled some resources here that I hope are useful in thinking about Settler responsibility and the ongoing harms of Settler-Colonial structures in so-called Canada. All of this material was useful to me in doing the research for my MFA. Wherever possible, I have provided online links to information; I think it is important to eliminate barriers to information wherever possible. While I recognize this page still requires being able to access to the internet, at least more people in more places can use these tools if I offer them here than could otherwise.
If you are interested, please feel free to investigate the project 40 Chains a Sideas a whole.
I have listed resources with web links first in each subject area; all links were current and active March 1 2022. Articles and books that follow these first listings may be accessible through local libraries or through university/college library systems.
Devine, Heather. “J.Z. LaRocque: A Métis Historian’s Account of His Family’s Experiences during the North-West Rebellion of 1885.” Finding Directions West : Readings That Locate and Dislocate Western Canada’s Past, University of Calgary Press, 2017.
Land and Territory
Native Land (digital interactive map of traditional Indigenous Territories)
Multiculturalism Cannot Contain Multitudes: Towards a Lateral Relationality and Undoing of Settler Colonialism
Despite claims to the contrary multiculturalism operates as the inheritor of official and unofficial policies both cultural and economic that are specifically designed to assimilate newcomers into the white supremacist settler colonial state, thereby ensuring the continued existence of Canada. While effort has been made recently to pay homage to Indigenous peoples as a singular founding people alongside the French and British, we continue to represent an existential threat that cannot be reconciled with the stated purpose of multiculturalism which centres awareness and celebration of diverse cultures. This presentation offers as an alternative, a lateral form of relationality based on the Métis/Cree concept of wâhkôhtowin or expanded kinship, with the purpose of undoing white supremacist settler colonialism.
Links to Articles in the Press and Elsewhere, and Talks of Interest:
A Documentary Film, Lana Gets Her Talk – This brief study of an artist and her work helps us come to some understanding of the trauma experienced by Canada’s Indigenous people in the Indian Residential School system, of its enduring effects on the children of survivors of the IRS, and of one woman’s journey to recover what was lost: dignity, identity, and voice. A story of resilience, Lana’s journey speaks of the power of Indigenous “ways of being” in our time.
Articles and Books (check with Public Libraries or University/College Libraries for copies):
Alfred, Taiaiake. “Foreword.” Unsettling the Settler Within: Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling, and Reconciliation in Canada, by Paulette Regan, UBC Press, 2010, pp. ix–xi.
Battell Lowman, Emma, and Adam J. Barker. Settler: Identity and Colonialism in 21st Century Canada. Fernwood Publishing, 2015.
Decter, Leah, and Carla Taunton, eds. Beyond Unsettling: methodologies for decolonizing futures. Public Journal, Fall 2021. vol. 32, no. 64.
Greer, Allan. Property and Dispossession: Natives, Empires and Land in Early Modern North America. Cambridge UP, 2018.
Henderson, Phil. “Imagoed Communities: The Psychosocial Space of Settler Colonialism.” Settler Colonial Studies, vol. 7, no. 1, 2017, pp. 40–56.
Mann, Geoff. “Settler-Colonialism’s Anti-Social Contract.” The Canadain Geographer, vol. 64, no. 3, 2020, pp. 433–44.
Morgensen, Scott Lauria. “The Biopolitics of Settler Colonialism: Right Here, Right Now.” Settler Colonial Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, 2011, pp. 52–76.
Moreton-Robinson, Aileen. “Introduction: White Possession and Indigenous Sovereignty Matters.” White Possessive., University of Minnesota Press, 2015.
Murphyao, Amanda, and Kelly Black. “Unsettling Settler Belonging: (Re)Naming and Territory Making in the Pacific Northwest.” American Review of Canadian Studies, vol. 45, no. 3, 2015, pp. 315–31.
Strakosch, Elizabeth, and Alissa Macoun. “The Vanishing Endpoint of Settler Colonialism.” Arena Journal, vol. 37/38, 2012, pp. 40–62.
Steinman, Erich. “Unsettling as Agency: unsettling settler-colonialism where you are.” Settler Colonial Studies, vol.10, no. 4, 2020, pp.558 – 575.
Tuck, Eve, and K.Wayne Yang. “Decolonization is Not a Metaphor.” Decolonization: Indigeniety, Education & Society. vol. 1, no. 1, 2012, pp. 1-40.
Veracini, Lorenzo. “‘Settler Colonialism’: Career of a Concept.” The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, vol. 41, no. 2, 2013, pp. 313–33.
Wolfe, Patrick. “Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native.” Journal of Genocide Research, vol. 8, no. 4, 2006, pp. 387–409.