(White) Settler Futurity with Bloody Hands on Stolen Land

Memory is short when it comes to your futurity [1]. Imagination is productive when it comes to your futurity, to your innocence.

originally published at https://unsettlingasexistence.wordpress.com/2016/03/26/white-futurity-with-bloody-hands-on-stolen-land/

by Trycia Bazinet

Given who I am, I will only speak of white settlers. This is not to contribute to the erasure, but many discussions about non-whites folks on Turtle Island exist by (and for) POC & WOC. Check out Rita Dhamoon [2], for example.

White Settler Futurity is the most important future that is catered to, in the world, and on Turtle Island. It is given the most resources, and it is afforded in the status quo. It is the everyday upholding of the privileges created from colonialism and continued occupation that white settlers/occupiers [3] nervously “enjoy”. It is the comfort of knowing that you are stable today and that you will be tomorrow. And so will your kids. It is the comfort of knowing that environmental pollution will probably not affect your area right now, and it is knowing that your kids will not get rashes like on the pictures showing First Nations babies with “mysterious rashes”. It is the comfort of laughing at the thought of deportation being applied to you. How ridiculous does it even sound for a white kanadian or a white american to think of being deported, right? (Even though settler-kanadian institutions deport non-whites canadians everyday).

The few times I have raised the questions for the sake of entertaining the idea, I was immediately met with propos such as;

“It’s against human rights”

“My ancestors have been here for so long”

[Only when this conversation comes] – “I have Indian blood  (always a grand-mother) – I am pretty much Metis”

“What? Why don’t you worry about more important stuff (that caters to me or does not disturb my future so I can continue to enjoy settler privileges)”

Whose human rights? Why do you only care about human rights when it is about yours? Who gets to afford human rights? When were they created? By who?

White settler futurity makes everything about itself. Even when it says it does not. Every single step of reconciliation is enacted so that it inadvertently assumes white settler futurity by default. It then manages the rest. Reconciliation takes two; the white settler nation, and the several nations, but now homogenized populations of Aboriginals of Canada. A “nation-to-nation” relationship is White Settler Kanada with its Indigenous peoples, not the many sovereign nations that happens to be within its borders.

White settler privilege is having the privilege to do “what you are passionate about in life”, because, survival and justice is an area of interest, just like any others such as fashion, engineering, sky diving. It is not your lived experience. (although non-white male representation in “area of interest” exist and matters).

In her article, Refusal to Forgive, Flowers [4] takes up the politics of refusal. She explains that Indigenous women can rightfully be in rage, and that settler’s comfort, or selective solidarity, is not welcomed:

 “You will never have my forgiveness as long as land dispossession, domination, and violence are present in the lives of Indigenous peoples; in particular the lives and bodies of Indigenous women and children. The division that currently constitutes our colonial reality is a first and necessary step toward reconciliation on equal terms”

I think that this explains well the notion of “Reconciling in the Apocalypse”, as coined by Erica Violet Lee [5]. My point in bringing this article is that Rachel [4] says that “the settler too must demonstrate a willingness to be refused” and that “the labor of settlers should be to imagine alternative ways to be in relation with Indigenous peoples“. For such a work to even begin, I do not think that white settler futurity can be continued to be undisturbingly assumed. but then, when I want to entertain the idea of voluntarily and consciously trying to give up settler futurity, this usually happens:

“But this Indigenous person/friend of mine told me they want to reconcile, and it also happens to be what I want, so..”

“I do not want to change anything in my life or give up on some privileges; I just feel bad that there are so many injustices against “our” Indigenous people – a bit out of charity , except I am doing it here, not in Africa”

“It’s intersectionality, so I am by default an ally to the Indigenous peoples of Canada” 

“Land acknowledgments are normal in our progressive space- except I don’t know anything about the fact that this land is about to be ceded in a fraudulent way” [6]

“Decolonize everything” (making decolonization into a metaphor)

I think that it is time to be engaged in decolonization for the sake of decolonization. Not to use catchy words in the academia. Not to assume reconciliation; to not assume that we are forgiven as crimes are not done being listed, and as harms against Indigenous lands and (women, girls, two spirits, queer) life continues, as settler-colonialism continues to displace. Existing treaties are constantly disrespected and ignored, we know that.

My point is not “deport all non-Indigenous”. But…it might entail some of it. My point is that white settlers cannot engage in reconciliation if we hold on and exist within structures that are inherently violent.

We must become comfortable and accustomed (but still continuously unsettled – too much comfort means a taming of decolonization) about supporting resurgence and a future that is not about us. The actual outcome of who is welcome to remain on Turtle Island is not for us to determine.

Settler’s relationship to stolen land is by default destructive, it is by default dependent on erasing the Indigenous so that it can fantasize itself as being the real native. Do you know of a settler nation in which the invading nations is parallel and equal to those being invaded? Even a “perfectly” multicultural society is (always white supremacist/anti-black anyway) collapses Indigeneity and concurring sovereignties within “the ethnic” [7].

Even green or radically anti-capitalist movements [8] too often fail to challenge the settler-colonial relationship. They want a clean future for the commons, for everyone, while erasure continues. While “environmental racism” is not EVEN entertained to begin with.

Settling is repeated everyday. It is normalized. It is naturalized. But it is never done. It is never accomplished. It will never be sustainable. You cannot be settling forever, haunting is catching up.No matter how much money is “given up” to communities who are kept dependent, money that was made off the stealing and abuse of their lands, the violent riddance of their ancestors (and slavery) in the first place. Many of today’s occupiers carry their ancestors’ colonial bloodshed, no matter how loud they scream innocent today. A nervous, panicked scream that resonates against their silence about what is happening in the present.

References

[1] Settler Futurity is a term used by professor Eve Tuck 

[2] Rita Dhamoon (2015) A Feminist Approach to Decolonizing Anti-Racism:Rethinking Transnationalism, Intersectionality, and Settler Colonialism in the 4th issue of Feral Feminisms 

[3] Sakej Ward – Decolonizing the Colonizer

[4] Rachel Flowers (2015) Refusal to Forgive: Indigenous Women’s Rage

[5] Erica Violet Lee (2016) Reconciling in the Apocalypse 

[6] Land Claims Agreements in Ontario

http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/algonquin-land-deal-illegal-1.3475359

http://www.lynngehl.com/black-face-blogging/nine-resources-on-the-algonquin-land-claims

http://www.leveller.ca/2016/02/algonquin-land-claim/ (since then Agreement in Principle (entry to a contract) has been ratified except by the Pikwaganagan community)

[7] Winona Stevenson (1998) “Ethnic” Assimilates “Indigenous”: A Study in Intellectual Neocolonialism 

[8] Barker (2012) Already Occupied: Indigenous Peoples, Settler Colonialism and the Occupy Movements in North America

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