Unsettling the Settler Within: Chapter 1

Posted on June 7, 2016. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, Ed890, educational, First Nations, Masters, Race, Unsettling the Settler |

Chapter 1:

unsettling the settler

Paulette Regan introduces her readers to the idea that being “unsettled” around Indigenous-settler relations is a good thing.  She exposes non-Aboriginal people’s ignorance when it comes to the violence that lies at the core of Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal relationships.  Her first chapter is dedicated to giving reasons of why Settler Canadians need to start looking at their own history and identity rather than putting First Nations people under the microscope consistently and repeatedly. She really fleshes out the notion of identity and story-telling. Regan believes its not always the residential school survivors and First Nations men and women who should have their stories repeated over and over as they are being re-victimized every time. She also doesn’t believe these are her stories to tell. Regan believes that Settlers have a moral and ethical responsibility to share their stories. In this way she is honouring “Indigenous pedagogy in which stories are teachings, and the storyteller has a responsibility to ‘give away’- to share with others what he or she has learned” (Regan, 2010, p. 31).

The idea that the gaze should shift from the Aboriginal stories to Settler ones is an interesting one for me. As a White female settler, I thought my job was to learn about First Nations history and be more aware of the continued relationship between Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal people.  This isn’t necessarily untrue, but Regan has opened my eyes to how my job as a Settler-Canadian might look different than someone who is an Indigenous person. Throughout my research into colonization and its effect on Canada, I feel like there has been a strong focus on Aboriginal stories and content. I wasn’t aware of the ways that this might position Aboriginal people to consistently be under the microscope of society.  It is another colonial way of “Othering” First Nations people. Regan describes how part of decolonizing work can/should be hearing certain Aboriginal people’s stories and experiences, but she has also had enough experience to understand that sometimes it does more harm than good;

“Although the strong emotions engendered by listening to residential school survivors’ stories are potentially decolonizing, they might also create a backlash of settler denial or, conversely, generate an empathetic response that, though well intentioned, is still colonial in nature. Reframing reconciliation as a decolonizing place of encounter between settlers and Indigenous people mitigates these possibilities by making space for collective critical dialogue” (Regan, 2010, p. 12).

When looking at my Treaty 4 Reconciliation project, Regan has sparked my interest in how I can allow for critical dialogue to take place whether the participants in my project are Aboriginal or not.  I know that I still want my project to re-tell the Treaty 4 history, and I know I still want the re-telling to be from a First Nations point of view.  That said, Regan has inspired me to try and find ways to question participants to look critically at their own stories and identities, whether that is an Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal one.  Regan’s thoughts on identity and personal history also make me think that perhaps somewhere in this project I need to blog about the story and journey I have taken to get where I am today working on this Treaty 4 Reconciliation project. I am excited to continue reading chapter 2 and beyond to find out if she expands on how Settlers can be most effective in their activism, and sensitive to best practice when it comes to decolonization.



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