Unsettling The Settler Within: Chapter 2

Posted on June 11, 2016. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, Ed890, First Nations, Masters, Unsettling the Settler |

unsettling the settler

In chapter 2, Paulette Regan discusses the issues around denial and myth when it comes to Settlers attitudes about Canadian history.  Many people have bought into the colonial re-telling of Canada’s history, and therefore, are in denial of what actually happened. She unpacks the “peacekeeping myth” in which Canadians are led to believe that our country is and always has been a peacekeeping country. She challenges her readers to take responsibility for their own part in Canada’s shameful history.

FN meme

I just had to…

“Taking full responsibility for the policies and practices that flourished in Indian residential schools entails truth telling. What is truth? Challenging the peacemaker myth and critiquing reconciliation discourse requires us to be honest with ourselves about the actual impacts of colonial policies and practices upon the lives of Indigenous people” (Regan, 2010, p. 62).

Regan goes on to challenge the idea of “truth,” and whose truth we are telling when our education system teaches of the “conquering settler/farmer” while leaving out the violent interactions Settlers had with Canada’s Indigenous people. She looks at how Whites need to engage in their own truth-telling surrounding their historical past, and how they shouldn’t “simply intellectualize and compartmentalize their newfound knowledge and do nothing” (Regan, 2010, p. 65).


“Truth” Photo Credit: Victoria Landon via Flickr.

I really liked Regan’s challenge around what reconciliation could and should look like. She affirms that it is not useful to have arguments over who is guilty and who is innocent. She pushes her readers to work towards a shared history in light of a Settler’s new understanding of truth. The goal is to not create a monolithic history but a joint history that focuses on the relationship of perpetrators and victims in a new form of political negotiation (Regan, 2010, p. 67). It hasn’t been until this class that I am really starting to dial into how political this entire conversation is.  It’s not just racism and colonial thinking.  Most of the violence is committed in a deeply political way, and I am trying to learn how to rectify that within my own political thoughts and beliefs.

“If the current quest for reconciliation is no different from settler practices of the past – a new colonial tool of oppression – it has now become imperative to challenge Canada’s peacekeeper myth. Peeling back the layers of myth reveals that we must confront our own repressed and unscrutinized past as part of our own truth telling” (Regan, 2010, p. 67).

As I look at helping to create a re-telling of Treaty 4 history, I am consistently reminded of the need for a shared history.  I initially thought I was going to be coming in and supporting and helping First Nations allies re-tell history from a First Nations point of view.  That is still the case, but I am learning how important it is to use this project to unsettle settlers as well. Regan quotes a Canadian historian, John Lutz, who reminds readers of tensions in historical recounts.  He asks how the European can be removed from the centre of contact stories. He proposes that the mythology and history are embedded into stories that come from both Indigenous and European contact accounts.  In this way both will be equally credible and incredible (Regan, 2010, p. 69). I need to be willing to confront the “European truth” myth and move towards questioning my project’s participants on their once received “truths.” How can I help them unlearn Canada’s typical national story?


“Implements of Yesterday” Photo Credit: Wayne Stadler via Flickr.com




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