Unsettling the settler within: Canada's peacemaker myth, reconciliation, and transformative pathways to decolonization

Date

2009-12-03T18:59:55Z

Authors

Regan, Paulette Yvonne Lynette

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Abstract

This study challenges a popular Canadian national myth that characterizes Settlers as "benevolent" peacemakers - not perpetrators of violence in our relations with Indigenous peoples. I trace this foundational myth from its historical roots in 19th century treatymaking to a contemporary discourse of reconciliation that purports to be transformative, but simply perpetuates colonial relations. I argue that Settler violence against Indigenous peoples is woven into the fabric of Canada's national history in an unbroken thread from past to present that we must "unsettle" and "restory." making substantive space for Indigenous history: counternarratives of diplomacy, law and peacemaking practices, on transformative pathways to decolonizing Canada. This requires a better understanding of what role myth, ritual and history play in perpetuating or transforming Indigenous-Settler conflict. I propose a pedagogical strategy for "unsettling the Settler within" to explore the unsettling, potentially decolonizing and transformative power of testimony in public acts of restitution, apology. truth-telling and remembrance; and restorying- the making of space for Indigenous history. diplomacy. law, and peacemaking practices enacted in story, ceremony and ritual. I suggest that Settlers must confront our real identity as perpetrators - a deeply unsettling task. Dislodging the false premise of the benevolent peacemaker myth requires a paradigm shift that moves Settlers from a culture of denial that is the hallmark of perpetrators of violence towards an ethics of recognition that guides our attempts to become authentic peacemakers and Indigenous allies. The study mirrors this process. linking theory to my own critical. reflective practice. I critique reconciliation discourse in a case study of Canada's approach to settling Indian residential school claims. I describe my personal experience in an apology feast held for Gitxsan residential school survivors as an example of unsettling the Settler within and restorying that, despite its specificity, has broader applicability for designing truth-telling and reconciliation processes.

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Keywords

frontier and pioneer life, off-reservation boarding schools, Canada, indigenous governance

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