How Can Settlers (re)Learning Their Ancestry Challenge Settler Colonialism?




Graham, Sarah

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When asked about my ancestral heritage a few years ago, I had little to say other than that my family has been in Canada for many generations and we are of vaguely European descent. Such a disconnection with the places that my ancestors immigrated from and a lack of understanding about why they chose to leave, allows settlers like me to imagine ourselves as the original people of this land, rather than its occupiers. By taking responsibility for our own learning, settlers (especially those of European descent) can begin to interrogate how our histories are entangled with and inform the ongoing dispossession of Indigenous territories. Through this research, I reviewed literature written by settler and Indigenous scholars about settler identity and experience on Turtle Island to outline possibilities for peaceful coexistence with Indigenous peoples. Ancestral research is a worthwhile project that has the potential to substantially shift settler consciousness, but it must be embarked upon cautiously and with the acknowledgement that it is a settler project, rather than one which directly benefits or upholds the sovereignty of Indigenous nations. However, a more nuanced understanding of what it means to hold a settler identity could make anti-colonial solidarity efforts both more effective and genuine.



settler colonialism, solidarity, ancestry, settler identity