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Confronting The White Settler Problem

Due to my work as a researcher and educator (along with my former work with E-Fry)I attended BCSTH40. On October 24, 2018 at the 2018 BC Society of Transition Housing (BCSTH) Annual Training Forum & AGM: Nevertheless We Persisted October |#BeverlyJacob took the stage for her keynote presentation “The Truth About Reconciliation in Canada”. In this presentation she had a simple slide speaking to #questionssettlersneedtoanswer in order to build relationships towards reconciliation and in my Teaching Assistant positions in Criminology courses I have since continued to share her list of questions:

1. What is your understanding of your relationship with Indigenous peoples? Whose land are you on? (starting point)

2. Do you understand the historical traumas of Indigenous peoples?

3. Do you establish a culturally safe space for your Indigenous clients? Do you know who they are, where they come from, and enter into conversations with them to create this space?

These questions are important for everyone to answer, but I also feel they are particularly important for academics (and in my personal view those in Criminology) because of the #IndianProblemtrap (particularly into the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples throughout the CJS) and the #colonialismofWesternresearch.

Indigenous communities are right to ask “why do [whites] always think by looking at us they will find the answer to our problems, why don’t they look at themselves?” (Smith, 1999 as cited in Heaslip, 2017, p.91) The Indian Problem emerged as part of the colonisers attempts to “deal with” Indigenous peoples, who were blamed for not accepting the terms of their colonisation (Smith, 2012, pp. 94-95). The Indian Problem has trickled into academic discourse since the 1960s with the Western obsession of problematizing Indigenous peoples or blaming Indigenous peoples for their marginalization (Smith, 2012, p.95). Moreover, Indigenous peoples are not only blamed for their own failures, but they are told that they have no solutions to their own problems. This taken-for-granted link between “Indigenous” and “problem” (Kurtz, 2013, p.222) has culminated in a situation where many researchers, “even those with the best intentions, frame their research in ways that assume the locus of a particular research problem” lies with the Indigenous community rather than “social or structural issues” (Kurtz, 2013, p.95).

Colonialism is alive in settler states (such as Canada, Australia, and the United States) and embedded within Western research paradigms today. In Canada, there is still the lingering assumption that Indigenous peoples pose a problem and must be managed in order for “Canada to get on with the business of being Canada” (Lowman & Barker, 2015, p.6). Indigenous people are told to heal themselves and reconcile with us “so that the country can put this history behind it and move forward” (Reagan, 2010, p.60). Ironically, this line of thinking does not match reality; there is no Indian problem in Canada; there has never been one. There is a #WhiteSettlerproblem (Heaslip, 2017, p.78; Lowman & Barker, 2015, p.13).


Heaslip, R. (2017). From Xwelítem Ways Towards Practices of Ethical Being in Stó:lō

Téméxw: A Narrative Approach to Transforming Intergenerational White Settler

Subjectivities. (Unpublished Doctorate Dissertation) University of Victoria, Victoria, BC

Kurtz, D. (2013). Indigenous Methodologies: Traversing Indigenous and Western

worldviews In research. AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples,

9(3), 217-229. doi 10.1177/117718011300900303

Lowman, E., & Barker, A. (2015). Settler Identity and Colonialism in 21st Century Canada.

Fernwood Publishing: Halifax, Nova Scotia

Smith, L. (2012). Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (2nd ed.).

New York: Zed Books.

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1 commentaire

Su-san Koch
Su-san Koch
27 mars 2019

Great questions Korrie, thanks for sharing. I am working on questions about governance of this site, among many other things and these are the type of questions that must be posed to new members in order to ensure that they treat the Past, Present & Future First Peoples who join us with the respect they deserve. As for the question Indigenous communities ask : “why do [whites] always think by looking at us they will find the answer to our problems, why don’t they look at themselves?” is an excellent example of what I call "Apartheid Love" --- that horrible feeling of being open to examining a new /different relationship with PP&F First Peoples only to be totally ignored or…

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