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We Are All Treaty People: History, Reconciliation, and the “Settler Problem”.

Epp, Roger
June 4, 2015

Source: (2003) In Carol A.L. Prager and Trudy Govier, Dilemmas of Reconciliation: Cases and Concepts. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. Pp. 223-244.

My interest here lies in rethinking the relationship [between Aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples in Canada] in ways that correct the inevitable, singular focus on the aboriginal side of it, so that instead of posing the question about reconciliation as a matter of what ‘they’ want – recognition, compensation, land – and what ‘we’ can live with, the subject under closest scrutiny becomes ourselves. In other words, the subject is not the ‘Indian problem’ but the ‘settler’ problem. In this spirit, I want to explore two related interpretive claims. One is that solemn offers of reconciliation, however sincere, however eloquent, are spoken not into a void but rather into a liberal, settler political cultures, fundamentally Lockean still in its philosophical fragments: forward-looking, suspicious of history, or, more likely, indifferent to it, and incorporating into its imagined social contract an almost willful amnesia about whatever might be divisive. Reconciliation in a liberal society may turn out to mean only the ability of strangers to live together in pursuit of individual projects. The second claim is more straightforward, and at least as contentious. It is that while an offer may be spoken in Ottawa by a minister of the Crown, on behalf of all Canadians, the burdens, the opportunities, or, more neutrally, the imperatives of reconciliation are not distributed equally.(excerpt)


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