Land-Based Ethics and Settler Solidarity in a Time of Corona and Revolution

Artwork by Rae Minji Lee

By Natalie Avalos, The Arrow

Settler colonialism has been defined as a structure, not an event, meaning that settler societies like the U.S., Canada, and Australia endure over time through racist laws and ideologies that naturalize the dispossession of Indigenous populations. One of the most effective strategies that settler states rely on to eliminate Indigenous peoples and their power is the idea that their knowledges are primitive and superstitious, examples of failed epistemology. This view is rooted in an Enlightenment-born materialism that asserts that legitimate knowledge can only be produced through narrow empirical methods, relegating the negotiations of immaterial life to the social margins. As the colonial project progresses, legitimate knowledge production is simultaneously tethered to race and power (reserved to the white and landed), resulting in what we have come to know as modernity.

Settler colonialism seeks to eliminate Indigenous populations in order to monopolize resources for the sake of capital. It operates through laws and racist ideologies, but also through conceptualizations of the natural world as white men’s for the human taking. Settler colonialism operates from its own metaphysic, producing what I call a settler ecology, which dispossesses peoples but also lands. If settlers want to understand how to effectively address environmental crises, then they have to interrogate the logics of settler colonialism—racialization, white supremacy, and myths of development—as structural dimensions of modern life. Our collective quarantine has dovetailed into an all-out revolution; one that is an all-out indictment of colonialism itself. This time is ripe for this very conversation.

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