Settler Colonialism examines the genesis in the USA of the first full-fledged settler state in the world, which went beyond its predecessors in 1492. The text originates from Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (2021) “Not A Nation of Immigrants: Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and a History of Erasure and Exclusion.
Settler Colonialism examines the genesis in the USA of the first full-fledged settler state in the world, which went beyond its predecessors in 1492 Iberia and British-colonized Ireland with an economy based on land sales and enslaved African labor, an implementation of the fiscal-military state. Both the liberal and the rightwing versions of the national narrative misrepresent the process of European colonization of North America. Both narratives serve the critical function of preserving the “official story” of a mostly benign and benevolent USA as an anticolonial movement that overthrew British colonialism. The pre-US independence settlers were colonial settlers just as they were in Africa and India or like the Spanish in Central and South America. The nation of immigrants myth erases the fact that the United States was founded as a settler state from its inception and spent the next hundred years at war against the Native Nations in conquering the continent. Buried beneath the tons of propaganda—from the landing of the English “pilgrims” (Protestant Christian evangelicals) to James Fenimore Cooper’s phenomenally popular The Last of the Mohicans claiming settlers’ “natural rights” not only to the Indigenous peoples’ territories but also to the territories claimed by other European powers—is the fact that the founding of the United States created a division of the Anglo empire, with the US becoming a parallel empire to Great Britain, ultimately overcoming it. From day one, as was specified in the Northwest Ordinance, which preceded the US Constitution, the new “republic for empire,” as Thomas Jefferson called the new United States, envisioned the future shape of what is now the forty-eight states of the continental US. The founders drew up rough maps, specifying the first territory to conquer as the “Northwest Territory.” That territory was the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes region, which was already populated with Indigenous villages and farming communities thousands of years old. Even before independence, mostly Scots Irish settlers had seized Indigenous farmlands and hunting grounds in the Appalachians and are revered historically as first settlers and rebels, who in the mid-twentieth century began claiming indigeneity. Self-indigenizing by various groups of settlers is a recurrent theme in story of settler colonialism, white supremacy, and the history of erasure and exclusion about which I have written elsewhere.