On ethnic ‘first’ settlers: Lindy Ledohowski, ‘“White Settler Guilt”: Contemporary Ukrainian Canadian Prairie Literature’, Canadian Ethnic Studies, 47, 4-5, 2015, pp. 67-83


Abstract: Ukrainians have been in Canada for at least 120 years, and in the federal multiculturalism debates of the 1960s and 1970s, Ukrainian Canadian groups were one of the most vocal, pushing for a recognition of other ethnic identities alongside what was at that time the discourse of the day of “two founding nations.” Interestingly, one of the ways that this ethnic group was able to make ground in these federal debates—ultimately leading to the policy shift from Biculturalism and Bilingualism to Multiculturalism and Bilingualism—was by making an argument for “founding fathers” status across the unbroken prairie. While there was a genuine desire for other ethnic identities to be recognized at the federal legal and political levels, there developed a realization by Ukrainian Canadians (and others) of the ways in which the sleight of hand required to place ethnic Ukrainians (among others) as the “first” inhabitants of the prairie space removed the pre-existing Aboriginal presence on that landscape. Many writers grapple with their awkward sense of wanting to honour their forbearers who did, in fact, emigrate and suffer great hardships, while simultaneously recognizing the colonial project that they have been co-opted into. Using contemporary literature, this article theorizes the relationship between the homesteaders and their descen-dents vis-à-vis Aboriginal presences in the prairie provinces. This article articulates four different models that authors use in an attempt to make sense of the simultaneous early presence of Ukrainian settlers and Aboriginal peoples across the Canadian landscape.

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