Thinking the future without settler colonialism: Emma Elliott-Groves, Stephanie A. Fryberg, ‘”A Future Denied” for Young Indigenous People: From Social Disruption to Possible Futures’, in Elizabeth Ann McKinley, Linda Tuhiwai Smith (eds), Handbook of Indigenous Education, Springer, 2018


Abstract: Representations of contemporary Indigenous people in the USA and Canada are poorly reflected in public institutions. Portrayals are rare and generally inaccurate, highlighting the erasure of Indigenous people from current discourse. Such erasure is an inevitable result of settler colonialism, a process that aims to replace the Indigenous inhabitants of a given region with settlers. Settler colonialism is predicated on the notion that land can be owned as private property, and that Indigenous people have no special claim to their traditional territories. The US government and its legal system have supported its ends, which have disrupted the web of relationships necessary for Indigenous identity development. These relationships include prescriptions for what it means to be an Indigenous person and how to conduct one s life in a good way. In conjunction with representational erasure, their disruption prevents young Indigenous people from developing positive concepts of self. In the face of cultural invisibility and widespread negative stereotypes, the attempts of young people to build healthy identities for themselves can be compromised or completely thwarted. They cannot find ways to connect the narrative thread of their past and present with their possible futures, which are effectively foreclosed. Thus, representational erasure places young Indigenous people at great psychological risk, culminating far too often in suicide. To mitigate these effects, we recommend raising social awareness of settler colonialism and reimagining public education in ways that will affirm rather than deny Indigenous values.

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