Settler colonialism as heritage: Michael Buse, ‘The shrine of their memory’: settler colonialism and the construction of American Heritage at Metini-Fort Ross, 1845-1906, MA DIssertation, University of British Columbia, 2019


Abstract: This paper argues that during a broader California Heritage Movement, American colonists physically and discursively constructed a singular Fort Ross Story in an effort to claim Metini, a Kashia Pomo homeland. In making this argument, this paper considers two broad historiographical questions: why did a heritage movement emerge in late nineteenth-century California, and how does a consideration of the Heritage Movement reveal longer settler colonial processes. This look at heritage work makes two contributions to scholarship about American colonialism in California. First, it provides a history of Metini-Ross after the Russian American Company’s departure (1842-1906). Second, this paper considers the meaning of heritage work in settler colonial California. Analyzing heritage work at Fort Ross within a longer history of settler colonialism reveals how the colonizers intentionally constructed stories of settler innocence and belonging, with the intent to justify their theft and resulting possession of Pomo and Miwok land. From 1845-1885, the first forty years of American colonialism in California, settlers had little interest in history. Instead, they worked to physically take Metini-Ross from the Kashia Pomo, who had lived there for at least 12,000 years. From the late 1840s to the 1870s, American settlers poured into California and seized vast tracts of Indigenous land, initiating what has been called the California Genocide. While genocide did not end in the 1870s, colonialism took a new shape after this. One new settler colonial tactic was heritage work. It is not a coincidence that the Heritage Movement began immediately after the most violent period of colonialism in California. At Metini-Ross, it was only by 1893 that settlers became interested in its history. After this, two interweaving threads constructed a powerful story: writers wrote and preservationists built. Novelist Gertrude Atherton and made Fort Ross iv discursively significant, journalists reproduced and built upon her ideas, and heritage groups, led by the white nationalist heritage organization The Native Sons of the Golden West, physically stamped these narratives on the ground. Together, they made histories to obfuscate and consume a Kashia homeland beneath imagined layers of colonial history.

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