Trevor’s Take: A settler’s reflection

By Trevor Hutchinson

One of the great things about Twitter is that you only get 160 characters, including spaces, to describe yourself to the outside world. People use their bio to establish their “brand,” to declare their political worldview, demonstrate their sense of humour or simply to give a list of what they do and what is important to them as a way of introducing themselves to the virtual world.

My bio is pretty simple: “writer for The Lindsay Advocate; singer-songwriter; nfp CFO= number rancher; he/him. U of T alumnus. Dad-ish; husband — all the rest would bore you. Settler.”

Trevor Hutchinson
Trevor Hutchinson

In a short list of what I do and what’s important to me I include the fact that I self-define as a “settler,” meaning I am not Indigenous. For me it’s a way of recognizing that I live in a country that was established by colonialism and all that that entails. It is a way of recognizing that I (and my ancestors) have benefited from the destruction of other people’s lives, lands, traditions and communities.

I, with my white privilege, must first recognize that I am still learning what all this means and perhaps more importantly what it doesn’t mean.

Self-defining as a settler has nothing to do with self-loathing or guilt. I can learn and be aware of the historical or present-day actions of my governments and my society in their relations with Indigenous peoples. But if I am motivated only by what I am feeling, I am making my participation in reconciliation about me. I can and probably should feel discomfort as part of my learning process. But it’s not about me.

Calling myself a settler does not mean I am not proud of my ancestry, my family or the place that I call home. It does mean that I recognize that the land I lived on was someone else’s and that my ancestors and I benefited from its seizure.

And it is important to realize that self-defining as a settler does not make me an ally of Indigenous peoples. Allyship is not mine to confer. It’s simple, really: Only an Indigenous person or community can grant me that status. What I can do is act like an ally. I can respectfully listen. I can re-analyze my views. I can relearn my history through a lens of truth and justice. I can call out systemic racism when I see it.

Ultimately, self-defining as a settler, for me, is an act of optimism. It is me imagining a better and near future of mutual respect, consideration and progress. It is me imagining a truly equal and equitable conversation between nations.

And I give thanks to the Creator for the many Indigenous people who have been generous with their time and gifts to help me, a settler, on this journey of learning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.