Settler colonialism is the process where a country or people creates an offshoot of itself in a new land. Countries like the United States, Australia, Liberia and Israel were created by settler colonialism. Countries like Haiti, Nigeria and Iraq, on the other hand, were created by extractive colonialism.
Settler colonialism, says Andrea Smith, is one of the three pillars of White supremacy in the US, the other two being anti-Black racism and Orientalism.
In extractive colonialism there are two main parts:
- metropole – the country that rules an empire;
- periphery – the countries it has power over.
Metropolitans extract wealth from the native peoples and lands of the periphery. Wealth flows from the periphery to the metropole. Metropolitans may work for a time in the periphery – as soldiers, slave traders, priests or plantation owners, for example – but consider the metropole their homeland.
In settler colonialism a third element is added: settlers. They move from the metropole to the periphery to create a new homeland. The Pilgrims are a good example. In the long run they cause trouble for both natives and the metropole as they gain land, wealth and sovereignty.
Settlers and natives: Settlers are not mainly interested in ruling over natives or joining their society or even in making them slaves. They want their land and therefore want them to disappear by any means necessary, even genocide. To replace natives they bring in:
Cheap labour: Convicts, slaves, refugees, immigrants, contract labourers, etc. These people serve settler society, becoming part of it in time, sometimes a racialized part. Sometimes they are forced out. Unlike settlers, they do not create homelands of their own. Unlike natives, they have no natural claim to the land.
The metropole tries to limit land claims by settlers to keep peace between natives and settlers – like in eastern North America in the late 1700s (pictured), Colorado in the middle 1800s and the West Bank in the 2010s.
In the long run, though, the metropole cannot stop settlers from taking more and more native land.
The metropole either backs settler land claims (turning a blind eye to broken treaties) or in time loses all control (as in the US war of independence).
Ideology: Settlers believe stuff like:
- Our god wants us to have this land (Zionism, Manifest Destiny).
- We are way better than natives (racially, culturally and especially morally).
- Natives are violent (savages, terrorists).
In the US, settlers called themselves “Americans” (land-based) and natives “Indians” (race-based, named after a faraway place).
The term “settler” is itself a bit of whitewash: it sees invaders as peacefully taking over land that was somehow not settled. Contrary to what most Whites in the US seem to believe, for example, nearly all Natives in 1491 were farmers, not hunter-gatherers.
Settler colonialism as a separate field of study only began to take shape in 2008, although Stokely Carmichael, for example, spoke of settler colonies back in 1970. The hope is that by comparing settler states and their history, we can understand how they work.
– Abagond 2014, 2015.
- The three pillars of American white supremacy
- Manifest Destiny
- The eight stages of genocide
- problematic terms
- Notes towards a Native American history of George Washington
- Vine Deloria, Jr: Conquest Masquerading as Law
- The diseased host model of American society
- The lies you were taught about Native Americans