To de-commemorate President’s Day, an annual holiday created to honor George Washington, we bring you an extract from Patrick Wolfe’s Traces of History: Elementary Structures of Racism. Here Wolfe explains how the founding of the United States spelled disaster for native populations. From the beginning, the American legal system treated natives as non-citizens that were, nevertheless, subordinate to the federal government; it was precisely this theory of law — vigorously supported by Washington, Jefferson, and Jackson (among others) — that made the nation one built on settler-colonialism.
On the 26th January every year, people from all over Australia celebrate the founding of the British colony there. But what about the indigenous people who came before the British?
In this unsettling extract from Patrick Wolfe's new book Traces of History: Elementary Structures of Racism, Wolfe focuses his attention on the process of racialisation of the indigenous people of Australia. This racialisation was a product of Britain's insatiable lust for land which would be used to cultivate the raw materials needed for the booming Industrial Revolution. In this way, settler colonialism was intrinsic to modernity. Yet, as Wolfe notes, "for Indigenous people, the concept of settler democracy can only be an oxymoron. Their attrition at the hands of that democracy reflects the core feature of settler colonialism, which is first and foremost a project of replacement. Settlers come to stay. In relation to Natives, as I have argued, settler colonialism is governed by a logic of elimination."