Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

"White Settler Guilt": Contemporary Ukrainian Canadian Prairie Literature

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

"White Settler Guilt": Contemporary Ukrainian Canadian Prairie Literature

Article excerpt

Abstract

Ukrainians have been in Canada for at least 120 years, and in the federal multiculturalism debates of the 1960s and 1970s, Ukrainian Canadian groups were one of the most vocal, pushing for a recognition of other ethnic identities alongside what was at that time the discourse of the day of "two founding nations." Interestingly, one of the ways that this ethnic group was able to make ground in these federal debates--ultimately leading to the policy shift from Biculturalism and Bilingualism to Multiculturalism and Bilingualism--was by making an argument for "founding fathers" status across the unbroken prairie. While there was a genuine desire for other ethnic identities to be recognized at the federal legal and political levels, there developed a realization by Ukrainian Canadians (and others) of the ways in which the sleight of hand required to place ethnic Ukrainians (among others) as the "first" inhabitants of the prairie space removed the pre-existing Aboriginal presence on that landscape. Many writers grapple with their awkward sense of wanting to honour their forbearers who did, in fact, emigrate and suffer great hardships, while simultaneously recognizing the colonial project that they have been co-opted into. Using contemporary literature, this article theorizes the relationship between the homesteaders and their descendents vis-a-vis Aboriginal presences in the prairie provinces. This article articulates four different models that authors use in an attempt to make sense of the simultaneous early presence of Ukrainian settlers and Aboriginal peoples across the Canadian landscape.

Resume

Les Ukrainiens sont au Canada depuis au moins 120 ans et, dans les debats des annees 1960 et 1970 sur le multiculturalisme federal, les groupes canadiens ukrainiens furent parmi ceux qui ont reclame le plus haut et fort la reconnaissance d'autres identites ethniques parallelement au discours de l'epoque sur "les deux peuples fondateurs". Il est interessant que l'un des moyens de ce groupe ethnique est de faire avancer le debat federal--qui a ultimement conduit a un changement de politique du biculturalisme et du bilinguisme vers un multiculturalisme en gardant le bilinguisme --a ete de se servir d'un argument en faveur "des peres fondateurs" dans des Prairies vierges. Alors qu'il y avait un desir sincere des autres identites de se faire reconnaitre au niveau federal, legalement et politiquement, les Canadiens ukrainiens (et d'autres) ont commence a prendre conscience du tour de passe-passe qu'il fallait operer pour faire de leurs ancetres (parmi d'autres ethnies) les "premiers" habitants de l'espace des Prairies, et qu'il effagait la presence anterieure des autochtones. Bon nombre d'ecrivains se battent avec un certain embarras a vouloir honorer leurs ancetres qui ont, en fait, emigre et grandement souffert, tout en reconnaissant le projet colonial dans lequel ils ont ete embrigades. A partir de la litterature contemporaine, cet article porte sur la theorisation de la relation entre les pionniers et leurs descendants par rapport a la presence autochtone dans les provinces des Prairies. Il presente quatre modeles dont des auteurs se sont servis pour tenter de donner un sens a la presence initiale des colons ukrainiens et des peuples autochtones dans l'ensemble du territoire canadien.

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Ukrainians have been in Canada for over 120 years. The first enduring settlers from what is now Ukraine rooted themselves permanently in Canada in 1891, and between then and the outbreak of the First World War, over 170,000 immigrants from Ukraine made Canada their home, with many of these early settlers populating the prairie provinces, eking out an existence on $10 homesteads. Generations and waves of immigration later, in the federal multiculturalism debates of the 1960s and 1970s, Ukrainian Canadian groups were vocal advocates pushing for a recognition of other ethnic identities alongside what was--in the discourse of the day--Canada's "two founding nations. …

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