Academic journal article JCT (Online)

Curriculum, Replacement, and Settler Futurity

Academic journal article JCT (Online)

Curriculum, Replacement, and Settler Futurity

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes obscured text omitted.)

No place exerts its full influence upon a newcomer until the old inhabitant is dead or absorbed.

~DH Lawrence, The Spirit of Place

I move slowly in the world, accustomed now to seek no longer for upheaval. I progress by crawling. And already I am being dissected under white eyes, the only real eyes. I am fixed. Having adjusted their microtomes, they objectively cut away slices of my reality. I am laid bare.

~Franz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

You hear my voice for the last time. I shall soon cease to speak.

~Susquesus, in James Fenimore Cooper's The Redskins

THE FIVE VOLUMES OF JAMES FENIMORE COOPER'S THE LEATHERSTOCKING TALE are among the most important and earliest literary representations of the encounter between invading white settlers and the Indigenous people of the territory known today as the Northeastern United States, specifically the Adirondack region of the New York state. The main character of the five tales, Natty Bumppo, is the child of European settlers who die in a house fire along with his sister. Bumppo is rescued by a fictionalized tribe of Indians,1 who teach him their way of life and knowledge systems.

Like Rousseau's eponymous child Emile, Natty Bumppo is educated in and by nature, and grows to disdain both the Natives who raise him, whom he sees as barbaric and uncivilized, as well as the European settlers, whom he sees as incapable of surviving in harmony with nature. Natty Bumppo grows to be the true enlightened subject, who can learn from the ways of the primitive without becoming them, who remains civilized without succumbing to nature, and who can traverse the boundaries that separate different groups with his cosmopolitan orientation. In Natty Bumppo, the future of the settler is ensured through the absorption of those aspects of Indigenous knowledge that ensure survival, only to justify erasure and subsequent replacement. At the same time, the settler comes to imagine himself as "Native" by highlighting the ineptitude of Europeans when it comes to surviving in the frontier.

Natty Bumppo, not savage, and no longer European, is positioned to claim "native status," symbolically taking the place of "the last of the mohicans" and of all the other vanishing tribes. The figure of the frontiers man who is one with nature saturates the U.S. cultural imaginary, from the Adirondack backwoodsman and the Order of the Arrow of the Boy Scouts of America (Alonso Recarte, 2010), to Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves and the most recent expression of the White settler-becoming-Indian, Johnny Depp's characterization of Tonto. Natty Bumppo also resurfaces within the contentions over colonization and race that mar the politics of progressive fields such as curriculum studies. Here, the future of the settler is ensured by the absorption of any and all critiques that pose a challenge to white supremacy, and the replacement of anyone who dares to speak against ongoing colonization.

This article does the simultaneously blunt and delicate work of exhuming the ways in which curriculum and its history in the United States has invested in settler colonialism, and the permanence of the settler-colonial nation state. In particular, we will describe the settler colonial curricular project of replacement, which aims to vanish Indigenous peoples and replace them with settlers, who see themselves as the rightful claimants to land, and indeed, as indigenous. To do this, we employ the story of Natty Bumppo, as an extended allegory to understand the ways in which the field of curriculum has continued to absorb, silence, and replace the non-white other, perpetuating white supremacy and settlerhood. As we discuss in this article, even as multiple responses have evolved to counter how curriculum continues to enforce colonization and racism, these responses become refracted and adjusted to be absorbed by the whitestream, like the knowledge gained by Natty Bumppo, only to turn to the source and accuse them of savagery, today through a rhetorical move against identity politics. …

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