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Abstract

Unsettling Futures is about a struggle over the control of time. It begins from the contention that one of the crucial historical strategies of colonialism and its agents has been the selective representation of indigenous peoples as being “out of time” – both literally and figuratively. In these depictions, Native people are figured as existing in timeless and static cultural orders that have been irrevocably disrupted by the advent of colonial settlement. Unable to continue as they had in the pre-colonial past, these communities are left with only one possible future: to vanish, either through assimilation into settler society or outright extinction. Such temporal logics mask the actual ways in which colonial actors, laws, and policies work to make the inconvenient problem of indigenous presence disappear. If indigenous people are doomed to disappear, if their futures are foreclosed, then the forces of settler colonialism cannot be held responsible for their actions in relation to indigenous populations: they are simply hastening an outcome that has always already been determined.,The goal of this dissertation is to show that, contrary to the structure of colonial expectations, disappearance is not the only possible future for indigenous people. Quite the opposite, in fact. Focusing on the Haida First Nations community of Old Massett on Canada’s northwest coast, I explore the many ways in which Haida community members are engaged in producing a plethora of different possible futures, for themselves and even for their non-indigenous neighbours. In so doing, Haida negotiate the dilemmas of the settler colonial present, addressing issues of mobility, of politics, and of settler-indigenous co-existence through attempts to bring about desired futures and avoid undesirable ones. This work of future-making is not necessarily unified among Haida people; rather, the futures Haida produce are multiple, open to contestation and sometimes even contradictory. But this is precisely the point. In generating this field of possible futures, I argue that Haidas are retaking control of time itself, asserting their capacity not only to have a future, but to determine those futures for themselves, their very openness

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