Indigeneity and U.S. Settler Colonialism

Whyte, K. (2016). Indigeneity and US Settler Colonialism. Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Race. Edited by N. Zack, 91-101. Oxford University Press.

Written for the field of philosophy, this article introduces concepts of and conflicts over Indigeneity to the field of philosophy of race. In the U.S. context, Indigenous identity, or Indigeneity, presents many difficulties, ranging from problematic understandings of blood degree to peculiar census definitions to accusations of identity fraud. I will discuss in this essay a brief outline of my view that these difficulties are oppressive dilemmas and disappearances that are built into those structures of US settler colonialism that seek to erase us in our own homelands. Looking forward, I will appeal to Kim TallBear’s work, which I will interpret in relation to my own work on environmental justice, to suggest at least one possible alternative for addressing issues associated with Indigeneity and settler erasure.


Whyte, K. (2016). Indigeneity. Keywords for Environmental Studies. Eds Joni Adamson, William A. Gleason, & David N. Pellow. NYU Press.

Ecological scientists often define “indigeneity” as a species’ ecological nativeness to a place. A species is indigenous or native when its presence in a region stems from natural process and not human ones. Points of human influence distinguish indigenous (prior) from nonindigenous (newcomer) species (like nonnative invasive species). The concept of indigeneity, or indigenousness, does not always exclude humans. Humans who identify themselves as indigenous often seek to express a prior or more original claim to a place in contrast to individuals they consider to be settlers or newcomers. This paper explores the concept of indigeneity under these terms and as related to contemporary environmental studies.

Theorizing Indigeneity, Gender, and Settler Colonialism

Meissner, S. N., & Whyte, K. P. (2017). Theorizing Indigeneity, Gender, and Settler Colonialism. Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Race. Edited by L. Alcoff, L. Anderson, and P. Taylor. Routledge. Forthcoming.

We seek in this essay to distill rather briefly for philosophers of race a few of the concepts and arguments advanced within literatures in Indigenous feminisms and Indigenous gender studies. We will try to give voice to the structures of settler colonial erasure by bringing together a range of cases from academic literatures of how oppressive impositions of Indigenous identities are interwoven with patriarchy. U.S. settler patriarchy, as part of the structure of erasure, issues specific tactics that accomplish erasure by delegitimizing Indigenous political representation and diplomacy, breeding distrust and creating oppressive dilemmas within Indigenous communities, and justifying and obscuring violence against Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit persons. The resurgence of Indigenous identities as part of decolonization movements must simultaneously be tied to the decolonization of Indigenous relationships to gender and land.