She’s white. She has taken a Native Student Services job. And the University of Alaska Anchorage seems to think it has some explaining to do.
The Native Student Services office at the University of Alaska Anchorage hired a woman the school describes as having “Settler-Colonizer heritage (mostly Czech and German).” The settler-colonizer “grew up in what is now Colorado on the land of the Arapahoe, Cheyenne, and Ute peoples.”
Valerie Svancara is the new assistant director for NSS. She came to UAA as an admissions counselor with a focus on rural Alaska students. With a Master of Education in Teaching and Learning from UAA, she has immersed herself in a “Participatory Action/Indigenous Methodologies research project focused on university transition and retention experiences of Alaska Native students.”
This settler-colonizer label is part of Critical Race Theory. Brown University’s Critical Race Theory course uses the Settler-Colonizer term to educate whites about whose land they occupy.
“This week we start to engage ideas around settler colonialism, and the ways the racialization of Indigenous peoples and enslaved Africans emerged with and through the process of colonization in (what is now known as) the United States. Often conversations about race and racism ignore indigenous peoples, or fail to address the role of ongoing settler colonialism in creating racial stratification. The readings offer theoretical foundations into understanding just what settler colonialism is (and what it shares and how it differs from other forms of colonialism), as well as two Indigenous scholars approaches to CRT and indigeneity. Native identity is both racialized and also political/legal (Native peoples in the US are considered a racial group as well as citizens of sovereign nations), which we will work to unpack and put in conversations about racial formations and the tenets of CRT,” the course authors write in introducing the subject of Settler-Colonialism
“Questions to ask yourself this week: Whose land are you on? Which tribal nation(s) specifically? How are the Native people in your community represented (or not)? For non-Native people: in what ways have you benefitted and continue to benefit from settler colonialism?” the Introduction to Critical Race Theory 2017 class asks students to consider about their own flawed identity.
Not all are happy with the emphasis on Critical Race Theory in the hiring practices at UAA. “
“UAA may discover that labeling people as settler-colonizers has a dampening effect on raising funds from those very people who they hope will support their programs,” noted one observer and critic.