A recent discussion with a friend sparked this post. I haven’t shared my thoughts directly on the subject, but have actively avoided the word ‘homesteader’ in my promotions of my book, development of my brand and activities therein.
This is a great intro to the topic of why I’m not into celebrating a word born from an era where white people got incentives/encouragement to live in places where existing cultures and groups were already being self-sufficient and getting along quite nicely.
It’s not exactly the case of Cristoforo Colombo (Columbus’ name in his native Italian), since many of the homesteaders were for the most part just concerned with surviving and setting up camp/townships/etc. while other homesteaders were specifically sent to do similar work as Columbus. The feeling is the same for me though, people already lived there and celebrating the feeling/era of homesteading by reusing that word just ignores a whole lot of other peoples’ history. Our word choices are extensions of the histories in which they’re rooted.
My friend Meg in Seattle wrote a very informed and thorough description of the historical and societal contexts surrounding the Homestead Act of 1862 on her blog Grow & Resist. It’s a great read (that post and others), and for those of you who missed out on anthro/soc or race relations classes in college or would just like to know more about the history/context of the words that are floating around these days, I encourage you to hop over and visit.
I very much agree with Meg’s statements about the word ‘homestead’:
When I hear ’homestead’ I think manifest destiny & rugged individualism. A bit less resistance & self-sufficiency and more “Get out of our way- we own this place. You know, cuz it’s our God-given right. So move along. This is our land now. Mine, mine, mine!“
When I think ‘homestead,’ I think racism, colonization and genocide. Not sun-warmed tomatoes, string beans and kale. There is too much tainted history wrapped up in the term.
Words are very important to me (I still am and always will be a poet) and thinking about how we use them. I’m thinking a lot lately about what my brand does say, who I am and what I stand for and as a result I’ve been working on shifting away from quite-differently, though-still-loaded words like hip, homemaking and girl, and I hope to share with you all some of my thoughts on that process soon.