How do settlers organize their discursive relationship with the lands they settle, in order to claim, conceptually and materially, the position of owner and occupant? What must they do to transform themselves, in their eyes and in the eyes of others, from parasite to host? And in what ways have these practices been contested? This article addresses these questions in the historical context of early American settler colonialism and demonstrates the relational structure that colonial legitimation requires, including how this structure is mediated by subjects not strictly part of that relation. Through readings of John Marshall, Mary Rowlandson, James Printer, and Martin R. Delany, this article brings together the fields of media philosophy and settler colonial studies to theorize the “parasitical trick” as a fundamental and flexible technique of settler colonialism that removes Indigenous people from relationality by, paradoxically, making them central to it.

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