03 July 2017

#Canada150, Indigenous nations 13,000...

Image result for colonization 150 canada
If you live in Canada, you will know that the country has just celebrated its sesquicentennial. You might have even learned the word "sesquicentennial" recently to describe what is the otherwise inescapable Canada 150.

JustUs! Coffee in Wolfville, Nova Scotia:
Canada 150; Mi Kmaki 13000
As anthropologists who have studied and taught about nationalism, it has been an interesting year, especially as the celebrations of a settler-society increasingly rub up against demands for the recognition of Indigenous peoples as founders of what is today "Canada," or as other Indigenous people publicly reject this nation-state as illegitimate (as Audra Simpson has so engagingly discussed in her work and life as Kahnawà:ke Mohawk).

As many scholars have discussed, in our national mythology, Canadians learn about Indigenous peoples are part of our foundation, our national past, rather than our national present.

The discussions that have emerged around what it means to be Canadian (or what it should mean...) have been fascinating to follow, and raise many important questions for public and ongoing discussion.

Canadian news outlets, for example, recently reported on the billboard message of Just Us! Coffee Roasters in Grand Pré, N.S. (shown right) where the owners of the coffee shop signaled "a reminder of how long this land has been inhabited: "Canada 150. Mi'kma'ki 13,000."

A local newspaper followed up with the owner who stated that the purpose of the message “[w]as meant as, we need to recognize multiple communities in our country and some of them get under-represented, I think,” he said. The Chronicle Herald went on to state that Grand-Pré is (...) located among three Mi’kmaq First Nation communities — Glooscap, Annapolis Valley and Bear River — in the Annapolis Valley. Just Us consults with them for partnerships, and recently began accepting status cards.

There are other settler initiatives that seek to educate other settlers. If one visits http://native-land.ca/ they can find an interactive map that is meant to be used as a resource to help North Americans learn more about their local history. Once there, you can search your address, or add territories to map below and click on polygons to learn more about the past histories and present narratives of where you live and work. On the 'about' page, you can read about why the author has created this resource:
"I'm Victor. I am a settler, born in traditional Katzie territory and raised in the Okanagan. I am concerned about many of the issues raised by using maps and colonial ways of thinking when it comes to maps. For instance, who has the right to define where a particular territory ends, and another begins? Who should I speak to about such matters?
There are over 630 different First Nations in Canada and I am not sure of the right process to map territories, languages, and treaties respectfully - and I'm not even sure if it is possible to do respectfully.
I feel that maps are inherently colonial, in that they delegate power according to imposed borders that don't really exist in many nations throughout history. They were rarely created in good faith, and are often used in wrong ways. I am open to criticism about this project and I welcome suggestions and changes."
In teasing apart the celebrations, the news coverage (both positive and detracting), and dialogue (both positive and negative) surrounding the Canada 150 celebration by Ottawa (our federal government) and Canadians (settlers and non-settlers alike), we wanted to highlight and recognize the opportunities for learning more.

In taking a holistic perspective from an anthropological toolkit, we can ask ourselves:

  1. Who is telling the story of this celebration? Why are they telling it in this way? 
  2. Whose voices may have been muted or not well listened to in this telling? 
  3. What other perspective or realities exist of this event (and those leading up to it)? 

In speaking about this 150 celebration in terms of varying perspectives, one gains the sense that the national celebration that Ottawa is supporting is just one version, one rendition, of a multi-faceted history.

To end this post, the bloggers (writing under 'anthro everywhere!' for the first time) would like to leave those interested with a few links to gain different perspectives:
  1. Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler (statement here)
  2. Anishinabek Nation Statement on Canada 150 (statement here)
  3. UNsettling 150: A Call to Action (link here)
  4. UNsettling Canada150 Webinar: Ellen Gabriel, Russ Diabo, Beatrice Hunter (link here)
The Scream, on the cover, The Subjugation of Truth, by Kent Monkman (from Pamela Palmater's article in Now Toronto):

The Scream (2017) converted.jpg

Quick links: