1) Racism as a Colonial Context

[previous page, under construction: Introduction]

By the 1860s, within the British Empire, racism (meaning any system of ideas in which race and racial differences are believed to exist, or are pretended to exist as biological fact) was prevalent.[1] England’s colonial elites circulated overt expressions of contempt for indigenous populations abroad.[2] At the same time, ‘races’ were intermingling throughout the colonies and in the ‘home’ country as well — including in prominent families. Although the issue of “racial crossing” was a “chronic” concern to colonial officials, the issue was seldom openly addressed. Instead ‘race’ separation was “insinuated into policy and other techniques of governmental and social management.”[3]

According to critical race theory, racism protects class power. The British ruling class had invented a tradition of ‘whiteness’ to define itself. The “deeply racist” project of “keeping European settlers white” was “a powerful bond” linking elites in the ‘home’ country with those in the colonies. In England, by the late 1800s and early 1900s, the fear was that “a brutish and unruly working class” was damaging British society (by threatening the social hierarchy). The colonial outposts of British ‘whiteness’ were viewed as “even more vulnerable,” to the “insidious danger … the spread of cultural and biological contamination.”[4]

In North America, during the American Civil War (1861 to 1865), David Goodman Croly coined the word ‘miscegenation’ to name the fear that ‘white Anglo-Saxons’ would be subsumed by ‘others.’ Croly combined the Latin verb ‘miscere’ (to mix) with the noun ‘genus’ (‘race’/type) as part of a pamphleteering hoax during the U.S. elections of 1864.[5]

Throughout the British Empire at this time, “vitriolic comments were directed at settlers of mixed parentage” and additional words were invented to name their children and identify them as “outside the perimeters of white society.” Typologies were invented to itemize “‘fractions’ of Europeanness.”[6] Racism was defended by laws and legislative practices that separated people: to protect Western civilization from a “raceless chaos” in which “white imperialists” might be “elbowed out … and even thrust aside.”[7]

Nineteenth-century colonial ‘race’-based laws and legislative practices throughout the British Empire had marked attributes, which were “largely focussed on the enactment of marriage and paternity laws intended to separate the adult ‘half caste’ and mixed race offspring from their native roots.”

  • in metropolitan settings, a “legal category could (and did) override race (and skin colour), and no separate legal distinction was made between ‘pure white’ and ‘not-so-white’ and ‘brown’ [and even ‘black’] once [a person was] legally defined as belonging to the category European.”[8]
  • in relatively isolated hinterlands, “‘half-castes’ were classed within the indigenous population,” but laws were legislated that distinguished between ‘full’ and ‘half’ Aboriginal peoples.[9]

Children were to be ‘protected’  from “Indigenous and mixed race” parents and from ‘full-blood’ Aboriginal communities. Colonial officials legislated education policies to alleviate anxiety about “the future behaviour of the offspring of the ‘unruly classes’” (the poor and the ‘non-white’). The focus of the policies was not on educating Aboriginal children, so much as it was on containing them while breaking their bonds to all things Indigenous: “schooling became a key cultural institution in safeguarding the isolated islands of whiteness in the vast stretches of empire” — no less in Canada than anywhere else.[10]

Such resort to legal and legislative action was pronounced in the British Empire from 1886 to 1920.[11] The strategic pattern was one of ‘divide and conquer.’

Racism intensified before the outbreak of war in 1914. Unprecedented immigration “changed the face” of the Canadian West, while international competition for supremacy saw an increase in jingoism world-wide.[12] The children of Aboriginal parents were not the only ones targeted with programs of cultural extinction/ assimilation in Canada at the time.[13] Nevertheless, although migrant families from eastern and southern Europe were deigned to be ‘backward,’ no one accused their children of being ‘savage.’[14]

Internationally, racism peaked again with the Second World War (1939 to 1945).[15] The Métis of Canada were targeted by Marcel Giraud. He was a French ethnographer working in Paris during the Nazi occupation, when racism was sanctioned by official state policy. Giraud devoted his two volume doctoral dissertation to detailing the outcomes of ‘miscegenation’ between French and ‘Indians’ in Canada.[16] He applied the theory of ‘racial’ degeneration to argue his thesis that the products of ‘inter-racial’ marriages in North America were defective.[17] In keeping with arguments made earlier by Europeans intent on the ‘civilizing mission,’ Giraud found Métis communities to be problematic: “all social problems were the result of individual or collective shortcomings,” and were not attributable to “inadequacies within…[the] country’s political or economic institutions.”[18]

From the end of the Second World War to 1967, official and public discourse in Canada cultivated and projected an image of a polite and predominantly ‘white’ nation that was justly proud of its political and economic institutions and relatively free of racism. Canada was presented as an ‘equal society’ because ‘tolerant’ of ‘ethnic’ cultural expressions.[19] Maintaining that image required ignoring the experiences of the children of “forgotten people” — those who had become officially classed as ‘of Indian blood’/ ‘Half-breed’/ Métis and ‘non-status’ during the decades of the twentieth century.[20]

Those classifications were racialized. They were constructed and artificial. They were legally enforced.[21] The classifications owed their existence to the scrip and treaty processes, both of which derived legitimacy from the ever-changing clauses of the Indian Act.

The people designated ‘of Indian blood’/ ‘Half-breed’/ Métis and ‘non-status’ used a variety of terms to describe themselves depending on the language spoken and the context in which description took place. To themselves, they were ordinary people with “authentic humanity.”[22] Having antecedents that allowed them to self-identify in a variety of ways (well beyond the mere mixture of ‘European’ and ‘Indian’), was normal. When engaged in political argument, they might adopt the ‘race’-based terminology of their critics. This did not necessarily indicate that they accepted its validity, but rather that they were able to refute it, and, by appropriating such terminology, diminish its power in an act of resistance.[23]

[next page: 2) ‘Indian’ Title]


[1] See ‘Race,’ in “Note(s) on Terminology and Aboriginality,” this site, which cites Constance Backhouse, “The Historical Construction of Racial Identity and Implications for Reconciliation,” commissioned by the Department of Canadian Heritage for the Ethnocultural, Racial, Religious, and Linguistic Diversity Seminar (Halifax: 1 – 2 November 2001), 2, 7 – 8, as observing that racial classification is “nonsense.” Further, she states that

‘Race’ is not a biological or trans-historical feature, but a sociological classification situated in a particular time and context. It is shaped and moulded by economic, political, and cultural forces as well as resistance and challenges. Racial categories form a continuum of gradual change, not a set of sharply demarcated types. There are no intrinsic isolating mechanisms between people and, given the geographic dispersion of populations over time, the concept of ‘pure’ human ‘races’ is absurd.

See also Ian F. Haney Lopez, “What is Race,” Race Racism and the Law, University of Dayton School of Law, http://academic.udayton.edu/race/01race/race.htm (accessed 25 March 2012). See also Charles W. Mills, “The Racial Polity,” in Racism and Philosophy, ed. Susan E. Babbitt and Sue Campbell (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 1999), 14, 17, who states “race has constituted a central line of moral and political demarcation, of privilege and subordination in the global polity for hundreds of years.” In terms of empire-building, “white supremacy” was the major organizing principle. Recent DNA studies posit that the “apartheid-like” pattern, of dominance by the few over the many, was an ancient one in England. See Mark G. Thomas, Michael P.H. Stumpf, and Heinrich Harke, “Evidence for an apartheid-like social structure in early Anglo-Saxon England,” Proceedings of the Royal Society. Biological Sciences 273 (2006): 2652–2657. The inability of elites to perceive racism at work in their attitudes towards ‘benevolent’ colonialism is discussed by Bart Schultz, “Mill and Sidgwick, Imperialism and Racism,” Utilitas 19, no. 1 (2007): 104–130.

[2] See, for example, Thomas Macaulay, Minute On Indian Education (1835), who sought to liquidate indigenous culture via the education system; and compare to attitudes of the 1860s that were taken “well into the twentieth century,” described by Damon Ieremia Salesa, Racial Crossings: Race, Intermarriage, and the Victorian British Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 13. For truly horrendous extremes of British expressions of overt ‘race’ hatred see C.J. Chives, The Gun (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010), 84–86.

[3] Salesa, Racial Crossings, 1, 2, notes “there was not a singular or universal predicament of race crossing, no reiterating history of development, no unified terminology, nor a common set of circumstances.” See, for examples of upper class crossings, Simon David Smith, Slavery, Family and Gentry Capitalism in The British Atlantic: The World of the Lascelles, 1648–1834 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 348, who notes “It is likely that the family histories of a significant number of Britons with past colonial connections … include ancestors who experienced enslavement in the Caribbean.” See also a contentious article by Mario de Valdes y Cocom, “Queen Charlotte,” The Blurred Racial Lines of Famous Families, PBS, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/secret/famous/royalfamily.html (accessed 3 February 2012), who argues Queen Charlotte (1744–1818) had ‘black’ ancestry, and mentions Dido Elizabeth Belle-Lindsay (c. 1763–1804), the “black” daughter of Sir John Lindsay and grand niece of Lord Mansfield as well. Cocom adds “it should be noted that the Royal Household itself, at the time of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, referred to both her Asian and African bloodlines in an apologia it published defending her position as head of the Commonwealth.”

[4] Constance MacIntosh, “From Judging Culture to Taxing ‘Indians’: Tracing the Legal Discourse of the ‘Indian Mode of Life,’” Osgoode Hall Law Journal (2009): 405. Joost Coté, “Education and the Colonial Construction of Whiteness,” ACRAWSA e-journal 5, no. 1 (2009),  http://acrawsa.org.au/files/ejournalfiles/39acrawsa512.pdf (accessed 24 November 2011), 1. Coté argues “we can … not understand the construction of whiteness without exploring its class dimensions.” In the language of Canadian historians, the link was one between ‘centres’ and ‘peripheries’/‘hinterlands.’ Coté notes, “Where in metropolitan Europe, the unruly and ill-disciplined working class masses appeared to threaten established class arrangements and the economic practices upon which these were based, in the colonies control of the reproduction of bourgeois values was seen to be directly threatened by race.”

[5] Devrim Karahasan, “Métissage in New France: Frenchification, Mixed Marriages and Métis as Shaped by Social and Political Agents and Institutions 1508–1886.” Ph.D. diss. (Florence: European University Institute, 2006), 142, 143, notes as well that “the concept of ‘métissage’ [first] appeared in printed form in France in 1834/1837 in Dictionnaire de l’industrie manufacturière commerciale et agriculturelle which stated that métissage referred to the ‘crossing of races’.” See also Patrick Wolfe, “Land, Labor, and Difference: Elementary Structures of Race,” The American Historical Review 106. 3 (June 2001): 866–905; Sidney Kaplan, “The Miscegenation Issue in the Election of 1864,” Journal of Negro History 34, no. 3 (July 1949): 274–343; and David G. Croly, Miscegenation: The Theory of the Blending of the Races, applied to the American White Man and Negro (New York: H. Dexter, Hamilton & Co., 1864), digital facsimile, Internet Archive, http://www.archive.org/details/miscegenationthe00crol (accessed 18 September 2011), 2, 9, 11, 16, 17, 20, 25, 30. The invention occurs on page 2, where the verb, associated verb, noun, adjective, and other invented terms are defined. Skin colour is the primary point of difference that Croly’s apparently disingenuous argument seeks to address. He states that “wherever, through conquest, colonization, or commerce, different nationalities are blended, a superior human product invariably results.” The consequence (to be feared by some) is that “Mixed breeds are very often superior, in almost all their physical qualities, to all the present races, and particularly with so much vigor of propagation, that they often gain ground upon the older varieties and gradually supersede them.” Thus, “in the course of time the dark races must absorb the white” (the ‘white’ comprising “only a comparatively small fraction of the people who inhabit the planet”). Everyone on the American continent is destined — once the “fullest results of civilisation” are attained — to become “a yellow-skinned, black-haired people.” He offers two other peculiar arguments: that a greater number of females than males in a ‘racial’ population is a marker of weakness and degeneration; that the first wave of miscegenation to be noticeable by skin colour would see the poorest among the ‘white’ (Irish Catholics) mingling with the poorest among  the  dark-skinned (African Americans).

[6] Coté, “Education and the Colonial Construction of Whiteness,” 2. Despite Britain’s officially neutral stance during the war, there were significant pockets of support (among the upper classes) for the eleven slave-owning states of the South. See “British Political and Public Involvement with the Union & Confederate Propaganda Movements,” UK Heritage, American Civil War Round Table, http://www.acwrt.org.uk/uk-heritage_British-Political-and-Public-Involvement-with-the-Union–Confederate-Propaganda-Movements.asp  (accessed 3 February 2012).

[7] Robert J.C. Young (a postcolonial theorist, cultural critic, and historian), and Charles Henry Pearson  (Education Minister in Victoria, Australia, and historian speaking in 1896), quoted in Coté, “Education and the Colonial Construction of Whiteness,” 3.

[8] See MacIntosh, “From Judging Culture to Taxing ‘Indians,’” 412–413. On the legal ‘whiteness’ of ‘black’ Canadians see, for example, Constance Backhouse, “‘Bitterly Disappointed’ at the Spread of ‘Colour-Bar Tactics’: Viola Desmond’s Challenge to Racial Segregation, Nova Scotia, 1946,” Colour-Coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canada, 1900-1950 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999), 226-271.

[9] For an example see Mark Stevenson, “Section 91 (24) and Canada’s Legislative Jurisdiction with Respect to the Métis,”  Indigenous Law Journal 1 (Spring 2002), 250. Stevenson notes that in 1850,  An Act for the Better Protection of the Lands and Property of the Indians in Lower Canada, “includes a definition of the term ‘Indians’ which provides that the following shall be considered Indians:

  • First – All persons of Indian blood, reputed to belong to a particular Body or Tribe of Indians interested in such lands, and their descendents [sic].
  • Secondly – All persons intermarried with any such Indians and residing amongst them, and the descendants of all such persons
  • Thirdly – All persons residing among such Indians, whose parents on either side were or are Indians of such Body or Tribe, or entitled to be so considered as such:
  • And Fourthly – All persons adopted in infancy by any such Indians, and residing in the Village or upon the lands of such tribe or body of Indians, and their descendants.

As well, An Act Respecting Indians and Indian Lands, passed in 1860, includes a definition of the term ‘Indian’ similar to the 1850 definition. In 1868, the Dominion of Canada passed An Act Providing for the Organization of the Department of the Secretary of State of Canada, and for the Management of Indian and Ordinance Lands, which was the first piece legislation enacted pursuant to section 91(24) of the Act of 1867. The 1868 Act provides that for the purposes of determining who is entitled to enjoy Indian lands and immovable property, the following shall be considered as Indians:

  • Firstly – All persons of Indian Blood, reputed to belong to the particular tribe, band or body of Indians interested in such lands or immovable property, and their descendants;
  • Secondly – All persons residing among such Indians, whose parents were or are, or either of them was or is, descended on either side from Indians or an Indian reputed to belong to the particular tribe, band or body of Indians interested in such lands or immovable property, and the descendants of all such persons; and
  • Thirdly – All women lawfully married to any of the persons included in the several classes hereinbefore designated; the children issue of such marriages, and their descendants.

Both of these statutes provide a fairly flexible definition of the term Indian. The earlier statute is particularly interesting. The second paragraph of the 1850 Act would allow status to those intermarried with Indians and living among them, as well as all their descendents [sic]. Clearly this category is broad enough to include many Métis. The 1850 Act also contemplates adopted infants, whether Indian or not. The 1868 legislation, while still fairly broad, excludes infant adoptions and tries to connect the definition of Indians more directly to those having an interest in Indian immovable property. Yet the definition is still broad because it includes all the descendents [sic] of the three classes or categories of persons defined as Indians: those belonging to a band or tribe with an interest in certain lands, and their descendents [sic]; those residing amongst them and their descendants, and those women lawfully married to members of the preceding categories, and their descendants. Despite problematic wording that might exclude some Métis from inclusion in the category of ‘Indian,’ Stevenson concludes “At the same time, it is simply illogical to conclude that most if not all Métis are not descendents [sic] from the above categories.” Coté, “Education and the Colonial Construction of Whiteness,” 3, 4.

[10] Coté, “Education and the Colonial Construction of Whiteness,” 2, 4. See Yvonne Boyer, “First Nations, Métis and Inuit Health and the Law: A Framework for the Future,” LLD law thesis (Ottawa: University of Ottawa, 2011), 35–36, who responds to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s statement that Canada has “no history of colonialism. So we have all of the things that many people admire about the great powers but none of the things that threaten or bother them.” See also David Ljunggren, Every G20 nation wants to be Canada, insists PM,” Reuters (25 September 2009), http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE58P05Z20090926  (accessed 11 February 2012).

[11] Constance Backhouse, “Historical Construction of Racial Identity and Implications for Reconciliation,” Commissioned by the Department of Canadian Heritage for the Ethnocultural, Racial, Religious, and Linguistic Diversity Seminar (Halifax: 1–2 November 2001),” 2.

[12] “The New Faces of Canada,” The Immigration Boom, HCO The History of Canada Online, http://canadachannel.ca/HCO/index.php/5._The_Immigration_Boom_1895-1914 (accessed 11 February 2012), states, “Between 1890 and 1910, Canada’s population increased by almost 70%. Between 1896 and the outbreak of World War One in 1914, more than 2.5 million people immigrated to Canada. And in the first two decades of the twentieth century, Canada’s total population skyrocketed from 5.4 million to 10.4 million. The growth was most remarkable in the west. Saskatchewan saw its population grow from 91 000 in 1901 to 492 432 by 1911 to make it the third most populated province of Canada. Manitoba increased its population from 152 000 in 1891 to 554 000 in 1916. B.C.’s population skyrocketed from 98 000 to 456 000. In 1891 there were fewer than 100 000 people living between Manitoba and British Columbia; a quarter of century later, there were more than one million.”

[13] See Cora J. Voyageur and Brian Calliou, “Various Shades of Red: Diversity within Canada’s Indigenous Community,” London Journal of Canadian Studies 16 (2000/2001), 109; C.A. Dawson, and Eva R. Younge, Pioneering in the Prairie Provinces: The Social Side of the Settlement Process, vol. 8, Canadian Frontiers of Settlement, ed. W.A. Mackintosh and W.L.G. Jones (Toronto: Macmillan Company of Canada, 1940; reprint, 1974), ix, 34–38, 287 (page citations are to the reprint edition); also, Howard Palmer, “Strangers and Stereotypes: The rise of nativism 1880–1920,” in The Prairie West: Historical Readings, 2d ed., ed. R. Douglas Francis and Howard Palmer (Calgary: Pica Pica Press, 1992), 309–333. Norma J. Hall, “A Perfect Freedom: Red River as a Settler Society, 1810–1870,” M.A. thesis (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba, 2003),  8–9, observes, “Non-Anglo Saxon norms were considered to be non-adaptive, substandard, and undesirable by those entrusted with promoting the vision of Canada as having a capable population imbued with superior standards. The assumption was that native and immigrant peoples, once enlightened through education and exposure to the ideal, would naturally strive to emulate it. Assimilation would take place; the desired homogeneous Canadian citizenry produced. … A concerted effort was therefore directed at Canadianizing children, primarily through education.”

[14] Stephen Steinberg, “Civilizing the Primitive: From Robert Ezra Park to William Julius Wilson, From Tuskegee to the Harlem Children’s Zone,” draft paper, The Reproduction of Race and Racial Ideologies Workshop (Fall 2010), University of Chicago, http://csrpc.uchicago.edu/workshops/workshoppapers/RcWkshpFall10.Steinberg.pdf (accessed 22 February 2012), 6.

[15] See Norman Hillmer, Bohdan Kordan, and Lubomyr Luciuk, eds., On guard for Thee: War, Ethnicity and the Canadian State, 1939–1945 (Ottawa: Canadian Committee for the History of the Second World War, 1988).

[16] Marcel Giraud, Le Métis Canadien: son rôle dans l’histoire des provinces de l’Ouest, vol. 1 (Paris: Institut d’Ethnologie, Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, 1945; reprint as, The Métis in the Canadian West, trans. George Woodcock, 2 vols., Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1986), vol. 1, ix–xiv, xix, 9, 211, 319–330, 352, 355, and vol. 2, 79, 486, 520 (page citations are to the translated edition). Giraud took the binary blood divide to the point of near speciation in his influential contribution. However, in his estimation, Métis identity was ultimately ephemeral, because, as products of miscegenation, the Métis were caught in a spiraling devolution leading inexorably to their extinction.

[17] Giraud, The Métis in the Canadian West, vol. 1, 3–22, 217–226, 229, 276, ascribes to degeneration theory in attributing to North American conditions (primitive wilderness) the ability to send Europeans on a ‘backward’ evolutionary slide. See also Olive Patricia Dickason, The Myth of the Savage: And the Beginnings of French Colonialism in the Americas (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1984), xvii, 41–59, who explains that from Ptolemy through the Renaissance a conception had grown that the new world possessed a “savage” temper capable of degenerating old world transplants — whether vegetable or animal — including human. On degeneration theory see also Jonathan Dollimore, Death, Desire and Loss in Western Culture (New York: Routledge, 1998), 128. Johann Friedrich Blumenbach was an early scientist to advocate degeneration along with such monogenists as Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon. They theorized that ‘races’ could degenerated into ‘primitive’ forms. Eradicating ‘degeneration’ became a justification for various eugenic programs in the twentieth century aimed at sterilizing the ‘unfit’ to prevent the ‘corruption’ of future generations — not only in Nazi Germany but in Canada as well. See Angus McLaren, Our Own Master Race: Eugenics in Canada, 18851945 (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1990), who finds programs (advocated by medical professionals, business leaders, and politicians), were disproportionately directed against poor, unwed Aboriginal women (some in their teens) — particularly in British Columbia and Alberta. See also Caroline Strange and Jennifer A. Stephen, “Eugenics in Canada: A Checkered History, 1850s–1990s,” in The Oxford Handbook of The History of Eugenics, ed. Alison Bashford and Philippa Levine (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 524, 527, 528, 530, 534, who likewise find that Aboriginal people were among the “problem people” to be managed; and that eugenics had a “close association with the federally administered regulation of immigration and program of Aboriginal assimilation.” They note as well that “the incarceration of people identified as subnormal or inappropriately sexual accomplished eugenic objectives, even in provinces where eugenic policies were never codified in law.” They state, “The history of eugenics in Canada (as in the United States and other jurisdictions with indigenous populations) is inseparable from racist assimilationist policies and practices. … Detailed analysis of patient and inmate records in British Columbia and Alberta confirms that ‘Indian,’ ‘Métis,’ ‘half-breed,’ and ‘Eskimo’ individuals, particularly young women … were assigned for sterilization at disproportionately high rates.” Alarmingly, “Training schools for juveniles referred the bulk of inmates.” Thomas Thorner with Thor Fron-Neilson, eds., “Chapter 15. ‘The Whites Were Terrorists’: Residential Schools,” A Country Nourished on Self-doubt: Documents in Post-Confederation History 3d ed. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010), 384, attest that Ottawa funded sterilizations. Records were destroyed during the 1990s.

[18] Coutts, Road to the Rapids, 15. Giraud, The Métis in the Canadian West, vol. 1, xii, vol. 2 438–439, concluded that Métis had inherited the ability to adapt to the free life of the hunter but were left bereft of any ability to cope with economic and social changes as the fur trade was eclipsed by the ascension of agriculture. His prognosis was grim. At the time of his book’s publication, he observed that the “imperfect assimilation” of the Métis “perpetuates a problem the solution of which is difficult to foresee.” See also Boyer, “First Nations, Métis and Inuit Health and the Law,” 2, who states that factors including “colonization, residential schools … laws … [have] proven devastating and [have] … affected the core and social fibre of … individuals, families, and communities. … Federal policy and institutions created the crisis in Aboriginal Health.”

[19] See Eva Mackey, House of Difference: Cultural Politics and National Identity in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002), 2, 3, 5–6, who observes, “Aboriginal people are necessary players in nationalist myths: they are the colourful recipients of benevolence, the necessary ‘others’ who reflect back white Canada’s self-image of tolerance.” She adds, “In Canada … cultural pluralism is institutionalized as a key feature of the mythology of identity of the dominant white Anglophone majority. Multiculturalism, this book contends, has as much to do with the construction of identity for those Canadians who do not conceive of themselves as ‘multicultural’, as for those who do.” She notes, “The important question for me … is not ‘How does the dominant power erase difference?’ but rather, ‘How might we map the ways in which the dominant powers maintain their grip despite the proliferation of cultural difference? Further, it is important to ask how ‘threatening’ and ‘dangerous’ differences are contained, controlled, normalised, stereotyped, idealised, marginalised and reified.”  See also Lisa Comeau, “Contemporary Productions of Colonial Identities through Liberal Discourses of Education Reform,” Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies 3, no. 2 (Fall 2005), 16 – 17.

[20] Harry W. Daniels, The Forgotten people: Metis and non-status Indian land claims (Native Council of Canada, 1979). Using Daniel’s turn of phrase: the experiences were part of the “underside of Canadian history which we [Canadians] have suppressed.”  SAB, Sound Archives Programme, tape no. IH-420, transcript disc 69, interview with Joe Amyotte, conducted by Murray Dobbin, 11 August 1977, transcribed by Joanne Greenwood, 5, 6, 9, 10, characterizes the position of Métis people in southern Saskatchewan as of 1966, as “pushed behind” — not living “like other Canadians.” Amyotte observes, “a lot of people, they didn’t have no education. They couldn’t read or write, the same as I was, you know. And some of them had grade four or grade five education and it wasn’t enough for them to have a job to make a good living off of it.” He adds that prior to organizing in 1966, “we never did have a voice. And we never had a voice in government or anywhere. … There wasn’t a pride. I think they were more — well, they were more scared than anything else. They were pushed so far back, you know … [They were taught they weren’t as good].” See also Margaret Inoue, “Who are the Métis?: Olive Dickason and the Emergence of a Métis Historiography in the 1970s and 1980s,” M.A. thesis (Vancouver: University of British Columbia, 2004), 10.

[21] See Howard Adams, Prison of Grass: Canada From the Native Point of View (Toronto: New Press, 1975). Backhouse, “Historical Construction of Racial Identity,” 2, 4, 6, 21, notes, “Legislators, lawyers and judges used the concept of ‘race’ to fashion legal outcomes that provided unearned rights, privileges, resources and power to those defined as ‘white,’ while wresting these from groups defined as ‘non-white.’” She adds, “Aboriginal spokespersons might have advised on the multiplicity of indigenous ways of defining identity, devised across centuries of political, economic, and spiritual experience. Instead, Aboriginal history and culture went dismissively unheeded in the development of legal definitions. Arrogantly autonomous, Canadian legislators and judges used the law to draw racial boundaries, cutting through the morass of uncertainty, concretizing distinction” — and then ignoring the distinctions made, as they saw fit. See also MacIntosh, “From Judging Culture to Taxing ‘Indians,’” 412–413; Gwen Reimer and Jean-Philippe Chartrand, [Praxis Research Associates, Ottawa], “Documenting Historic Métis in Ontario,” Ethnohistory 51, no. 3 (summer 2004), 599 n.10, who note, “Assuming descent as a necessary requirement for inclusion in any ethnic community, and looking beyond the more tangible elements such as language and territory (the village), ethnographers [such as Cohen, Beresford, Keith, and Lampe] have concluded that community identity and boundaries are complex social phenomena that in part ‘‘exist in the minds of the beholders’’; and Chris Anderson, “Moya ‘Tipimsook (‘The People Who Aren’t Their Own Bosses’): Racialization and the Misrecognition of ‘Métis’ in Upper Great Lakes Ethnohistory,” Ethnohistory 58, no. 1 (2011): 37–63, who argues “in the absence of extensive documentation on historical self-ascriptions, contemporary ethnohistorians examining upper Great Lakes fur trade settlements have attempted to come to terms with the historical social ontologies that long preceded official attempts to regulate them. Specifically, we examine the racialized logics governing the retrofitting of these settlements as ‘métis’ and ‘Métis’ and, secondarily, the recent creep of juridical logics into ethnohistorical conversations. Rather than challenging ethnohistorical conclusions that these settlements were/are Métis, this article challenges how they are ethnohistorically imagined as such, and in doing so it appeals for a Métis ‘counter-ethnohistory’ alternatively anchored in an analytics of peoplehood.”

[22] Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (New York: Zed Books, 1999), 23.

[23] See Rebecca Ann Bach, Colonial Transformations: The Cultural Production of the New Atlantic World 15801640 (New York: Palgrave, 2000), 68–69. Adam D. Galinsky, Kurt Hugenberg, Carla Groom, and Galen Bodenhausen, “The Reappropriation of Stigmatizing Labels: Implications for Social Identity,” Identity Issues in Groups: Research on Managing Groups and Teams, vol. 5, ed. Jeffrey Polzer (Bingley UK: Emerald Group Publishing, 2003), 221, describe the practice as reappropriation: “Given that to appropriate means ‘to take possession of or make use of exclusively for oneself,’ we consider reappropriate to mean to take possession for oneself that which was once possessed by another, and we use it to refer to the phenomenon whereby a stigmatized group revalues an externally imposed negative label by self-consciously referring to itself in terms of that label. Instead of passively accepting the negative connotative meanings of the label, the speaker … rejected those damaging meanings and through appropriation imbued the label with positive connotations.” See also Murray Dobbin, The One-And-A-Half-Men: The Story of Jim Brady and Malcolm Norris, Metis Patriots of the Twentieth Century (Vancouver: New Star Books, 1981), 18.


Published: 18 March 2013


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