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Posts Tagged ‘colonial narratives’

"The Impending Nisga'a' Deal. Last Stand. Chump Change" (1996). Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun.

“The Impending Nisga’a’ Deal. Last Stand. Chump Change” (1996). Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun.

(For the introduction to this series on national narratives click here.)

It is a breezy July morning, and a group of weary men are trudging their way up a sloping hill. In their midst they carry a 10-metre long plank of wood. A smaller beam has been nailed perpendicularly to the plank’s upper third to form a cross, the symbol of their God.

The men are nearing the end of what had been a long and difficult voyage along the shores of this strange, new continent. Their captain, Jacques Cartier, led them here in search of a waterway that would lead to the riches of the Orient. That discovery, however, would have to wait. Finding only false starts and dead ends, Cartier and his crew have at last decided to turn return home, and all preparations are in order for the perilous journey back across the Atlantic. No doubt looking forward to their return, it is easy to imagine the minds of Cartier’s men on the sights and smells of their home ports as they work through this final task: the raising of a cross on the banks of a great bay. (more…)

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The Hon. James Moore, talking about... something.

The Hon. James Moore, talking about… something.

As plans for the Canadian Museum of History continue to ramp up, I find myself wondering exactly whose Canada will be presented behind the glass displays of our new national museum. Our current government has taken a peculiar interest in Canadian history and national narratives – most notably, in the 1812 Bicentennial celebrations, and, now, in their unfolding plans for Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017.

If you have been following this blog for a while, you will know that one of my motivations in writing it is my belief that talking about our history is important. The way we perceive the past influences the decisions we make in the present. That old adage rings true, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

There is no doubt that the Harper government’s policies have gotten Canadians talking about the past. Who beforehand had even heard of the War of 1812? The question that lingers in my mind is what histories are we still not talking about, and how do they inform our present actions? (more…)

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Settlers in solidarity with Idle No More.

Settlers in solidarity with Idle No More.

Last week I attended a town hall-style panel discussion in Victoria on the future of Idle No More, one that posed the question that’s on everyone’s mind, “Where do we go from here?”

In one of the evening’s poignant moments – there were many – a non-indigenous woman walked up to a microphone to bring attention to something that was upsetting her deeply. A previous speaker had suggested that non-indigenous people would be supportive of the movement just as long as it didn’t personally inconvenience them – a fair statement in itself, only the speaker didn’t use that politically correct appellation, non-indigenous. (more…)

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A general observation: most advertisements, sports teams, fashion brands, and movies are about as culturally sensitive as a decolonization is easy. Which is to say, not very. That much will be clear to anyone that’s read the fantastic blog, Native Appropriations. If you haven’t already, I’d strongly suggest you check it out. But I got to thinking the other day, what would it be like if your average market industry was a force for decolonization? We’re a ways off that yet, but, hey, what’s the harm in dreaming. With apologies to Molson, here’s an ad I’m still waiting for: (more…)

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John “Angry Beaver” Baird

My post today concerns a comment made by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird on the latest outbreak of violence between Israel and Gaza. In his speech to a Jewish community gala, Baird refers to “the phoenix-like rising of the modern state of Israel, from a barren desert to the dynamic country we see today.” (For the full speech, click here.)

Now, I’m not sure that it’s possible to make a comment about Israel/Palestine without offending someone. I’m not sure that it’s desirable, either. But that’s not the fray I want to walk into today. Instead, I’d like to consider Baird’s comments from a standpoint somewhat (but not completely) outside the current conflict. (more…)

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Why so serious?

Why so serious?

I have mentioned before that one of my chief motivations for creating this blog was what others before me have seen as a the defining characteristic of current national public discourse – namely, its absence. One could find as many reasons for this as they care to look for – the commercialization of our universities, the current atmosphere of fear towards re-opening old constitutional wounds, the limited scope of debate in electoral politics, etc. Discussion of our big national questions is as passé today as ghetto blasters were vogue at the time of the last major constitutional talks.

In such an atmosphere, those who breach the subject of ‘national character’ are sure to stick out rather awkwardly, and author John Ralston Saul is surely among the sticky few. What I’d like to discuss here is his book A Fair Country (2009), because it is a compelling and tempting attempt to pinpoint the nature of Canada, but one that doesn’t feel quite right, and I’d like to suggest why that might be. (more…)

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Mi’kmaq figures view Halifax from across the harbour.

Well, I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m feeling the post-turkey melatonin hangover this week. Three feasts and a few left overs besides have left my poor, would-be vegetarian stomach in recovery mode, after this most North American of holidays. Thanksgiving, we are told, began with the sharing of harvests between settlers and indigenous peoples in early colonial North America, and continues to be associated with the “harmonious” nature of colonial relationships in popular culture today (if not always within family traditions).

That much is contentious – perhaps offensive – but the holiday is at least a reminder of the nature of our settler society. We, the relative newcomers to Canada, have not always been here, and yet we are seldom reminded of this fact (or its implications), because settler society has by and large marginalized the voices of the societies that preceded it. So, allow me take advantage of the holiday to go back to those early colonial days to tell a settler origin story. (more…)

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