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‘Colonial Baggage’ A Mitchell 2017

As Canada gears up to mark 150 years of statehood on 1 July, a barrage of posters, events, advertisements, sales and other promotions urge to celebrate the country’s achievements. While there are many things to celebrate in this country, it is crucial that the congratulatory spirit of this event does not overshadow, mask or erase the violent realities of its history and present. Indeed, there are multiple occasions in which one can reflect on positive features of Canada and Canadians. July 1st specifically marks the founding of the modern Canadian state, and Canada 150 is, ultimately, a celebration of a century and a half of settler colonial statehood. Settlers – those of us whose presence on these lands is made possible by long-standing and ongoing colonial violence – need to recognize the injustices that have marked its emergence and transformation.

In particular, we, as settlers, need actively to confront the genocide that has been carried out throughout the history of the settler state, and whose manifestations shape today’s Canada.  An important part of this process is to recognise genocide for what it is: systematic, structural efforts to destroy entire peoples, the conditions of their survival and the possibilities of their resurgence. By emphasising the term cultural genocide, mainstream political discourses have softened the impact of the concept, making it appear as if the violence in question targeted ‘just’ cultures, and not whole peoples.  ‘Culture’ is not a qualifier, but rather a logic and means for carrying out genocide. To state that a genocide is ‘just’ cultural is similar to arguing that a murder was ‘just’ done with a hammer, versus a knife or a gun. By whatever means it is pursued, the deliberate effort to eradicate a people is genocide, period. It is also crucial to note that the continued flourishing and resurgence of Indigenous peoples, communities and cultures does NOT suggest that the genocide was any less severe or extreme than in other cases. Instead, this reflects the incredible power of Indigenous survivance –  that is, survival and/as resistance – in refusing eradication. Genocide is defined by the intention and effort to destroy entire peoples, not by the degree to which it is ‘completed’.

Genocide can be difficult to grasp in its entirety, so addressing and preventing it demands constant vigilance and careful attention. It is insidious, unfolds over long periods of time and assumes multiple forms – some spectacular and some more apparently subtle, and some which even appear to be positive or progressive.  A one-time recognition or apology for an aspect or act of genocide is not sufficient. Instead, daily work on a massive scale over decades or perhaps even centuries is required to dismantle the complex and enduring structures that enable genocide. To do this work, it is necessary to track, observe, bear witness to – and, of course, fight against –  the development of structures and logics that support genocide across spaces and times, on multiples scales and across diverse aspects of society.

With this in mind, for each of the 150 hours leading up to 11:59 on Canada Day – 1 July, 2017 – I will tweet one major development in the history of (settler) colonization in Canada for each year since 1867. I will tweet from @AudraLMitchell, on the hour, starting at 6PM on 25 June, with the hashtag #colonial150.

The tweets each reflect an event in the Canadian settler colonial state, society, economy and culture, each of which constitutes a significant contribution to Canada’s genocide. Some of these events have been magnified by mainstream history – for instance, the founding of the state or other institutions, or the signing of major treaties. Others have been marginalized in mainstream histories, including acts of violence and abuse against students in residential schools. In addition, some of these events are punctual (e.g. the suppression of the Northwest Rebellion) while others unfold over long periods of time and/or space (e.g. the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women that has spread since the 1980s). In no way is the list of events comprehensive. Instead, by focusing on manifestations of colonial violence at different scales and contexts, I aim to reflect on the often subtle but remarkably persistent transformations of settler colonialism into multiple forms, temporalities and expressions.

The focus of these tweets is the development and transformation of the settler colonial

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‘Colonial Baggage II’ A Mitchell 2017

state in Canada, its logics and cultures, and its manifestations across various dimensions of society. This focus is by no means intended to underplay the profound acts of survivance and resurgence enacted by Indigenous communities across Canada (and elsewhere), and still less to lock these communities into discourses of ‘victimhood’. Brilliant Indigenous writers, thinkers, artists and activists across the country are living and telling these stories of survivance and resurgence, which are not mine to share. Instead, I want to bear witness to the structures and forms of power that position me in this society and country, that are part of my (hi)story. I am not doing this as an apologia for white settler politics, nor as a move to innocence  (although, as Tuck and Yang argue, settlers should never be complacent about the possibility that even well-intentioned actions may be guided by this impulse). I do not for a second believe that this small act absolves me of the need actively to fight persistent structures of settler colonialism and genocide. On the contrary, this is simply one small hourly practice that can remind me of the profound violences that have made my life and my privileged status in this country possible, and my responsibility to fight against them everyday, not just on Canada day.

Thank you to Liam Kelly for his help with to compiling and checking sources, and scheduling tweets.

The Tweets:

1867: British North America Act gives the federal government responsibility for Aboriginal peoples and their lands.
1868: Wikwemikong Catholic residential school opens.
1869: Transfer of Rupert’s land to the federal government of Canada sparks Red River rebellion.
1870: Northwest Territories created and placed under federal control as Canada’s first territory.
1871: Treaties 1 and 2 transfer land in southern Manitoba from the Anishinaabeg and Swampy Cree to federal control.
1872: Metlakatla Anglican residential school opens.
1873: Treaty 3 transfers land in southern Ontario and Manitoba from the Saulteaux tribe to federal control
1874: Treaty 4 transfers lands from the Cree, Saulteaux and Assinaboine to to the fedearl government.
1875: Treaty 5 which transfers land in Northern Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario to federal control
1876: Indian Act is passed, making Indigenous people wards of the Canadian state
1877: Treaty 7 transfers lands from the Siksika, Kainai, Piikani, Stoney-Nakoda and Tsuut’ina peoples to federal control.
1878: JS Dennis advises PM John A. MacDonald that Indigenous peoples should be trained in farming and mechanical trades to assimilate them.
1879: Emmanuel College (residential school) opens.
1800: UK gives Canada control of the Arctic islands.
1881: Canadian railway is incorporated; PM JA MacDonald deliberately starves thousands of Indigenous people to clear a path for it.
1882: full turnover of teachers at Fort Simpson residential school reflects poor conditions in these schools.
1883: PM JA MacDonald calls Indigenous parents ‘savages’, calls for students to ‘acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men’
1884: Aboriginal potlatch celebrations are made illegal under the Indian Act.
1885: Canadian Federal government puts down the Northwest Rebellion, extending Canadian law to the West and executing leader Louis Riel.
1885: Indian Pass system requires Indigenous people to carry a pass when entering or leaving a reservation.
1886: Election Act of Manitoba disqualifies ‘Indians’ or persons of ‘Indian blood’ from receiving annuities from the Crown.
1887: being an ‘Indian in a state of intoxication’ made punishable by a fine, imprisonment or both.
1888: St. Catharines Milling and Lumber v Regina states that Aboriginal title allowed only at Crown’s pleasure, can be revoked any time.
1889: New Brunswick elections act disqualifies ‘Indians’ from voting
1890: Indian Commissioner Hayter Reed proposes that ‘native language’ teaching in residential schools be discontinued as soon as possible.
1891: Jean L’Hereux, employee of Indian Affairs, allowed to resign after accusations of sexually abusing children in residential schools.
1892: Onion Lake Catholic residential school opens (closes 1974)
1893: Indian Affairs “Programme of Studies for Indian Schools” states that residential school students must be induced to speak English.
1894: Duck Lake residential school opens, not to close until 1996.
1895: Indian Agents instructed to seek permission of Department of Indian Affairs to allow residential school students to marry.
1896: Canadian Government funds 45 church-run residential schools across Canada.
1897: Kah-pah-pah-mah-am-wa-ko-we-ko-chin deposed from his position at White Bear Reserve for his vocal opposition to residential schools.
1898: Saddle Lake Roman Catholic residential school opens, not to close until 1990.
1899: Federal government signs Treaty 8 – the largest treaty by area in the history of the Canadian settler state.
1900: Crowfoot, St. Joseph’s, St. Trinité residential schools open, not to close until 1968.
1901: Proposals to construct a hospital at the Regina residential school are rejected.
1902: Duncan Sticks freezes to death after running away from the Williams Lake, BC residential School.
1903: principle of Red Dear, AB residential school scolded for allowing use of Cree language.
1904: Department of Indian Affairs issues two policies to quicken Indigenous assimilation, end native customs and improve ‘Indian education’, and pressure Indigenous groups to cede land to settlers.
1905: Federal government signs Treaty 9, which transfers much of current northern Ontario from the Ojibway and Cree to federal control.
1906: Federal government signs Treaty 10, which transfers lands in northern Saskatchewan and Alberta to federal control
1907: Dr. Peter Bryce conducts study that shows extremely high rates of tuberculosis in residential schools.
1908: Saskatchewan Elections act disqualifies ‘Indians’ from voting.
1909: Athabasca Petroleum Syndicate forms, begins drilling in oil sands north of Fort McMurray.
1910: Indian Affairs signs contract with churches to set standards for residential school diets and ventilation – it fails to make impact on TB crisis.
1911: Songhees Reserve (Victoria, BC) is relocated.
1912: Cross Lake, St. Joseph’s, Norway House, Notre Dame Hostel, Jack River Hostel (Cross Lake) residential school opens.
1913: police are called when a mother removes her daughter from Fort Resolution residential school.
1914: a father successfully sues the Mohawk Institute residential school for locking his daughter in a cell for 3 days.
1915: a report on the Roman Catholic residential school at the Blood Reserve states that education is merely ‘memory work’
1916: BC members of Indian Rights Association travel to Ottawa to express grievances over land rights to federal government.
1917: parents of children at the Shoal Lake residential school refuse to return their children when principal does not resign.
1918: Indian Agent John Smith reports lack of nutritious food at Kamloops residential school
1919: Yukon Territory Ordinance Respecting Elections disqualifies ‘Indians’ from voting.
1920: Duncan Campbell Scott (Indian Affairs) recommends Bill 14, which restates Canada’s right to force attendance at residential schools.
1921: Federal government signs Treaty 11, which transfers a massive parcel of land in the present-day Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavat to federal control.
1922: after deaths of students at Kitimaat residential schools, parents withdraw children, demand better food and care
1923: former industrial school principal RB Heron reports on inadequate education, excess labour in residential schools.
1924: reports of inadequate isolation facilities for tuberculosis patients in Mission, BC residential school.
1926: parents of children at Elkhorn residential school fail to send their children back due to poor food, clothing.
1926: Balfour Report declares Canada a fully independent country, confirming the sovereignty of the settler state.
1927: Indian Act is amended to make it illegal for First Nations peoples to raise money or retain a lawyer to advance land claims.
1928: Mt. Elgin residential school principal claims that ‘in the case of the Indian, a little learning is a dangerous thing’
1929: Big Trout Lake signing of Treaty 9, which ceded land around James Bay to the federal government.
1930: 75% of all Aboriginal children between the ages of 7-15 are in residential schools.
1931: Statute of Westminster grants the Canadian settler state full legal freedom.
1932: 8213 Aboriginal children are in residential/industrial schools.
1933: amendment to Indian Act enables federal gov’t to order forced enfranchisement of First Nations for assimilation purposes
1934: first of six residential schools established in Québec on Cree, Algonquin, Attikamek and Innu lands.
1935: Métis of Ste. Madeleine, Manitoba, relocated under the authority of the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act.
1936: Report by D.A. Stewart states that deaths of Aboriginal people from tuburculosis in the West 10 x higher than non-Aboriginal people.
1937: Dr. HW McGill, director of Indian Affairs, limits Indian health-care services to ‘those required for safety of life, limb or essential function’
1938: The per capita grant issued for Aboriginal students was $180 compared to $294-$642 for white students.
1939: police officers conclude that runaway boys from Kuper residential school in BC were escaping sexual abuse.
1940: RA Hoey (formerly of Indian Affairs) reports on ‘dilapidated’ conditions, fire hzards in residential schools.
1941: named and unnamed combined death rate at residential schools is 4.9 x higher than general death rate
1942: First Nations Nutrition Experiments conducted on children in residential schools.
1943: Federal government declares compulsory military service for all ‘Native’ men of military age, despite lack of voting rights, benefits, etc.
1944: 31% of school-aged Aboriginal children are in residential schools.
1945: Indian Affairs shifts policy towards day schools as residential school system faces economic collapse from under-funding.
1946: Special Joint parliamentary Committee on the Indian Act explores possibility of extending suffrage to First Nations, despite worries abt loss of treaty rights, tax exemption.
1947: Canadian Citizenship Act grants citizenship to Aboriginal people registered under the Indian Act, with residency requirements.
1948: Special joint committee on the Indian Act recommends extending suffrage to Aboriginal people.
1949: Canada signs the UN Genocide Convention, yet residential schools continue to operate for 30 years after this date.
1950: Federal policy forces Aboriginal people to give up tax exemptions in exchange for the federal franchise.
1951: Bill C-31 defines a woman’s ‘Indian’ status entirely through her husband; and federal gov’t takes control of Indigenous child welfare.
1952: First Nations Nutrition Experiments conclude after 10 years.
1953: Trans-mountain oil pipeline completed on Indigenous land – to be approved for expansion in 2016.
1954: Construction on St. Lawrence Seaway begins, involves displacement of Akwesasne community.
1955: 23% of teachers at residential schools have no teaching certificate.
1956: Sayisi Dene in Northern Manitoba are relocated.
1957: Federal government makes Thanksgiving a national holiday, entrenching an official narrative about colonization.
1958: Senator Gladstone (Blood) appointed to the upper house, but could not vote in federal or provincial elections.
1959: Inuit of Hebron, Labrador, are relocated.
1960: Aboriginal people become the last group in Canada to attain the right to vote.
1961: National Indian Council is set up by federal government to represent non-status ‘Indians’ and Métis people.
1962: Father Houston of Grollier Hall residential school convicted for the sexual abuse of five boys in his care.
1963: Federal government commissions HB Hawthorn’s report, which concluded that Aboriginal peoples are ‘citizens minus’ in Canada.
1964: Gwa’Sala and ‘Nakwaxda’xw (British Columbia) are relocated.
1965: Federal-Provincial Child Welfare Act mandated Ontario to provide welfare services on reserves as part of assimilation policy.
1966: Federal government and government of Manitoba begin the strategy of forced adoptions of Indigenous children (the Sixties Scoop)
1967: Centenary of the Canadian settler state.
1968: after 102 years, Len Marchand(BC)   becomes the first status ‘Indian’ sit in the House of Commons.
1969: Federal government White Paper proposes abolishing Indian Act and treaties, assimilating all Aboriginal people in the Canadian state.
1970: Indian Association of Alberta (led by Harold Cardinal) rejects 1969 White Paper as ” a thinly disguised programme of extermination through assimilation”
1971: between this year and 1981, c. 3400 Indigenous children in Manitoba are forcibly adopted, over 80% to non-Indigenous homes.
1972: first time ‘Indians’ served on a Canada jury.
1973: Federal government Statement on the Claims of Indian and Inuit People retains extinguishment of title as central policy.
1974: Federal policy reiterates that not statutory or treaty rights exist to provide health care to Aboriginal people.
1975: start of Comprehensive Claims Policy: Aboriginal Rights & title transferred to the Crown through agreements that define rights and benefits for signatories.
1976: Founding of Saskatchewan Indian Federated College as the only university in Canada under Aboriginal governance.
1977: Canadian Human Rights Acts excluded matters under the Indian Act (and therefore people with status)
1978: by this year, only 5 of 57 land claims had been settled by the Office of Native Claims (DIA)
1979: Federal Indian Health Policy is developed to recognizably ‘intolerable conditions of poverty and community decline which affect many Indians’
1980: beginning of a period in which more than 1200 Indigenous women are murdered or go missing #MMIW
1981: 45-55% of Indigenous children forcibly removed from their families are adopted to the US.
1982: Constitution Act protects a range of rights (e.g. customary practices), but not claims to land itself or assertion of Aboriginal title.
1983: term ‘Sixties Scoop’ coined to refer to unusually high numbers of Aboriginal children removed from their parents during that decade.
1984: Pope John Paul II addresses Aboriginal peoples in Yellowknife – mentions their gratitude for the work of Church, missionaries.
1985: the last large residential school hostel closes in the Yukon.
1986: United Church of Canada makes a formal apology for the destructive role of its missionaries in relation to Aboriginal culture.
1987: PM Mulroney proposes Meech Lake Accord; Cree MLA Elijah Harper leads resistance due to lack of attention to Aboriginal issues.
1988: Calgary Olympics organizers suggest staging an ‘Indian attack’ scene in the opening ceremony; medals depict ‘Indian’ headdresses
1989: Temagami First Nation and Algonquins of Barriere Lake blockade to stop development and clear-cut loggin (respectively) on their lands.
1990: Sûreté de Québec deploy teargas and grenades to break down Mohawk barricades at Oka to ensure building of a golf course.
1991: Report of the Aboriginal Justice Implementation Committee (Manitoba) reveals serious concerns about effectiveness of policing.
1992: Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples established to address issues of Aboriginal status brought to light by Oka, Meech Lake.
1993: Nunavat Agreement marks the conclusion of the largest land claims settlement in the history of the Canadian state.
1994: Presbyterian Church apologizes for its role in operating residential schools.
1995: Nora Bernard, residential school survivor, starts registering survivors for Residential School Survivors Association
1996: Gordon residential schoo (Saskatchewan)l, the last federally-run residential school, closes.
1997: Delgamuukw vs. British Columbia supreme court decision states that Aboriginal land rights can be overridden for reasons such as economic development, conservation and other public projects.
1998: Syncrude becomes first producer to ship one billion barrels of crude oil from oil sands from territories of 18 First Nations and 6 Métis communities
1999: in Corbiere v. Canada, the Supreme Court declares unconstituation Indian Act provision that that denies band election vote to members living off reserve.
2000: after 111 years of negotiation and campaigning, the Nisga’a treaty (including $190 million in compensation)is the first modern treaty in BC
2001: Unemployment rate of Aboriginal youth twice that of non-Aboriginal youth; only 8% of 25-34 age group of Aboriginals have university degree (28% for non-Aboriginal people)
2002: James Bartleman, First Lieutenant Governor of Ontario of Aboriginal heritage, is appointed.
2003: 52.1% of all Aboriginal children living in poverty; only 24% of Aboriginal peoples under 25 able to converse in an Aboriginal language.
2004: Amnesty International releases report ‘No More Stolen Sisters’ drawing attention to national crisis of MMIWs
2005: it is estimated that 18000 law suits have been filed by Survivors of residential schools.
2006: Median income for Aboriginal peoples is 30% lower than median income for other Canadians.
2007: United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is passed – Canada withholds full support until 2016.
2008: PM Stephen Harper states at a G20 news conference that Canada has ‘no history of colonialism’/
2009: in McIvor v. Canada, the BC Court of Appeal forces federal government to Amend Indian Act to eliminate discrimination against wives and children of non-status Indians.
2010: Vancouver Olympics games use ‘Inukshuk’ image as logo despite protests from several Indigenous leaders.
2011: Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan says that residential schools were simply ‘education policy gone wrong’
2012: Idle No More is founded to oppose Bill C-45 on the grounds that it violates Aboriginal sovereignty, removes protections from rivers and lakes.
2013: Enbridge refuses request by Missisaugas of the New Credit to have archaeological monitors present at Line 9 sites.
2014: RCMP report “Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Weomen” identifies 1181 MMIWs
2015: Truth and Reconciliation Commission report finds Canada responsible for cultural genocide.
2016: PM Justin Trudeau approves Kinder Morgan’s trans-mountain expansion and Enbridge’s Line 3.
2017: RCMP attempt to block reoccupation movement of youth organisers and water protectors from erecting a tipi on Parliament Hill.

Several key sources consulted in compiling the list are:

Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Online archives of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada

Library and Archives Canada 

APTN Archives

Canadian Encyclopedia

Moss, Wendy, Elaine Gardner O’Toole, 1987. Aboriginal People: History of Discriminatory Laws

University of British Columbia Wiki

The Toronto Star

The Vancouver Sun 

The Globe and Mail

The Winnipeg Free Press



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