Disappearing into White Space: Indigenous Toronto, 1900-1914

ActiveHistory.ca is pleased to announce the publication of Jasmine Chorley’s new paper: “Disappearing into White Space: Indigenous Toronto, 1900-1914″


There is an empty space in the written history of Canada. In monographs, textbooks, and articles alike, narratives of Indigenous peoples fade out following the Indian Act (1876) and the Numbered Treaties (1871-1921). Coll Thrush expressed this as a phenomenon where Indigenous peoples “exit stage left after treaty or battle.” [1] With the exception of residential schools and the decades of the World Wars, Indigenous peoples do not re-enter the Canadian historical narrative until the 1960s civil rights era.

This empty space is especially stark in histories of urban spaces, despite their rich Indigenous histories. With a few recent exceptions, greater historical memories of urban spaces across Canada remain largely confined by colonial ideologies.

European settlers in the growing towns of 18th and 19th century British North America believed their use of space to be superior. They thought that European-style cities would inevitably replace Indigenous land use. The “conceptual and physical removal of Indigenous people from urban spaces that accompanied colonial urbanization,” Peters and Andersen argue, “reinforced perceptions about the incompatibility of urban and Indigenous identities.” [2] This is reflected in Canadian historiography by the outright omission of Indigenous lives from histories of cities, assuming that ‘real Indians’ and urban life are irreconcilable.

This paper challenges this colonial silence by probing the history of Indigenous life in Toronto between 1900 and 1914. [READ MORE]

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