Help Needed! Decolonize 1867 at the CHA—Attend! Participate! Join Us!

By Stacy Nation-Knapper and Kathryn Labelle

Indigenous peoples have long been calling attention to the processes and effects of colonialism in the western hemisphere. With movements such as Idle No More, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, and #NoDAPL bringing discourses around colonization to the attention of settler Canadians, discussions and inquiries into what decolonization is and what it means have become increasingly visible. In a year in which the significant colonizing act of Canadian Confederation is celebrated, we invite you to join us on the 28th of May at the Canadian Historical Association (CHA) Annual Conference (Ryerson University) to critically examine the year 1867 through the framework of decolonization.

The genesis of this event came about one year ago in Calgary at the 2016 CHA conference. The organizers met with several other historians to contemplate how our profession can use the popular 150th anniversary of the Canadian nation-state as a learning moment. The group discussed ways in which the anniversary can be made more inclusive, reflective and reconciliatory for Indigenous people living within the Canadian borders (both literally and figuratively). With this in mind we approached the CHA and the L.R. Wilson Institute for support to create an event that would facilitate an open conversation among professionals and the public about the decolonizing process.  In addition, we partnered with Ryan McMahon, who will podcast the event at the Indian and Cowboy podcast.

PARTICIPANTS:  We are honoured to confirm a number of stellar academics to present and lead the conversation. Presenters have been encouraged to embrace creativity. Contributions are not limited to traditional research papers, and will include visual art, poetry, and storytelling. To guide their processes, participants were asked to consider what was happening in 1867 in areas that became Canada, whether Confederation has been remembered in Indigenous communities and why or why not, what specific legacies of 1867 are for Indigenous communities, and whether the event of Confederation was discussed in Indigenous communities and if so, how.

  • Catherine Tammaro is the Communication Officer for the Wyandot of Anderdon Nation. She will provide support in the creation and facilitation of this event. She will be opening the evening and creating the artwork for the event.
  • Dr. Brittany Luby is an assistant professor at the University of Guelph. Her presentation is titled: “A Most Convenient Oversight: An Examination of How the Crown Misconstrued “Appropriate” to Reduce Indian Reserve Lands in Ontario, 1873 – Present.” In brief, Luby will examine the how in 1873, representatives of the Anishinabek nation signed Treaty #3 at Northwest Angle on Lake of the Woods. The official English version of Treaty #3, as published by Canada, includes a paragraph allowing for the appropriation of Indian reserve lands for public works. Past historians have noted that “appropriate” does not translate exactly into Anishinaabemowin (the Ojibwa language) to argue that Anishinaabe negotiators did not understand the legal implications of the term. Land was unknowingly signed away. In her presentation, however, Dr. Luby argues that Crown and Anishinaabe negotiators developed a very narrow understanding of the word “appropriate” during the 1873 negotiations.
  • Naomi Recollet is a graduate student at the  University of Toronto. Her presentation is titled: “Reflecting back on 1836 to understand “Decolonizing 1867”: one interpretation from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory.” In 2015, Naomi directed a short film titled “Unceded.”  It is a film that explores the views and perspectives of community members and their interpretations of what it means to be an unceded reserve. There are many layers and historical themes depicted in the film, including wampum belt interpretations, concepts like nation-to-nation, anishinaabe aadziwin (life/ lifestyle of being anishinabe), and community understandings of local treaties. The video does not present any solutions or definitive answers, but allows for an introduction to a community’s history, Canada’s history, and the history of treaty making for one region.
  • Helen Knott is of Dane Zaa, Nehiyaw, and mixed Euro descent from Prophet River First Nations. She is currently completing her Master’s Degree in First Nations Studies at the University of Northern British Columbia. Helen has been involved with land defense in her traditional territory and has practiced social work in the North Eastern region of British Columbia. Helen is a poet, writer, facilitator, and most importantly, a mother. Her work has appeared in Malahat Reviews, Redwire Magazine, the Manitoba Education Resources anthology on Education, and on the CBC. Helen Knott will be performing two spoken word poetry pieces that tie into the Decolonizing 1867 theme. One poem specifically addresses the 150th Birthday of Canada and speaks to the experience of Indigenous peoples throughout the last 150 years. The second poem discusses the experience of Indigenous diaspora and continually disappearing and reconfigured landscapes under the settler colonial state.
  • Jesse Thistle is Métis from northern Saskatchewan and a doctoral student at York University. His co-presenter, Dr. Carolyn Podruchny is an Associate Professor at York University. Jesse and Carolyn will present: “Partial Justice for the Montours: A Métis Family Resists the Colonizing Canadian Hordes.” In 2013 the Manitoba Métis Federation won a landmark case when the Supreme Court of Canada determined that Canada breached its fiduciary duty to the Métis by errors and delays in implementing sections 31 and 32 of the Manitoba Act of 1870, which promised to provide 1.4 million acres (5,565 square km) of land to Métis children and recognize existing Métis ownership of lands. After battling the young nation’s imperialistic expansion onto their lands in 1869 and 1870 in what became known as the Riel Resistance, Métis people achieved recognition and rights as equal citizens in the new nation and brokered the creation of the fifth province in the Dominion. Their success was short-lived, as governmental officials, militia, and incoming settlers from Ontario stole their lands and resources, and pushed the Métis out of their new province into the Northwest Territory, settling the stage for the second Métis Resistance fifteen years later. In 1885 at Batoche Canada refused to recognize Métis sovereignty and land, sending in a large army to crush Metis resistors and break Métis spirits. What followed were decades of Métis trauma and dispossession. Jesse’s and Carolyn’s contribution seeks to decolonize the history of Canada’s imperialistic expansion into the northwest and its conquest of the Métis by exploring the experiences of Abraham Montour Sr., his wife Marie Page, their children, and their extended family. Tracking the lives of the Montours will show, in explicit detail, the impacts of Canadian colonization in the northwest after 1867.

Stay Tuned for PART II: Help Needed! Decolonize 1867 at the CHA—Keep the Conversation Going!

****Decolonizing 1867: Stories from the People is sponsored by the L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History at McMaster University and will be held prior to the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Historical Association on May 28, 2017. The event is organized by Kathryn Magee Labelle and Stacy Nation-Knapper and highlights innovative work examining 1867 from perspectives that explore a more holistic historical approach to events in the territory that became Canada. ****

Event Details: May 28, 2017, 6:30 – 8:00 pm, Ryerson University, Toronto, TSR 1-147

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Blog posts published before October  28, 2018 are licensed with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada License.

One thought on “Help Needed! Decolonize 1867 at the CHA—Attend! Participate! Join Us!

  1. Gordon Lindsay McCormick

    I am pleased to see this type of action. I do however feel the ball has been dropped on the TRC. Some of us have made an effort to become familiar with this unfortunate part of Canadian history. Most have not made any effort to understand the effects of inhumane and brutal treatment under colonialism. Much more needs to be expressed in public forums, such as local and national print and broadcast media. There is a serious need to expose the church involvement, in the residential schools and other activities. To my knowledge the Roman Catholic Church has never apologized or made a financial settlement. The latest financial worth that I have seen for the Roman Catholic Church was Three Trillion Dollars. Enough said.

Please note: encourages comment and constructive discussion of our articles. We reserve the right to delete comments submitted under aliases, or that contain spam, harassment, or attacks on an individual.