Before the invention of agriculture people travelled light. They never stayed in one place long enough to develop complex societies and all that followed-cities, metallurgy, livestock, writing, money. -Elizabeth Kolbert 1
“Our trade with the Iron People”, the oldest Aronhia said, “has brought us oddities that have now become necessities.” He reaches with his stick to the fire and taps the copper pot there. “Our people just love this stuff. We can’t get enough of it.” The others laugh. Beside it squats a poorly made basket, and I wonder if it’s been placed there to make a point. – Joseph Boyden2
Contact with Europeans quickly revolutionized both dress and ornamentation among the aborigines. Styles changed, woolen and cotton goods partly replaced fur and leather, and some of the old furs ceased to be used for clothing, but found there way to the white man’s markets. Beads and silk embroidery gradually replaced embroidery of porcupine quills and moose hair, metal ornaments superceded ornaments of shell. The aborgines followed European styles of wearing the hair, and abandoned both tattooing and face painting. As the contact increased they discarded their old dress entirely and adopted the costume of the new possessors of the soil. – Historian Diamond Jenness 3
We become what we behold…we shape our tools, and therefore our tools shape us. – Marshal McLuhan4
Every technological revolution coincides with changes in what it means to be a human being, in the kinds of psychological borders that divide the inner life from the world outside.- Edward Mendelson5
People have to accept that they can’t cling to the past and hold an IPhone.6
In 1534, the time of the first, substantial contact between Europeans and Canada’s Indians, (Jacques Cartier), there were only a few hundred thousand Indians spread out over the whole 4,000,000 square miles of present day Canada. Indian tribal populations were stable at best. In fact, the incredible hardships of life here, given only the stone age (Paleolithic) means of survival Indians had, made population decline very common.
Indians lived from hunting, fishing and foraging, migrating from place to place with the seasons, by birch bark canoe, on foot, or, in winter, with the help of toboggans and dog teams. Some Indians along the lower Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River practiced a very basic form of agriculture, growing maize, beans and squash.
But this was so primitively done and with such primitive tools that only a bare and uncertain living could be extracted from it, and it still had to be supplemented by fishing, hunting and foraging. And, lacking any knowledge of crop rotation or fertilizer, they quickly exhausted the crop soil and so had to constantly move their settlements elsewhere and start over.
Most significantly unknown to Indian agriculture, such as it was, was the cultivation of domesticated cereals like wheat and barley, a crucial feature of post stone-age (Neolithic) culture.
With the exception of the dog, which they frequently ate in order to survive, Indians had no domesticated animals, like cattle or sheep, also a key feature of Neolithic culture.
Only our Pacific Coast Indians have left us any evidence, in the form of their carving art, totem poles and remains of plank houses, of an appreciably higher degree of cultural and technical sophistication.
In any event, regardless of the relative level of cultural sophistication and advancement of any of the Indian tribes of Canada at that time, they were all far below the level of technological, cultural and political sophistication of the arriving European migrants.
So far below in fact, that within a generation or two of the first contact of any tribe with Europeans, that tribe’s essentially stone-age culture, with all the skills, arts, knowledge, crafts, and practices inherent in it, was, as evidenced by the clear-eyed, untainted (by fearful political correctness) 1963 quote from the renowned Canadian historian Diamond Jenness, above, to a large and fatal extent caught up in a process of being given up, let go, and assimilated by and into the all too rationally compelling, easy and understandable attractions and advantages of that higher European culture.
Witness also historian Alfred Goldsworthy Bailey: 7
The displacement of stone, bone, wood, bark and antler by ironware caused a profound revolution in the life of the Atlantic littoral…The regular round of economic pursuits which had been perfected by centuries of constant adaptation to the northern environment , became a monomania with iron as its fixation…
Iron knives and axes, the steel and flint, with its great powers of carrying fire everywhere, and coarse potteries and beads, must have begun already to modify their habits. The ancient arrow-maker must have ceased his art; the son must have used an axe foreign to his father, and the squaw to ornament her skins with French beads instead of small shells. Aboriginal artefacts tended to disappear and much of the craftsmanship must have become a lost art.
The revolution in domestic pursuits which resulted from the displacement of native materials had a counterpart in the social and political spheres…The possession of iron accelerated work and gave more time for getting furs, and as the supply decreased they were continually led further and further afield. Therefore the Indians acquired a knowledge of the country beyond their own territories which weakened their distinctive traits, hastened diffusion, and created a general instability of life. The search for furs led to an economical and political pressure on the tribes of the interior and was an important cause of the revival of inter-tribal warfare. Wars between tribes, which with bows and arrows had not been strenuous, conducted with guns were disastrous…
The hunt became more deadly when fire-arms and iron weapons supplanted the stone spear and arrow, with the result that the food supply diminished and the Indians were forced to rely more and more upon European foodstuffs.
The new means of sustenance, together with the revival of warfare, and the time consumed in the hunt for furs, led to a decline in husbandry among the eastern Algonkians. The Jesuit priest Lescarbot, in one of his Relations, wrote: “Our Souriquois formerly made earthen pots and tilled the ground; but since the French bring them kettles, beans, biscuits and other food, they are become slothful and make no more account of those exercises.”
Novelist Annie Proulx:
But even as old Sosep spoke he knew very well that many Mi’kmaq welcomed the ways of the Acadian French- their clothing, their stout boats, their vegetables and their pork roasts, the metal tools, glass ornaments and bolts of fabric, their intoxicating spirits and bright flags and even their bare hot bodies, so pale. Already the Mi’kmaq language was awash in French words with remnants of Portuguese and Basque from the days of those earlier European fishermen on their shores. And he himself, as a connection to the spiritual, as a former sagmaw, saw that the priests had already replaced him and the wise old men of former times. 8
As we are reminded by the immediately above, the tools of pre-contact Indians were made of stone, bone, wood or shell. They knew no metallurgy. They almost instantly gave them up in favour of European tools.
What rational Indian would not choose an iron axe or knife over one of stone, flint or bone?
What rational Indian did not trade for tailored, woolen coats and trousers, able to be easily embroidered with traded-for glass beads, instead of engaging in the exhausting, tedious work of fashioning a wearable body-covering from an animal pelt?
As the passages from Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda and Annie Proulx’s Barkskins (above), illustrate, what rational Indian did not choose to use a copper kettle for cooking instead of a straw or reed basket or a clay container?
What rational Indian did not choose to shoot an animal, or another human being, with a gun, from a safer distance, rather than trying to kill it, or him, with an arrow, spear or knife?
These are just a few examples of the countless decisions taken by Indians, from the time of first contact with European migrants onwards, in the conscious pursuit of their own best interests as they reasonably determined them to be, as in Barkskins, (above), to intelligently and rationally choose- to ” culturally appropriate”– European artifacts, decorations and ways over their own, the overall effect of which was to quickly cause them to stop living in their own, old cultural ways and thereafter to slowly but surely forget how to live in those old cultural ways.
This point was recently made by Duke University Professor, John Terborgh, who worked in the Peruvian Amazon for decades, in his review of the book The Unconquered: The Search for the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes.9 He describes the effect of the introduction of Western goods- machetes, axes, metal pots, fish hooks, mosquito netting and clothing- on hitherto pre-contact Amazonian aboriginals. He writes:
The seductive appeal of such things was nearly irresistible, for each of those items can make a quantum improvement in a sylvan lifestyle. Acquisition of several or all of these goods is a transformative experience that makes contact essentially irreversible. Once a person knows such things exist, then that person and his community are irreversibly changed.
Pukatire, Chief of the Amazonian Kayapo tribe, a “knowledge keeper” of ancient, pre-contact Amazonian life skills, when asked if young people were still seeking him out to learn this knowledge:
He shook his head. Staring into cupped hands, he said mockingly, “Only cell phones.”10
It has always been this way. Humans have always begged, bought, borrowed or stolen- “appropriated”– anything from their fellow humans that would make their cultural lives richer or their physical lives easier and safer, and in so doing transformed and re-defined themselves, their culture and their relationship to the rest of the world. It’s a phenomenon which has happened countless times in history: sometimes a mainly unthinking, seemingly-at-the-time incidental consequence of a less materially-advanced culture coming into permanent contact with a more materially-advanced one- the people of the former instinctively- rationally- reaching for the material advantages of the latter, securing them, and thusly being changed forever.
Again, the Roman Empire provides instruction in this regard. For about 150 years the Empire included a large chunk of present-day, southern Romania- “Dacia”. Then in the fourth century, due to the expenses, military risks and uncertainties of defending it against the increasing encroachments and threats of the Visigoths, they abandoned it and withdrew south of the Danube. Historian Thomas Hodgkin, in his awesome, magisterial opus, The Barbarian Invasions of the Roman Empire, 11describes the effect on the culture of the “barbarian” Visigoths of living within and in close proximity to the “stately fabric of Roman civilization”:
The great roads, the cities, the mines, the baths, the camps, the temples remained (in Dacia) to impress, to fascinate, to attract the minds of the barbarians…the influence of (the Romans) settlement in Dacia must have been such a civilizing one on the Gothic warriors that it must have instilled into them a certain dissatisfaction with their own dull, unprogressive past, and must have prepared their minds to admire, and in some measure to desire, the great intellectual heritage of Rome. And, a posteriori, we find precisely in the Visigoth nation a capacity for culture and for assimilation with their Roman subjects, greater and earlier than that possessed by any of the other barbarian invaders of the Empire.
Canadian Indians had no written language, without which “no people has ever preserved the faithful annals of their history, ever made any considerable progress in the abstract sciences, or ever possessed, in any tolerable degree of perfection, the useful and agreeable arts of life.”12 Theirs was the “oral tradition” only. And any reliability the oral tradition once may have had would have depended on the existence of a large measure of social stability and continuity.
To master and maintain mnemonic skills and traditions takes practice, concentration, patience and long, undisturbed, quiet hours. Even granting that, as Gibbon writes in Decline and Fall, referring to the Germanic tribes, the “Indigenae” of the Roman world who inhabited the trackless and, to the Romans, terrifying, forests east of the Rhine:
Without (the help of writing) the human memory soon dissipates or corrupts the ideas entrusted to her charge; and the nobler faculties of the mind, no longer supplied with models or with materials, gradually forget their powers…
Gibbon, by our standards and with our knowledge, too harshly compares the lives of these “wretchedly destitute…savages…who passed their lives in a state of ignorance and poverty, which it has pleased some declaimers to dignify with the appellation of virtuous simplicity”, with the “lettered” and thus “civilized” Romans. Nonetheless, he compellingly indicts the merit and the historical truth-attaining capabilities of the “oral tradition” generally. Today’s power and money-seeking Canadian Indian litigation activists, and our Supreme Court of Canada, in this regard strongly disagree with, to them, the surely misinformed and irrelevant, and the most certainly “Eurocentric”, Mr. Edward Gibbon!
With the migration of the Europeans the stable social environment that had sustained and nurtured the oral tradition for millenia was quickly destroyed, and the oral tradition itself, along with most other Indian cultural ways and means, became forever lost in the fractious cultural noise and confusion inherent in the new order of things.
Ironically, to the extent that there is today any credible record of what Indian cultures were actually like at the time of first contact with Europeans, it is because Europeans made written, paper records of them. Those records, like Samuel de Champlain’s journals, the Jesuit Relations, Hudson Bay Company records and journals, and official reports of treaty deliberations, certainly reflect a European/Christian bias, but nonetheless, as contemporary descriptions of the way it was, they have more than the ring of truth.
Even Indians in their now numerous land claims lawsuits rely on these kinds of non-Indian historical records as evidence of prior occupation, pre-contact Indian culture and of the facts and circumstances surrounding the signing of treaties.
Today there’s nothing culturally distinct or “traditional” about the way Canadian Indians live compared to the rest of Canadians. Like “Urban Elder” Vernon Harper, over 70 per cent of them live off their reserves, amongst the rest of Canadians, in urban settlements. (“Urban”, from the Latin “urbs”, meaning “city”,13 a form of settlement not found in pre-contact Canada.)
It would be absurd to say that today’s Indians, whether urban or reserve, are living a life style even remotely connected to that of their ancient wilderness ancestors.
In pre-contact times their tribal populations were at best, and with great effort, merely kept stable. Renowned historian Diamond Jenness:
Frequent famines and the hardships and accidents incidental to a migratory existence devoted to hunting and fishing must have caused a high rate of mortality….the infant death rate was appalling…Social factors also helped to reduce the population, particularly the blood-feud, which was prevalent nearly everywhere, and the frequent wars between neighbouring peoples. In warfare many tribes spared no one, but massacred their enemies without regard to age or sex. The Indians of the British Columbia coast enslaved men, women and children, but even this practice checked the normal increase of the population, since marriage with slaves was considered discreditable…
In spite of the social factors however, the most important checks on natural increase undoubtedly arose from the character and uncertainties of the food supply. The hardships of the never-ending food quest fell heaviest on the weaklings, who were often deliberately abandoned when they could no longer keep pace with the wanderings of the main tribe. In seasons of famine women were the first to suffer, and their losses seriously diminished the number of the next generation. Their lives were full of drudgery at all times and their status very inferior, so that they often sought to escape the added burdens of maternity, especially in seasons of want, by the twin practices of pre-natal abortion and infanticide…As the Indians generally hesitated to sacrifice their male offspring, who would be the hunters of the community, their constant destruction of girl babies seriously affected the balance of the sexes. High infant mortality rates, female infanticide and famines—kept the hunting tribes down to a marginal level, so that many of them barely escaped extinction. 14
It was only after substantial contact with European migrators and their life-preserving, relatively modern culture, that this Hobbesian reality changed.
In 1850, at the time of the Robinson treaties, (see The Robinson Huron Treaties, c. 16, below), there were only 1422 Indians in the entire Huron treaty area, stretching from southern Georgian Bay, near Victoria Harbour, to Batchawana Bay, just north of Sault Ste. Marie! Every band which signed that treaty averaged only about 80 persons in number!
That average went up continuously after that.
Compare these 1970 census numbers for some of these Huron treaty bands located near Sudbury and the North Shore of Georgian Bay with their census numbers for 2005:
Serpent River, 1970-337, 2005-1141;
Spanish River (Sagamok). 1970-891, 2005-2290;
Whitefish River, 1970-312, 2005-1068;
Wikwemikong, 1970-265, 2005-1059;
Nipissing, 1970-570, 2005-2078;
Shawanaga, 1970-118, 2005-519;
Garden River, 1970-604, 2005-2121. 15
Statistics Canada reports that from 1996 to 2006 the Indian population grew by 46 per cent! That explosive rate of population growth, much higher than the general population, could never have happened if pre-contact Indian culture still existed. That can only happen on the lower, socially and economically troubled and dysfunctional rungs of a modern, European–style “support from cradle to grave” liberal-progressive welfare state, which is what Canadian Indians now inhabit and, while it has saved countless Indian lives, and caused their populations to rapidly grow, are so unhealthily dependent upon.
Indians eat the same food and dress the same way as non-Indian Canadians. They now shop at shopping centres and box stores, rubbing elbows and banging shopping carts with the rest of us.
Despite their talk about having an egalitarian governance structure and outlook they are as much hierarchical in organization and practice as are all large, non-Indian organizations. Their present numbers are just too large for anything different. Historian Robert Conquest writes:
The more or less egalitarian order could not be maintained after the population of a given community rose above a fairly small number. Anthropologists have estimated that a maximum figure seems to be around four or five hundred. Common sense and the experience of schools, army units and so forth would suggest the same. The reasons for change were thus strictly those associated with the impossibility of maintaining purely personal relations with larger numbers, together with the fact that specialization could begin to emerge when numbers were large enough. At this point a “chiefdom” type of organization arose. 16
Like non-Indian Canadians, they are totally under the influence of American popular culture, and rely totally on modern science and technology for their survival, modes of transport and amusements.
Much disapproval emanates from establishment media circles and native spokespersons when certain minor aspects of aboriginal culture- a clothing design, a sports team name or logo, or some aspect of so-called “sacred” aboriginal practise or ceremony- is “culturally appropriated”, allegedly wrongfully, by a non-aboriginal person, business or organization. Strident criticism- really only highlighting their extreme lack of cultural knowledge and sophistication- is frequently leveled by self-appointed indigenous writers or artists, who falsely assert that they speak for all indigenous peoples, and who claim that the merely general subject matter of their (usually unspecified) “stories”, or their general, stock, indigenous imagery, has been “stolen” by some allegedly copycat, non-native writer or artist. They claim some kind of indistinct, group, quasi-proprietary, quasi-copyright entitlement to, like the mean neighbor, chase other artists out of their self-imagined, cultural yard- to, like children being mean, bar them from their Indians-only cultural treehouse. All hell often breaks loose on these usually innocent-minded, politically clueless, (in terms of what is “politically correct”), so-called malefactors.
But haven’t Canada’s aboriginals, by generally foregoing their pre-contact cultural ways and means in favour of European/North American modern ways and means- by “culturally appropriating” these non-aboriginal ways and means- just as described by Joseph Boyden in The Orenda and by Annie Proulx in Barkskins– done just that? – and on a massive and all-encompassing scale?
Consider William Wuttunee in Ruffled Feathers, (above):
Since there is absolutely nothing to do on some reserves, the people spend their time travelling back and forth to the nearest town. Because so many of them spend so much time in town, it is therefore evident that these Indians really wish to be integrated and to be with the mainstream of society, rather than stuck back on the reserve.
Isn’t this “going to town” behaviour a form of cultural appropriation? Of course it is.
In fact haven’t aboriginals “culturally appropriated” almost all of non-Indian, “Eurocentric” culture?
Of course they have! And good for them! Everyone benefits from this! That’s how the world works!
Where would Canadian Indians be, culturally- where would any of us be- without the post-Paleolithic explosion of technical and artistic creativity first occurring in Europe and Asia and then brought through the process of human migration to the rest of the world?
Scientist, humanist and Pulitzer Prize-winner Edward O. Wilson, in his recent book The Origins of Creativity,17answers as follows:
The critic Helen Vendler broadens the key question as well as can be phrased: “If there did not exist, floating over all of us, all the symbolic representations that art and music, religion, philosophy, and history, have invented, and afterward all the interpretations and explanations of them that scholarly activity have passed on, what sort of people would we be?”
Neither the question nor the answer is rhetorical. There would be no literature, little or no abstract or symbolic language, no tribal government (with a radius greater than can be run on foot in a day). The technology would be Paleolithic, and art would still be crude figurines and stick figures drawn on rock walls, with little meaning left to decipher. Science and technology would consist of the sharpening of spear points, the knapping of stone axes, and perhaps the piercing of snail shells to thread for necklaces.
This conversation about “cultural appropriation” was held decades ago in Australia in relation to artists there openly borrowing Aboriginal cultural themes and incorporating them into their works. Robert Hughes aptly summarized this supremely common and positive human trait as follows:18
Already, in the 1970’s, there was a political guilt current in (white) Australian culture hostile to such (cultural borrowings), accusing their makers of exploitation, paternalism and so forth. But, as writer Les Murray argued:
It will be a tragedy if the normal processes of artistic borrowing and influence, by which any culture makes its contribution to the conversation of mankind, are frozen in the Aboriginal case by what are really the maneuverings of a battle for power within the white society of our country, or by tactical use of Third World rhetoric…Artistic borrowing leaves the lender no poorer, and draws attention to his riches, which can only be depleted by neglect and his loss of confidence in them; these cause them to be lost. Borrowing is an act of respect which may restore his respect for his goods, and help to preserve them. And he is at all times free to draw on them himself.
Artists (and people generally) can do more than borrow from other cultures. They can, “in the exercise of the inalienable right of each of their imaginations to range over the entire world”, 19imaginatively and convincingly inhabit the mind and mindset of persons of other races and cultures, as the very gay American songwriter Cole Porter did in composing his classic songs about heterosexual love, as the very Jewish songwriting legend Irving Berlin did in composing one of Christianity’s greatest contemporary Christmas songs; “White Christmas”,20as the white, Anglo-Torontonian, Joseph Boyden, did in The Orenda, (above), as William Stryon (white) did years ago in The Confessions of Nat Turner, his Pulitzer Prize-winning imaginative autobiography of Virginia slave rebel Nat Turner, as Annie Proulx (white and female) did in relation to male and female Mi’kmaws in Barkskins, above, as the brilliant Mary Ann Evans did in the mid-nineteenth century, masquerading as the male novelist George Eliot in Middlemarch, perfectly portraying the interior lives of English provincialdom- male and female, rich, not-so-rich and poor- and as Anita Raja, aka Elena Ferrante, did in writing the amazing, jaw-dropping My Brilliant Friend 21 imaginative, “autobiographical” quatrain.
Ms. Raja, the daughter of a Roman father and a German-Jewish mother, in “a sterling example of the power of appropriation… claimed the right to imagine the lives of people, (two working-class Neapolitan women), quite unlike herself.”
In doing so she was able to write books in which millions of people found themselves reflected- books about feminism and patriarchy, poverty and violence, education and ambition.
This is the paradox of literature, which is the glory of humanism: the idea that nothing is alien to us, that we all have the power to imagine our way into another’s lives. (italics added) 22
(How literature can inform this situation!- this difficult discussion of the indigenous reality in Canada, past and present! Historical and legal points of reference will never do us all justice- will never encapsulate ultimate truth. Only literary works of art can fill in the ground level human reality blanks, and thus genuinely inform us of the deeper human truths that mere historical and legal discourse can never get at.
“Novels arise out of the shortcomings of history.” That pronouncement, by the German writer Novalis, appears as an epitaph to “The Blue Flower”, Penelope Fitzgerald’s great historical novel about him. It’s a resonant assertion, and it properly flatters a certain kind of novelistic achievement: the disclosure of intimate worlds, which official history cannot reach. The novel thus presents itself as something like the private answer to history’s public questions.” )23
The brilliant literary critic Harold Bloom argues that every artistic genius was inspired by and borrowed from forerunners, “though far enough back in time we may not know who they are”. He quotes Emerson:
Only an inventor knows how to borrow.24
Emerson again, from The Conduct of Life:
It is the richest man who knows how to draw a benefit from the labours of the greatest number of men, of men in distant countries and in past times.
In any event, the vast majority of cultural borrowings are done, as they should be, as honestly, responsibly, competently and as empathically as possible. Cloddish, dated or insensitive caricatures like the Cleveland Indians baseball team symbol, (being phased out), are the rare exceptions, which cannot fairly be elevated to the rule. But the judge of this should be the borrower himself, (and his intellectual property and defamation lawyer), and not some self-appointed, non-representative, indigenous cultural truth Commissariat.
So these light and delicate ones should stop trying to force culture and art into a false kind of political earnestness- political purpose. They should lighten up and take it as a good and natural thing- a compliment- an act which will tend to preserve aboriginal culture- when someone, in the exercise of her inalienable right to freedom of speech and artistic freedom, having regard only to her muse, her conscience and as stated above, her intellectual property and defamation lawyer, responsibly and competently “appropriates” a part of aboriginal culture.
In fact, and rather tragi-comically, the noisy, glitzy high-tech gambling casino, the apogee of modern, urban decadence and self-indulgence- the ultimate “cultural appropriation” in this regard- is very much associated in peoples’ minds with actual, contemporary Indian culture. It’s perfectly legal, but in terms of morality and social benefit, just a notch above the black market cigarette industry, a very harmful, crime-ridden, gang-type activity now also strongly associated with actual, contemporary Indian culture.
(Walking to work in late Spring, noticing the winter’s street litter revealed by the melting snow and ice, an empty cigarette package caught my eye. I picked it up. It was an empty package of “Canadian Goose – 25 King Size Cigarettes – made on Mohawk Territory.” A stylized drawing of a Canadian Goose was on both sides of the package. That’s all. Noticeably absent was any trace of the usual health warnings one sees blazoning off the packaging of legal cigarettes -the usual disturbing photograph of a smoker on the verge of death or of his or her black lungs taken post-mortem. All-too-human, too much money-obsessed, irresponsible capitalists that people become when unregulated by government, these Indian elite-controlled people who run this illegal and damnable industry could care less about their own people’s health, or anyone else’s!)
Physically, most Indians have become unfit and overweight, just like most other Canadians, (it’s the unfortunate and dangerous physical condition of modern man generally), but very much unlike their ironman pre-contact ancestors.
In the early Spring of 1649 the Iroquois launched a successful surprise attack against the Hurons at St. Ignace, near present-day Midland. One overlooked aspect of this famous attack (the Jesuit priests Brebeuf and Lalemant were tortured and burnt at the stake at the end of it) that is noteworthy and impressive by today’s standards is the fitness, toughness and endurance shown by the Iroquois.
As related by historian Francis Parkman in his great historical work, The Jesuits in North America,25 ( as recently partially fictionalized by Joseph Boyden in The Orenda), from the previous November onwards, starting somewhere in the Ottawa River Valley or upstate New York, the Iroquois walked steadily and stealthily westward through the forests and across the lakes, swamps and rivers of central Ontario, some frozen, some not, living off the land, enduring the cold and snow, with little food, sleeping more or less in the open, until, four months later, they surprised the instantly panicked and demoralized Hurons at St. Ignace and virtually wiped them out as a “nation.”
What an incredible feat of fitness, stoicism and endurance! Imagine walking today, in the middle of winter, from the Ottawa Valley or upstate New York to Georgian Bay with nothing to eat but some dried corn from the year before or food that you could kill or catch, and only the cold ground to sleep on! It awes the modern mind to consider how tough and resourceful Canada’s Indians were at the time of first contact.
Yuval Noah Harari writes in Sapiens:
In most habitats, Sapiens bands fed themselves in an elastic and opportunistic fashion. They scrounged for termites, picked berries, dug for roots, stalked rabbits and hunted bison and mammoth. Notwithstanding the popular image of “man the hunter”, gathering was Sapiens main activity, and it provided most of their calories, as well as raw materials such as flint, wood and bamboo.
Sapiens did not only forage for food and materials. They foraged for knowledge as well. To survive, they needed a detailed mental map of their territory. To maximize the efficiency of their daily search for food, they required information about the growth patterns of each plant and habits of each animal. They needed to know which foods were nourishing, which made you sick, and how to use others as cures. They needed to know the progress of the seasons and what warning signs preceded a thunderstorm or a dry spell. They studied every stream, every walnut tree, every cave, and every flint-stone deposit in their vicinity. Each individual had to understand how to make a stone knife, how to mend a torn cloak, how to lay a rabbit trap, and how to face avalanches, snakebites or hungry lions. Mastery of each of these many skills required years of apprenticeship and practice….The average forager had wider, deeper and more varied knowledge of her immediate surroundings than most of her modern descendants.
At the individual level, ancient foragers were the most knowledgeable and skillful people in history.
This is a part of ancient, aboriginal culture to celebrate and extol.
But today, most Indians, like the rest of us, unless they had store-bought food and modern technological aids, couldn’t survive a week of that type of Iroquois wilderness experience described above without freezing or starving to death. In fact it’s not at all unusual to read these days of search parties rescuing lost, stranded and hungry Indian hunters, showing how completely they’ve lost their pre-contact way-finding capacity and their ability to survive in the wilderness on their own – something that so impressed the first European migrants, whose own survival at the time was so heavily dependent on the generous deployment by Indians of those skills for their benefit.
This was highlighted by the recently publicized housing crisis on the James Bay Attawapiskat reservation. The “crisis” there is the terrible overcrowding caused by the lack of modern, urban-style bungalows, townhouses and apartments, which Attawapiskat band leaders say is what they need and are entitled to. Fair enough. But there is only a “crisis” there because the Attawapiskat Indians can’t “live off the land” as their ancient ancestors did!
Pre-contact aboriginal shelters were as rudimentary and dangerous to inhabit as those terrible, unsafe dwellings in Attawapiskat. Samuel de Champlain, who wintered with the Hurons, who were more domestically advanced at the time than the Indians who then inhabited the Attawapiskat area, describes their housing as follows:
They live in lodges made of bark. These lodges are about twelve yards wide and up to fifty or sixty yards long, with a gangway a foot or two across running down the middle from one end to the other. On each side there is a bench about four feet high, where they sleep in summer to get away from the fleas. In winter they sleep on mats on the floor near the fire, where it is warmer. They gather dry wood all summer and pile enough in the lodges to last the winter. At one end of each lodge there is an open space where they store their Indian corn in large casks made of bark. Mice are everywhere and everything they want to keep safe, such as food or clothing, has to be hung up on wooden pegs. The average lodge will have a dozen fires and two dozen families. The smoke inside is thick and blinding and diseases of the eyes are common, in fact many of the older people have lost their sight altogether. The trouble is that there are no windows and so there is no way for the smoke to escape except through a single hole in the roof. 26
Jesuit Father Paul Le Jeune, in his 1634 Relation, his report for that year to his Superiors in Paris, commented thusly on the smoke:
But as to the smoke, I confess to you that it is martyrdom. It almost killed me, and made we weep continually, though I had neither grief nor sadness in my heart. It sometimes grounded all of us who were in the cabin; that is, it caused us to place our mouths against the earth in order to breathe; as it were to eat the earth, so as not to eat the smoke. I have sometimes remained several hours in that position, especially during the most severe cold and when it snowed; for it was then that the smoke assailed us with the greatest fury. 27
Yet notwithstanding these blunt and unquestionable historical truths , our elites, from very distant vantages, constantly romanticize what it was like back then.
Novelist George Eliot:
What horrors of damp huts, where human beings languish, may not become picturesque through aerial distance! 28
To the extent that Indians still hunt, they do so mainly for recreation, or, like the Innu referred to below, just to flex their political muscles. They don’t need to hunt for subsistence. And when they do they hunt in the same essentially faux-bravado manner as non-Indians – plenty of high-powered guns and ammunition, ATVs and fully-equipped camper trucks – showing their prey little reverence and giving it no sporting chance whatsoever.
To the extent that they fish, which is also now mainly a recreational pastime, (they generally don’t need to fish for subsistence), they fish in the same high-tech, gadget-happy way as everyone else. And while some of the fish they catch is eaten by them, for “ceremonial purposes” (one of the court-endorsed rationales used to justify the too-often reckless and harmful flouting by Indians of our game and fish conservation laws and practices), most of it is offered for illegal sale along the nearest highway or sold on the black market or in reserve stores, right beside the tax-free cigarettes.
Pre-contact indigenous societies were “fiercely egalitarian…where profitable exchange, (i.e. capitalist practices), hierarchy and significant material inequality were not tolerated.” 29 The emphasis was on sharing and redistribution.
From Aboriginal Ontario- Historical Perspectives On The First Nations:
The Iroquoians believed that no community member should go hungry or lack necessities while others had more than they needed. The principal motive for accumulating surplus food stuffs and obtaining rare goods from other groups was to be able to give them away to fellow tribesmen. Chiefs and their kinsmen strove particularly hard to accumulate goods so that their clan could win approval and influence by giving them away. The Iroquoians strongly disapproved of stinginess, a trait that could lead to accusations of witchcraft. Prestige was derived from giving away property. 30
How tragically different now. Instead of egalitarian societies, where everything is shared and everyone is equal, Indian bands are now capitalistic in economic orientation, where too often oligarchic, family and crony-based elites control everything and use their power, not for the community’s benefit, but too much for their own. (See Our Liberal Values, chapter 42, below.) In pre-contact times this kind of personally selfish , egoistic and acquisitive behaviour, epitomized by the modern saying: “The chief’s driveway is always paved”, 31resulted in banishment or death. Now it’s the norm, and it’s rewarded.
The ancient Indian languages are, sadly, mainly extinct, and those that aren’t now soon will be, despite all the government-funded efforts to keep them on artificial life support. The strong currents of the North American cultural mainstream are just too strong and relentless to overcome.
According to indigenous author Bob Joseph, in his book 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act, 32only about one in six indigenous people are able to use an indigenous language in conversation, and the numbers are getting worse.
In oral societies, when the words are gone, so are the histories, the value systems, the spiritual, ecological knowledge, the worldviews, the stories and the songs. It is an irreplaceable loss. The loss of language severs the connection between a people and their culture.
There is a trend on the part of Indian elites to try to give the false appearance that authentic, pre-contact Indian languages and culture are still flourishing, or at least enjoying a renaissance. One sees this partly in the service of the cultivation of a “myth of separateness” (Christopher Hedges)-the false notion that Indians are somehow fundamentally culturally and racially apart from the rest of Canada- in the changing by some Indian bands of their reserve names to something sounding more authentically “Indian.”
The Big Trout Lake band in far Northern Ontario, (see The Shakedown of Platinex, below), almost overnight became the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation. (So unnatural, artificial and unpronounceable is this is that even band members just call their reserve KI.)
M’Chigeen First Nation, before its’ re-branding, was formerly West Bay Indian Reserve. The Whitefish Lake reserve , near Sudbury, renamed itself Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation, which, as reported in the Globe and Mail,33 it described as “reclaiming its old name.” (This is questionable. An 1821 Hudson Bay Company map of the area between Spanish and the French River south of the height of land,34 showing every major lake and river with their Ojibway names (as best understood by the mapmaker, Fort LaCloche factor John McBean) – e.g. Eskimanitigon for Spanish, Washcugamy for Penage, Matawungua for Vermilion, Wanabitibe for Wahnapitei- shows, for Whitefish Lake…..Whitefish Lake.)
In the Sudbury- Manitoulin area we have certain worthy Indian social aid organizations named N’Swakamok, Noojmowin-Teg, and Shkagamik-Kwe.
One could say that all of the above is nice, and essentially harmless, so more power – more “empowerment” – to them, go for it. (Even though, in the main, these essentially invented, English-script words have, like Whitefish Lake’s new name, debatable historical or linguistic provenance).
But to the extent that this trend represents the nostalgic “invention of tradition” (above) and the deliberate cultivation of that myth of cultural and racial separateness from the rest of Canadians, and the deliberate manipulation and distortion of our common language, English, to accommodate that myth, and to pursue “the cause” (Christopher Hedges), the “cause” being more race-based political and economic power flowing to Indian bands-and a large part of the trend does represent these things – it is to be profoundly regretted. Nostalgia, characterized largely by “false memories and delusional reassurances…is not a viable route forward.” 35
The latter aspect – it being partly a propaganda move by Indian bands in pursuit of a more gilded status quo – was illustrated in the immediately above Globe article. The Hobbema reserve in Alberta has just re-named itself Maskwacis First Nation. Cindy Buffalo, band administrator, told the Globe reporter that “…the community says the name change signifies respect for the language and the First Nation’s authority over its traditional territory” (italics added). This is a plain reference to the new “consult and accommodate” right given to Indian bands by the Supreme Court of Canada, which Indian bands are now exercising with such profoundly negative effect on the country as a whole. (see below)
Like non-Indian Canadians, Indians are aggressively and in most capitalistic-fashion seeking control of as much of our natural resources as possible, in order to exploit them for political power and financial gain, (see Dancing With Danegeld, below) and in so doing, as they have always done, just like non-Indians, they will cause serious damage to the environment.
Writer Jonathan Rosen, reviewing36 the book A Feathered River Across The Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction, to which extinction North American Indians contributed their fair share, in the context of describing our “species-wide” propensity to destroy our environment, writes:
It was paleo-Indians who helped hunt mega-fauna like the mammoth to extinction, the Maori in New Zealand who ate the flightless moa to death, and pre-historic Pacific Islanders who extirpated more than a thousand species of birds.
Writer Elizabeth Kolbert, in her brilliant and very disturbing book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History,37 compellingly drives this point home i.e. that from the time Man walked out of Africa 100,000 years ago he has been continually laying waste to the natural environment and leaving a trail of extinctions in his path. She writes:
Man was a killer – to use the term of art an “overkiller” – pretty much right from the start.
As she further writes in relation to the extinction of many large animals – mastodons, mammoths, moas, giant lemurs, pygmy hippos:
When the chronology of extinction is critically set against the chronology of human migrations”, Paul Martin of the University of Arizona wrote in “Prehistoric Overkill”, his seminal paper on the subject, “man’s arrival emerges as the only reasonable answer to the megafauna’s disappearance”… Though it might be nice to imagine there was once a time when man lived in harmony with nature, it’s not clear that he ever really did.
Yuval Noah Harari, in Sapiens:
The settling of America was hardly bloodless. It left behind a trail of victims. American fauna 14,000 years ago was far richer than it was today. When the first Americans marched south from Alaska into the plains of Canada and the western United States, they encountered mammoths and mastodons, rodents the size of bears, herds of horses and camels, oversized lions and dozens of large species the likes of which are completely unknown today, among them fearsome sabre-toothed cats and giant ground sloths that weighed up to eight tons and reached a height of six metres. The Americas were a great laboratory of evolutionary experimentation, a place where animals and plants unknown in Africa and Asia had evolved and thrived.
But no longer. Within 2000 years of Sapiens arrival, most of these unique species were gone. According to current estimates, within that short interval, North America lost thirty-four out of its forty-seven genera of large mammals. South America lost fifty out of sixty. The sabre-toothed cats, after flourishing for more than 30 million years, disappeared, and so did the giant ground sloths, the oversized lions, native American horses, native American camels, the giant rodents and the mammoths. Thousands of species of smaller mammals, reptiles, birds and even insects and parasites also became extinct (when the mammoths died out, all species of mammoth ticks followed them to oblivion…We are the culprits. There is no way around that truth. Even if climate change abetted us, the human contribution was decisive.
As clearly shown above, all of man is the “killer”- the destroyer of nature. It’s a species-wide problem, not a Eurocentric one.
As a species, we repeatedly fail to acknowledge the equal and inherent right of all species to exist, a right implicit in existence itself and in no way subordinate to our own. We ignore, as if instinctively, nature’s right to itself-it’s autonomy, if you like. No matter how we feel or act as individuals, what matters when it comes to saving nature is how we feel and act as a species. The news on that score is very grim. 38 (italics added)
Eurocentric man, as opposed to Canadian “Indigenous man”, (if you will), has only been a worse destroyer of nature, because, through a fluke of asymmetrical historical progress, he has developed the better technological capacity to do so. But Canadian Indigenous man is catching up quick, and proving, as he always in fact was, to be the depressingly equal of Eurocentric man in this dismal category of human behavior.
The Indian contribution in Canada’s West was decisive in the destruction of the beaver, and then the bison, both of which animals were essential food sources and the foundation of their economy, their power and their independence. Both animals were hunted to extinction.
James Dashchuk, in his important and heartbreaking book Clearing the Plains, 39describes the Indians’ willing and, to them, necessary participation in this culturally and environmentally catastrophic course of conduct:
In Athabasca, beaver had been largely extirpated by Iroquois trappers working for the North West Company, and by the 1820’s large game such as moose, caribou and bison were also rare. On his inspection tour in 1823 George Simpson was “appalled” at the condition of the Nelson and lower Churchill districts since “he did not see a solitary vestige of beaver and he could see no remedy save to forbid beaver hunting there entirely for the next five years.
…In areas where the monopoly rang hollow, such as plains and parklands, the company was faced with competition from free traders and American interests. Aboriginal producers were encouraged to trap areas out, leaving a fur-denuded buffer along the margins of Hudson Bay territory.
…Around Cumberland House the Cree simply ignored appeals for conservation.
From Barkskins, (above):
The elderly Mi’kmaq grandmother Loze, who had been at Odanak, bossed the sewing. “But everything is changed,” she said, as she always said. “because our fathers killed so many beaver to trade with the Europeans the beaver are angry and have left the country, and now strike us with illnesses…We destroyed our best food to trade their furs to the white men.”
So the notion that Indians are or would be better “stewards of the land” than non-Indians is completely unfounded in history or, as evidenced immediately below, by anything happening in the present.
On Manitoulin Island, called the “Great Spirit” island by the Indians who reside on it, five Indian bands, operating through a business corporation created for them by their Toronto lawyers, called Mnidoo Mnising Power, have entered into a complex and sophisticated joint venture-type arrangement with a large, publicly-traded corporation to erect numerous industrial wind turbines, each one about three times the height of the Peace Tower in Ottawa, on one of the most prominent and beautiful headlands in the Lake Huron-North Channel area – visible for miles around – having the effect of truly desecrating one of the most historic, iconic and beautiful landscapes in Canada. The little bit of power generated by these moloch-like behemoths will be sold into the Ontario power grid for ridiculously high prices. Mammon will roll in to these Indian bands.
One is reminded of the famous anti-pollution television ad showing a noble-looking Indian staring at a polluted river with tears streaming down his face. Here, in an ironic and telling reversal of this image, the incredulous onlookers with tears streaming down their faces are the helpless non-Indian neighbours of these visual polluters – these five environmentally heedless Indian bands.
It’s likely that the Great Spirit is also weeping.
In April, 2009 a group of Innu illegally shot dozens of caribou near Joir River, “their faces shielded by hoodies and goggles”,40 apparently just to make some cheap political point to the effect that they considered their traditional right to hunt superior to and unaffected by either conservation laws or the precarious state of existence of this endangered species. As Cyril Pelley of the Newfoundland and Labrador Outfitters Association said: “This is a threatened herd that’s being hunted for pressure tactics. When you see those kinds of tactics you don’t know if you’re living in Afghanistan or Iraq.”41 To these irresponsible, masked, Indian individuals, making some crude, defiant and totally unclear political statement was more important than the survival of the caribou – more important than their much-vaunted love of the earth and all its creations.
Again, the local non-Indians demonstrated far greater respect and reverence for nature than did these environmentally nihilistic, aboriginal individuals.
The same Indigenous indifference to the fate of the caribou in Quebec has been shown by Indian bands in Ontario. In 2019 four northwestern Ontario bands protested the creation by the Ministry of Natural Resources of a woodland caribou recovery strategy that involves the creation of a road and industry-free natural land corridor- a “safe passage”-to connect two caribou herds and thusly hopefully increase their (declining) populations. Red Rock Indian Band Chief Mathew Dupuis, speaking for all four bands, said that this would negatively affect Indian interests in forestry, mining and powerline projects in that area. Said the great “steward of the land” Mr. Dupuis:
We’re being force fed this policy…We don’t agree with it. (It) will have downstream impacts on forest products mills. It will also affect mining operations and powerline planning… 42
Just like the rest of mankind- Indigenous or Eurocentric- always the overkiller– always choosing jobs and money- short term personal welfare- over the preservation of nature and the environment.
The caribou’s princely cousin in Saskatchewan, at least in terms of size and magnificence, the plains bison, is faring no better at the reckless, destructive and ungovernable hands of the Indians there. The population of the herd in Prince Albert Provincial Park has declined from 500 in 2005 to only 120 in 2019. Extinction of the entire herd is a very real possibility.
Ricardo Simon, a PHD student at Laval University in Quebec, said he and his supervisor Daniel Fortin looked at three potential causes: predation by wolves, diseases and hunting. “My results show…without a shadow of a doubt, it’s the hunting by First Nations that’s the real problem here. It’s just not sustainable” said Simon….Anthony Blair Dreaver Johnston of Mistawasis Nehiyawak, the first Treaty 6 Saskatchewan First Nation to sign what’s called the Buffalo Treaty, said he’s heard the stories of overhunting. “I know that it is Indigenous First Nation harvesters that are contributing to the dangerous level that the herd is at,” he said.43
And in the Northwest Territories, more Indigenous overkilling, present and future: There, the government, to protect what’s left of the Bathurst caribou herd, “nearly half a million strong in the 1980’s and now dwindled to 8500”, has proposed a total ban on the use of drones (drones!) to hunt them. Many Indigenous groups are opposing this ban, content to see the herd inexorably dwindle down to nothing, stating that such a ban would be a “potential infringement to Aboriginal harvesters exercising their rights.” 44
Just as Indian elites falsely say that they are the better “stewards of the land”, so they similarly and falsely say that they have a “special relationship with the land”, thus unknowingly invoking variations of the creepy, “organic” us versus the “other”, “Volkish”,45mystical, anti-intellectual, proto-racist and proto-nationalistic “blood and soil” rhetoric that prevailed- with disastrous consequences- in Germany in the 1930’s, (‘blut und boden”), to a shocking degree in France as well, 46 and, more recently, in countries like Croatia, Hungary and Serbia, and even, with the election of the American plutocracy’s stooge, Donald Trump, in the United States.
This point is worth emphasizing.
Christian/European culture has been plagued with the vile and virulent prejudice of anti-Semitism, the ignorant basis of which has essentially been that the “stateless” Jew- the “wandering Jew” -in every country he has lived in, was rootless in that country, having no “organic” connection to its “sacred soil”, was disloyal and soulless towards it, was “abstract, individualistic and cosmopolitan” in his selfish thinking, and was only concerned, leech-like, with taking unfair advantage of the “homeland’s” supposedly more “natural” and more innocent, “authentic” and virtuous native sons and daughters.
In The Embrace of Unreason, France, 1919-1940, 47from which the immediately above is derived, author Frederick Brown describes these “blood and soil” anti-Semitic views with reference to, amongst others, the 1930’s, French, right wing “intellectual”, Pierre Drieu La Rochelle:
Drieu distinguished between the “real” (France) and its “legal” counterfeit. Jews belong to the latter. Devoid of organic Frenchness that inheres in roots and soil and physical reality, they are themselves legalisms, personifying the abstract notion of citizenship invented by the Revolution. Only as old as their abstraction, they are yet responsible for France’s senility.
Another French anti-Semite, objecting that the new Prime Minister of France- “this old Gallo-Roman land”- (nostalgia for what never was), was to be the “Jew” Leon Blum, said in the Chamber of Deputies:
…this peasant nation would be better served by someone whose origins, however modest, reach into the entrails of our soil than by a subtle talmudist…”
This kind of crap, anti-intellectual, anti-Enlightenment, exceptionalist- “I’m an essentially different human being than you are because I, because of my race or “blood”, possess this unique, authentic characteristic that you, because of your different race or “blood”, either don’t possess or possess in far lesser degree” – completely irrational, unscientific, racialist, ethno-tribalistic and superstitious thinking and talking leads only to bad ends.
Soft nationalism , defense of the particular against the encroachment of the universal, always threatens to cross over into hard nationalism, ethnic cleansing, persecution, genocide. 48
Historian Timothy Snyder:
When they shout “Blood and Soil” they repeat a Nazi slogan signifying that races will murder races for land without mercy and forever. 49
Despite the innocent-mindedness and unknowingness of Indian elites who engage in relatively minor, benign variations of such “blood and soil” jibberish- such culture as an expression of “hereditary racial bloodstock” blather50-and despite the fact that these bad ends could never happen in Canada, such talk should be called out. It should be discouraged, It should be refuted. These above historical examples of exceptionalist “special relationship with the land” neo-Volkish silliness should be pointed out to them, and to Canadians generally. History shows both that it is untrue, and that it can lead to disastrous consequences. As I wrote in my Introduction, the fact that these disastrous consequences can even notionally conceived as logical end-products of this kind of thinking should automatically make this thinking a candidate for instant and complete rejection by all right-thinking persons.
As the profoundly great Russian journalist, novelist, historian and humanist, Vasily Grossman, wrote:
What led Hitler and his followers to construct Majdanek, Sobibor, Belzec, Auschwitz and Treblinka is the imperialist idea of exceptionalism– of racial, national, and every other kind of exceptionalism. 51
Having so necessarily digressed, (now, with anti-Muslim prejudice joining still-existing anti-Jewish prejudice, we must never forget what such false, exceptionalist talk is really, fundamentally, saying and where it can lead), it must still be acknowledged that in the pre-contact era Indians did have a more direct and dynamic relationship, including spiritual, with their physical environment- a relationship beautifully described by Annie Proulx in Barkskins, in the voice of a Jesuit priest writing home:
They do not have orderly Lives as we do. Their time is fitted to the abundance crests of Animals, Fruits and Fishes- that is to say, to the Seasons of the Hunt and ripening Berries. One of the most curious of their attributes is their manner of regarding Trees, Plants, all manner of Fish, the Moose and the Bear and others as their equals. Many of their tales tell of Women who marry Otters or Birds, or Men who change into Bears until it pleases them to become Men again. In the forest they speak to Toads and Beetles as acquaintances. Sometimes I feel it is they who are teaching me.
But sadly and inevitably this was lost.
It’s not enough for them now, in the twenty-first century, clutching their cell phones like the rest of us, to just say that they have this “special relationship” with “the land”, (tired, meaningless, overworked terms if there ever were ones), and that this somehow makes it still true or somehow makes them “distinct” as a culture.
The feelings that Indians now have towards “the land”- being the earth and nature which all humanity shares and experiences– are no more profound, special or reverential than those of most other Canadians. All humans, of all cultures, have a profound relationship with the earth, which we all equally and properly regard as life’s nurturing home.
As he stood at the top of the world, looking down upon the mountain ranges folded beneath him, Humboldt began to see the world differently. He saw the earth as one great organism, where everything was connected, conceiving a bold new vision of nature that still influences the way we understand the natural world.
…He found connections everywhere. Nothing, not even the tiniest organism, was looked at on its own. “In this great chain of cause and effects”, Humboldt said, “no single fact can be considered in isolation.” With this insight, he invented the web of life, the concept of nature as we know it today.
When nature is perceived as a web, its vulnerability also becomes obvious. Everything hangs together. If one thread is pulled, the whole tapestry may unravel.52
In fact it is “Eurocentric” humans who have taken the lead on, not just experiencing the instinctive, profound, sacred-like, physical and psychic link all we humans have with nature, but on understanding and articulating and recording this link, scientifically and artistically, with the view of making us more self-aware of our emotional and spiritual selves, and with the view of understanding and, God willing, greatly lessening, the catastrophic damage all of our species is inflicting on the natural world.
With respect to the latter point, the Canadian environmental movement is almost totally a product of non-Indian endeavor. Aboriginal environmentalism, such as it is, always seems to only be raised, mentioned or professed in relation to some “consult and accommodate”(see below) situation, where it is tied in with some power or money demand. “Spirituality” in the service of capitalism.
The Prussian Alexander Von Humboldt, (1769-1859), arguably the most brilliant Naturalist polymath who ever lived, is the paragon of this articulating Eurocentric mold. With his essentially pre-contact, indigenous understanding and view of nature, but with a strong and complex underlay of hard science, he laid the foundation for and inspired Charles Darwin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, George Perkins Marsh, (one of America’s first conservationists), and John Muir, the force behind the America’s National Parks system.
He basically invented the conscious concept and awareness of our “ecology”, and gave environmentalism not just a scientific basis, but a basis in the articulated, human moral imagination, and in man’s articulated human emotions.
He inspired writers like Edgar Allan Poe, and romantic poets like Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth.
Here is utterly Eurocentric Wordsworth in Lines Written A Few Miles Above Tinturn Abbey, (1798), brilliantly expressing all of humanity’s connection with nature:
Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear,- both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognize
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.
The historian Simon Schama in his book, Landscape and Memory53, demonstrates that from the beginning of human civilization rivers, mountains, forests- the entire interconnected web of nature- has manifested itself in the history and cultures of all humanity, not just in a practical, survival-oriented, technological way, but in mythic, spiritual and artistic ways
Eurocentric man- ordinary Canadians- epitomized by Von Humboldt and all his successors and devotees, (including this writer), are as “spiritual” and “soulful” about nature- and live in nature- as much as any Canadian indigenous person.
In the modern world we all now live in, no human’s- no Canadian’s- relationship with “the land” is more “special” than that of any other human’s- or any other Canadian’s- red, white, yellow or black.
So enough with the groundless assertion- the groundless pretense- that indigenous Canadians have a unique, special relationship with the “land”- with nature- different than that of any other Canadian!
Of course Indians are spiritual beings! But no more nor less so than non-Indian Canadians! It would be insulting to non-Indian Canadians to suggest otherwise! All humans have an equally strong and similar spiritual dimension!
Consider how very similar is the Indian “approach to life”, described by Oglala Sioux chief Luther Standing Bear, to non-indigenous, higher civic, religious and humanist values:
Out of the Indian approach to life there came a great freedom- an intense and absorbing love for nature: a respect for life; enriching faith in a Supreme Power; and principles of truth, honesty, generosity, equity, and brotherhood as a guide to mundane relations. 54
Consider how very similar is the Indian view of the afterlife, described by Santee-Yanktonai Sioux, Chased-by Bears, to the Christian and Islamic view of the afterlife:
It is the general belief of the Indians that after a man dies his spirit is somewhere on the earth or in the sky, we do not know exactly where, but we are sure that his spirit still lives…So it is with Wakantanka. We believe that he is everywhere, yet he is to us as the spirits of our friends, whose voices we cannot hear. 55
Clearly, there are mainly similarities and commonalities between ancient Canadian Indian spirituality and present non-Indian spirituality.
The “sympathetic magic” of the indigenous ritual of drinking the blood and eating the flesh of a courageous, slain enemy is an early, more blatant and harrowing , version of the Christian communion ritual.
The indigenous “God-men”- medicine men, sorcerers, shamans and sacred women- their “sovereign magicians”- are “our” priests- our Jesus, Allah and Buddha- our Blessed Virgin Mary- all our God-men.
Their sacred groves and tree worship are our Tree of Knowledge- the May pole- our one true cross.
Their sacred fires are “our” votive candles and eternal flames. 56
All of humanity’s different religions- different expressions of our spiritual nature- manifest a belief in and a yearning for divine unity amongst mankind. Our superstitions- our spiritual practices- our essential spiritual natures- boiled down- are the same throughout all humanity, past and present.
Yet, as with humanity generally, sadly and ironically, contrary to Indians’ own professed spiritual beliefs, their elites, in their relentless drive for more money and power- more legal separation and difference from their fellow Canadians- act as though their spiritual beliefs should be confined to the afterlife or life in the clouds, rather than being put into practice in day to day life on earth, with their fellow Canadians. Or, as with humanity generally, they subordinate those spiritual beliefs to earthly goals of power and money, or cynically enlist them in the pursuit of those goals.
Under the pressure of bitter competitive struggle, moneymaking becomes a full-time occupation, an end in itself to which people are bound as a calling, “contrary to the ethical feelings of whole epochs.” Attempts on the part of religion and philosophy to influence economic life are seen “as much as an unjustified interference as its regulation by the state.” 57
In any event, whatever vague and unique spirituality modern Indians are talking about in no way resembles pre-contact Indian spirituality, which was dynamic and omnipresent. It involved elements of animism, pantheism, polytheism, supernatural beings and spirits. It sometimes involved ritual semi-sacrificial torture of other human beings (such as respected war captives), followed by acts of cannibalism and blood-drinking. It involved dreams, medicine men, diviners and gruesome funeral festivals involving digging up and then re-burying in common burial grounds the rotted corpses of long-departed loved ones.
Little of this original, dynamic spirituality remains. It’s all part of the distant, lost past- eradicated by those inexorable, assimilative forces of human migration, cultural and biological mixing and transformation that the entire human race has been constantly subjected to since its beginning. (Joseph Boyden would argue that this original, dynamic spirituality, this “magic”- this orenda– hasn’t been lost; rather, it’s only been “misplaced”, and might be recovered. Hopefully he’s right. But, as argued below, it won’t ever be recovered by continuing with the status quo.)
Aboriginal writer Calvin Helin, in Dances With Dependency, (above), also hopes for a “reclamation of lost tribal values and social DNA”, but expressed in a contemporary fashion. by adopting policies that encourage aboriginal initiative, industry, personal morality and self- reliance. He writes:
Although it might be helpful if more remnants of indigenous cultures were still in existence, we do not have to turn back the clock in order to find the still-pristine emotional legacy of our ancestors, stressing the importance of social interconnections and the necessary interdependence of families, Tribes or Nations. Or to recognize the value of self-reliance, high moral conduct, loyalty, self-sacrifice, and leadership. This renewal must be done in a modern context in constructive partnership with the larger society.
Alas, Mr. Helin does not share my view that his laudatory goals would be best achieved by phasing out reserves, the Indian Act, and special race-based Indian rights and entitlements, the very things that, in my view, make his goals impossible to achieve.
It’s tragic for Canada that high-quality aboriginals like him, so far, just can’t make that Nelson Mandela leap.
Also part of that lost past, it should be noted, are some of the less savoury aspects of ancient Indian culture, which understandably, current Indian spokespersons don’t talk about much, because those aspects of authentic pre-contact Indian culture, judging by today’s standards, are not particularly flattering, and don’t support their current political and economic agenda, which requires the unwavering propagation of and adherence to a largely mythic, Walt Disney version of pre-contact Indian culture.
Pre-contact Indians, like Europeans, were constantly at war with one another, (so vividly and horrifically described by Francis Parkman and depicted in The Orenda) for all the same reasons that humans have always gone to war – land , a blood feud, natural resources, trade issues, self-defence, general deterrence, booty, male restlessness, or the seizure of women and children for population replenishment.
In the Historical Atlas of Canada,58 it is written:
The Thule migrations after AD 1000 which gave way to the present day Inuit quickly displaced the Paleo-Eskimos…” and, “… The conquest (ca 1300) of the Glen Meyer people by the Pickering created a relatively homogenous culture in Ontario known as the Uren-Middleport.
In August, 2014, as reported in the Toronto Star,59 the prestigious science journal, Science, published a “paleogenomic study” concluding that a series of Paleo-Eskimo cultures known as the Pre-Dorset and Dorset:
…lived with great success in the eastern Arctic for 4,000 years- until disappearing suddenly a couple of generations after the ancestors of the modern Inuit appeared, around 1200 AD. There is no evidence the two groups interbred… The Inuit took over the best hunting camps and displaced the conflict-averse Tuniit. Soon enough these strange people disappeared from the land.
In 1500 the Cheyenne were not yet the feared Great Plains warriors who later became the iconic Indian foe in countless Westerns of the 1940’s and 1950’s.
Settled in villages in Minnesota, they farmed and hunted. They migrated westward in the mid-1700’s, abandoning farming and becoming nomadic Plains horsemen (on Spanish horses-writer) dependent on the buffalo. 60
This illuminating excerpt from historian Beth LaDow’s The Medicine Line: Life and Death on a North American Borderland61(referring to the 49th parallel):
The Northern Plains world of the mid-nineteenth century was not only complex, but of recent origin. Along with whites, the Plains Cree and the Western Sioux were relative newcomers to the more established communities of Crow, Assiniboine, Gros Ventre and Blackfeet.
The Cree and Sioux were migrating branches of Eastern Woodland tribes that became powerful on the northern plains during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Shrewd and adaptable traders, The Cree became middlemen in the English fur trade by the 1690’s and began to spread north and west of Lake Superior. About this time they formed alliances with the Assiniboine…Economic and cultural exchange cemented the Cree-Assiniboine relationship. The horse, which the Spanish brought to mainland America in 1519, diffused northward up the plains during the eighteenth century, drawing the Assiniboine westward from the Great Lakes woodland-plains borderland by 1750. The Cree gave the Assiniboine guns, the Assiniboine gave the Cree horses and introduced them to plains life; the result was considerable intermarriage and a powerful alliance.
The Cree then pushed further west and south in search of furs for their profitable trade, driving the Gros Ventre and Blackfoot, (both Algonkian-speaking), and even the Assiniboine against their advance.
These realignments were often horrible and bloody…Sometime before 1838…a combined force of Cree and Assiniboine massacred thirty lodges of the Gros Ventre while all but a few of the men were gone hunting. They killed about 130 women and children, including roasting some of the children alive by driving sharp sticks through their bodies and planting them before a hot fire…
With the passing of a few decades the old borders and balance of power along the Missouri were in shambles. Sioux and Cree conquests had redistributed power and territory among native peoples. Between 1780 and 1820 a new order on the Northern Plains emerged.
In Clearing The Plains, (above) James Daschuk describes the Anishnabe’s migration from Ontario into southern Manitoba (becoming the Salteaux there), and their “imperialist” military conquest and dispossession of the local Dakota/Assiniboine peoples. He writes:
As the Anishnabe expanded their trapping grounds, they displaced local groups, often with a combination of psychological and physical intimidation. Even their allies were intimidated by them.
There are no Hurons today in the vicinity of Lake Huron.
That’s because, as described above, in the mid-1600’s the Iroquois exterminated them, along with the Eries and the Neutrals, and then reduced the Algonquins to tribute-bearing vassals. As related in The Historical Atlas of Canada:
The Great Dispersions, 1648-1653– Co-ordinated planning and the effective use of muskets enabled the Iroquois confederacy to disperse the Huron tribes in 1647-9, the Petun in 1649-50, the Nipissing in 1649-51, and the Neutral in 1651-2. Fearing a similar fate, most of the Eastern Great Lakes native groups, together with some Huron, Petun and Nipissing refugees, fled west and north. Other refugees, mainly Christian converts, settled near Quebec, (Hurons) and Trois Rivieres (Algonquin and Nipissing). The bulk of the surviving Huron, Petun and Neutral joined the Iroquois, and were gradually absorbed.
In these wars , as shown above, torture, mutilation and the mass murder by Indians of other Indian men, women and children was common.
In 1697 a party of Abnakis raided a town in Massachusetts and carried off a woman and her baby:
As the Indians silently escaped with their captives through the forest the infant began to cry, and in a cruel but characteristic response a warrior grabbed the child and smashed its head against a tree. 62
In 1769 the great Ottawa warrior chief Pontiac was shot in the back by a Peoria Indian.
In 1832, following a battle on the banks of the Mississippi River in present-day Illinois between American militia and the Sauk and Fox Indians, the latter lead by the great warrior Black Hawk, two hundred defeated Sauk and Foxes “somehow managed to thrash their way across the river only to be scalped or taken prisoner by hostile Sioux, who awaited them on the other side.”63
Steven Pinker, in The Better Angels of our Nature, recounts the 1965 reminiscence of Robert Nasruk Cleveland, an Inupiaq Inuit:
The next morning the raiders attacked the camp and killed all the women and children there. After shoving sheefish into the vaginas of all the Indian women they had killed, the Noatakers took Kititigaagvaat and her baby, and retreated toward the upper Noatak River…Finally, when they had almost reached home, the Noatakers gang-raped Kititigaagvaat and left her with her baby to die.
Some weeks later the Kobuk caribou hunters returned home to find the rotting remains of their wives and children and vowed revenge. A year or two after that, they headed north to the upper Noatak to seek it. They soon located a large body of Nuataagmiut and secretly followed them. One morning in the Nuataagmiut camp spotted a large band of caribou and went off in pursuit. While they were gone, the Kobuk raiders killed every woman in the camp. Then they cut off their vulvas, strung them on a line, and headed quickly home.
This horrific excerpt, and the other descriptions of Indians’ wholesale slaughter of other Indians, above, make it so sadly and richly ironic today to hear charges of “genocide” so recklessly and wrongfully levelled by some Indians, as in Brown vs. Canada, and, in June of 2019, in relation to the intellectually childish Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls Report, even by our own Prime Minister, (see below), against their fellow Canadians. In fact non-Indians in Canada rarely perpetrated militarily against Indians anything as bad as Indians perpetrated against each other.
Although most whites tended to see them all as Indians, they saw themselves as Ute or Apache or Nez Perce or Modoc, and like the plains tribes they usually warred more violently against themselves that with the white newcomers. 64
The above are also all clear examples of Indians migrating, then conquering, enslaving, colonizing or exterminating other Indians, or, perhaps more benevolently, merely assimilating with them!
These examples also highlight why the recently created politically correct term, “First Nations”, should, in the search for truth, be avoided. They indicate that the Indian tribes existing in Canada at the time of European contact were neither “first” nor were they “nations”. Rather they were, in point of picky fact, the “last” tribal groups in existence at the end of a long, evolutionary chain of migration, conquest and assimilation, with many of their predecessor tribal groups having been rendered extinct. And, as discussed in The Myth of Nation to Nation Dealings, below, they were not at all “nations” in the modern sense of the word.
Ancient Indians often abandoned their sick and aged (their proverbial “elders”) to die. They often killed their children at birth, particularly baby girls. The basic reason for this – ad hoc calculations relating to group survival in incredibly difficult living conditions – is understandable and defensible given the harsh, stone-age, physical survival challenges they constantly faced. But the fact that Indians today would never consider such things only shows how presently unacceptable even to them most of these fundamental aspects of ancient Indian culture really are.
The same can be said about, by present standards, the abysmally sexist way ancient Indian men treated their women. Champlain observed that “their women are their mules.”65 Even today women are frequently discriminated against on Indian reserves. They have no separate matrimonial or property rights on marriage breakdown and thus are often forced against their will and at great personal risk to stay in abusive relationships. Levels of violence against them are higher than anywhere else in Canada. In September, 2011 The Sudbury Star reported that fully one quarter of Canada’s aboriginal women have been victims of spousal abuse, and that they’re seven times more likely to end up as murder victims as are non-aboriginal women!
One of the many “please-all” pre-election promises our Panglossian66 (in this area) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made was to have the much-vaunted national inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women. (No need to inquire into murdered and missing aboriginal men, who disappear at three times the rate of aboriginal women,67 or non-aboriginal women.) This inquiry was under the control of Crown-Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolynn Bennett, who, according to Jeffery Simpson of The Globe and Mail, “has become an echo chamber for the Native Women’s Association of Canada”, which, “has the minister entirely under its spell.”68 This inquiry is now over and has proven to be, as expected, a complete waste of time and money, as the tragic causes of these deaths and disappearances have either already been well-documented or are self-evident. Also, Ms. Bennett and Prime Minister Trudeau dared not allow the inquiry to examine and consider at all whether or not the very existence of the Indian Act, the reserve system, and all the other aspects of the separate but equal status quo, were fundamental contributing factors, which of course they were and continue to be!
As clearly shown above, pre-contact Canadian Indian tribal culture was physically dangerous and violent. With the replacement of this culture with the culture of “the state”, levels of violence for Canadian Indians have gone down significantly. Yuval Noah Harari, in Sapiens, using Brazil as an example, writes:
Even in the worst years the average (modern) Brazilian in Rio de Janeiro was far less likely to die at human hands than the average Waorani, Arawete or Yanomamo, the indigenous people who live in the depths of the Amazon forest, without army, police or prisons. Anthropological studies have indicated that between a quarter and a half of their menfolk die sooner or later in violent conflicts over property, women or prestige.
As kingdoms and empires became stronger, they reined in communities and the level of violence decreased…The decline in violence is due largely to the rise of the state.
Psychologist and author Steven Pinker, in The Better Angels of our Nature-Why Violence Has Declined,69also persuasively argues that this violence in traditional pre-state bands and tribes, viewed relatively as a proportion to populations, made the risk of a pre-state indigenous person dying violently about four times greater than the same risk of a person living in a modern, reasonably functioning state. Referring to how the presence of government can move a society away from lethal vengeance he writes:
The reduction of homicide by government control is so obvious to anthropologists that they seldom document it with numbers. The various “paxes” that one reads in history books-the Pax Romana, Islamica, Mongolica, Hispanica, Sinica, Britannica. Australiana (in New Guinea), Canadiana (in the Pacific Northwest), and Praetoriana (in South Africa)-refer to t`he reduction in raiding, feuding and warfare in the territories brought under the control of an effective government. Though imperial conquest and rule can themselves be brutal, they do reduce endemic violence amongst the conquered.
Historian Timothy Snyder makes the same point as Yuval Noah Harari and Steven Pinker in his important recent book on the Holocaust, Black Earth- The Holocaust as History and Warning,70 arguing that the destruction by Germany of the states to the east of it, which places became the stateless killing grounds, was an essential enabling factor for the Holocaust to take place. He writes:
When Germans obliterated conventional states…they created the abyss where racism and politics pulled together towards nothingness…In this black hole…where none of the moral illuminations of (state) institutions was present, Jews were murdered. (italics added)
A more modern and current example of this is the ignorant, stupid, criminal invasion of the sovereign state of Iraq by the United States of America. The ensuing destruction of that state, and all its institutions of law and order (however perverse some of its aspects), permitted the rise and deathly playing out of the worst aspects of tribalism and ethnic zealotry, which the Iraqi state had previously kept a lid on. Many more people have died, and will continue to die, in the backward, pre-state, tribalistic, Mad Max hell that is now that “country”, (the word can no longer be used in its proper sense in regards to the land mass that on maps, now merely reads, but is no longer in actuality, “Iraq”), than died under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussain.
And at least then, under the control of that evil man, Iraqis could go out for a cup of coffee, and reasonably expect to come home alive.
Pre-contact Indians practiced slavery.
Legal historian Philip Girard writes: 71
Just as slavery existed in Africa before the arrival of Europeans, so it existed among many indigenous people in North America before European contact. Intertribal wars produced captives who were enslaved. Adult male captives were tortured and degraded to deprive them of their identities, the better to integrate them into the host group. Female captives were taken as additional wives and might be treated very harshly. In the lower Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence valley, the native peoples assimilated their captives via a form of adoption and didn’t exchange them. Around the upper Great Lakes and in the Midwest, however, slaves were given away to cement alliances between tribes.
University of California Professor Peter Nabokov writes: 72
Among the eleventh-century mound-building cultures of the Mississippi Bottoms, war prisoners made up a serf-like underclass. This civilization collapsed in the thirteenth century and the succeeding tribes we know as the Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek, and others perpetuated the practice of serfdom…The custom continued across indigenous America, with child-bearing women and pre-pubescent males preferred. Their husbands and fathers were more commonly killed.
In the Southeast the Chickasaw regularly took slaves from the Choctaw; in the Great Basin the Utes stole women and children from the Paiute; in California, the northeastern Modoc regularly preyed upon nearby Atsugewi, while the Colorado River-dwelling Mojave routinely raided the local Chemehuevi.
When Spain undertook its brutal and cruel conquest of its New World empire, as related by Professor Nabokov, it tapped into and incorporated this already-existing slave culture into its own imperial modus operandi.
The Spaniards exploited the forms of human bondage that already existed on the islands. The Caribs of the Lesser Antilles, a more aggressive tribe, regularly raided the Tainos, allegedly eating the men but keeping the women and children as retainers. A similar discrimination based on age and gender would prevail throughout the next four centuries of Indian-on-Indian servitude.
North America was a vast, pulsing map of trading, raiding and resettlement. Whether the systems were pre- or post-contact indigenous, European colonial, or US national, they grew into complex, cultural matrices in which the economic and social power created using slavery proved indivisible. Indigenous and North American slave systems evolved and innovated in response to each other.
After the formation of the United States, some American Indian tribes even participated in the slavery system extant in the Southern states! Professor Nabokov:
Some of these tribes (the Choctaw, Chickasaw and others) participated in the white man’s “peculiar institution”. They bought and sold African-American slaves to work their Indian-owned plantations. Once the Civil War broke out there was a painfully-divisive splitting of southern Indian nations into Confederate and Union allies. (italics added)
It is discomfiting going on in such trite and obvious detail about one Canadian group’s ancient cultural primitiveness. It shouldn’t be necessary to do so. We were all there once. As Professor Terborgh (above) wrote, “…Once upon a time the ancestors of each and every one of us lived in a pre-modern state….” It’s an unremarkable and commonplace stage in the history of all the peoples of the world.
Going on about this also seems to be a cold thing to do because this litany of loss and marginalization represents hundreds of years of cultural loss, dislocation and diminishment suffered by thinking, feeling, proud and dignified human beings. The imagination reels and the heart breaks at the thought of the profound physical and psychic suffering experienced by Indian peoples in Canada as the result of the migration of Europeans to Canada and the resulting erosion and loss of their original cultures.
Peter C. Newman, in Company of Adventurers,73 his chronicle of the Hudson’s Bay Company, wrote:
Canada’s Indian nations were not conquered like the American Sioux or massacred like the Andean Incas, yet their lives were torn apart by the arrival of the white man; they became (like the Welsh in the telling phrase of the late Gwyn Thomas) “a people deeply wounded in their minds.”
But mind-wounding change and decline, and death, come inevitably, unavoidably and universally to all persons and all cultures:
The spider weaves the curtains in the palace of the Caesars;
The owl calls the watches in Afrasiab’s tower. 74
The only questions are when and how quickly these rueful things will occur. We can only slow them down a bit, if we’re lucky and mindful, and seek to ameliorate the effects of them as best we can.
To ameliorate the present situation of Indians we must first be courageous enough to admit the unpleasant reality of it – admit that Indians can’t go back to their old ways because they’ve been dead and gone for many generations and are simply not there to go back to.
The present legal and political place where Indians in Canada exist, and where their leaders are seemingly determined to keep them, is a cultural no-man’s land where their wounded minds will never heal – a difficult, contradictory, cultural demimonde situated somewhere between a lost past and a dysfunctional present, the combination of both, if the status quo persists, leading only to a worsening future. The only true and effective healing path for Canada’s Indians – the best path for them to recover their “orenda” – is the path of further and better assimilation with the rest of Canadians.
It’s irresponsible and wrong that Indian culture, ancient and current, is not discussed more honestly, and that what discussion there is of it is so driven and constricted by the censorious dictates of political correctness and, on the part of Indian elites, by fearful defensiveness or self-interest.
Like a failing marriage where the dysfunctional parties can’t or won’t talk openly and honestly, if this situation can’t or won’t be freely discussed in that manner then it can never be properly remedied.
Discussing the subject of Indian culture, past and present, more honestly and in the realistic and necessary context of world history, would reveal Indians, to non-Indians and to themselves, as just typical human beings – typical members of the constantly migrating, mixing, changing, assimilating human family.
We could then more readily acknowledge that we have almost everything fundamental and important in common, and that the things that make us only appear to be different are really just surface matters – myths, unexamined falsehoods and physical and legal circumstances, the latter of which can and should be changed.
And we could also then more readily acknowledge that the healthy and natural process of assimilation has already been happening for generations, and is, for the Indians of Canada, an almost completed process, one that has already made us common family members in today’s Canada, who should be relating to each other – legally, politically, economically and socially – on that same common basis.
- Elizabeth Kolbert, Letter from Greenland, A Song of Ice, What Happens When a Country Begins to Melt, The New Yorker, October 24, 2016
- Joseph Boyden. The Orenda. Toronto: Hamish Hamilton Canada, 2013.
- Indians of Canada, Sixth Edition, 1963, Information Canada
- Marshal McLuhan. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: New American Library, 1964.
- From In the Depths of the Digital Age, The New York Review of Books, June 28, 2016
- From, Flight of the Young,MacLean’s Magazine, June 15, 2015 (an article about a completely unrelated topic, the exodus of young people from Vancouver because of unaffordable housing. I just thought the quote was so apt!)
- From The Conflict of European and Eastern Algonkian Cultures 1504-1700, University of Toronto Press, Second Edition, 1969
- Annie Proulx, Barkskins, (Simon & Shuster, New York, 2016) her great novel, like The Orenda, of European cultural conquest, indigenous cultural loss and transformation, and the innumerable tragedies inherent in “progress”.
- Professor John Terborgh. Out of Contact.The New York Review of Books, 5 April 2012.
- Blood Gold, Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, November 11, 2019
- The Folio Society, London, 2000, Volume 1
- Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall, above.
- “…our admirable prison, outside of which we now find it almost impossible to live.”- Victor Serge,Unforgiving Years, above
- The Indians of Canada, above
- Michael G. Johnson, Ojibwa-People of Forests and Prairies, Firefly Books Ltd. 2016
- FromReflections on a Ravaged Century, above.
- Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2017
- The Culture of Complaint, above
- From author Saul Bellow’s essay,Machines and Storybooks: Literature in the Age of Technology, in There Is Simply Too Much To Think About, Collected Nonfiction, Penguin Books 2015
- “Porter was to straight sex in his “affair” songs as his best friend, Irving Berlin, was to Christianity in writing “White Christmas”- the outsider’s triumph was to own the insider’s material.” -From From Minor to Major, by Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, January 20th, 2020, a book review of The Letters of Cole Porter, Yale University Press.
- Europa Books, 2012
- Adam Kirsch,Elena Ferrante and the Power of Appropriation,The New York Times, October 3, 2016
- FromNot Important, an essay on the novels of the Norwegian novelist Dag Solstad, by James Wood, in the The New Yorker, October 22nd, 2018, italics added.
- Harold Bloom, Genius, (above)
- Francis Parkman. The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997.
- Voyages to New France 1615-1618, Oberon Press, 1970 (italics added)
- FromThe Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents- A Selection, edited by S.R. Mealing, Carleton University Press, Ottawa, 1990
- George Eliot, Daniel Deronda
- John Lanchester, How Civilization Started, The New Yorker, Sept. 18, 2017
- Edited by Edward S. Rogers and Donald B. Smith, Dundurn Press Limited, Toronto, 1994, the quoted extract from the essay The Original Iroquoians: Huron, Petun and Neutral, by Bruce G. Trigger, then Professor of Anthropology at McGill University.
- “There’s a cynical old saying about how First Nations often work: “The chief’s driveway is always paved.”-Christie Blatchford,If members knew…they would be sick, National Post, September 16, 2017, about the nepotistic, profligate behaviour of the chief of the Caldwell First Nation and her family in 2016.
- Sub-titled Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation With Indigenous Peoples a Reality, Indigenous Relations Press, Port Coquitlam, 2018
- Kelly Cryderman, Hobbema to Mark Community’s Name Change with New Year’s Eve Festivities, The Globe and Mail 28 Dec. 2013. Web.
- Reproduced in A Country So Interesting: The Hudson Bay Company and Two Centuries of Mapping, 1670-1870.Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1991.
- Cathal Kelly, The New Age of Nostalgia, The Globe and Mail, December 24, 2016
- Jonathan Rosen. The Birds, The New Yorker, 6 Jan 2014.
- Elizabeth Kolbert. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. New York: Holt Publishing, 2014.
- Verlyn Klinkenborg, What’s Happening to the Bees and Butterflies?-The New York Review of Books, December 22, 2016
- University of Regina Press, 2013
- Oliver Moore, 13 Months after Illegal Caribou Hunt, Only 1 Person Charged-The Globe and Mail, 22 Apr. 2010.
- 10 May 2009.
- All fromNorthwest First Nations protest provincial Woodland Caribou Conservation Plan- Red Rock Chief won’t be “force-fed” conservation plan that jeopardizes development, threatens communities– Ian Ross, Northern Ontario Business, July 2019
- Bison in Prince Albert National Park declining- Face possible extinction due to overhunting.– Colette Derworiz, National Post, July 2, 2019
- Northerners debate use of drones in caribou hunt- Fears for herds and Indigenous culture, Bob Weber, The National Post, July 8, 2019
- When indigenous leaders purport to speak in the name of “our people”, or “our peoples”, they are really speaking, unknowingly, like the Germans in the 1930’s, in the name of their particular “Volk”, a word, in that context, with a clear double meaning of, firstly, people, and secondly, an ethno-racially defined “nation”.
- See Frederick Brown, The Embrace of Unreason- France, 1914-1940, Alfred A. Knopf, 2014
- See note immediately above,
- Justin E. H. Smith, Blood and Soil, The rise of vindictive nationalism, Harper’s Magazine, February, 2017
- The Test of Nazism That Trump Failed, The New York Times, August 18, 2017
- A phrase spoken by Adolf Hitler in 1933. See Robert O. Paxton’s The Cultural Axis, his review ofThe Neo-Fascist New Order for European Culture, by Benjamin G. Martin, in The New York Review of Books, October 26, 2017
- From The Hell of Treblinka, an essay contained in The Road, Stories, Journalism and Essays, Edited by Robert Chandler, New York Review of Books Classics, 2010
- Andrea Wulf, The Invention of Nature-Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2015
- New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995
- From Native American Wisdom, above
- From Native American Wisdom, above
- Idea, quotes and examples from Sir James George Frazer, The Illustrated Golden Bough- A Study in Magic and Religion, Simon & Schuster, 1996
- From Lewis Lapham’s essay, Globalization, (quoting Max Weber), in Lapham’s Quarterly, Trade, Spring 2019
- Historical Atlas of Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987.
- Kate Allen, When Science Meets Aboriginal Oral History, The Toronto Star,31 Aug 2014.
- North American Indian, Eyewitness Books, DK Publishing, Inc. 2005
- From Indian Wars, by Robert M. Utley and Wilcomb E. Washburn, First Mariner Books, 2002
- Indian Wars, above.
- From Indian Wars, above.
- Quoted in The Parkman Reader, Samuel Eliot Morrison, editor, Little, Brown and Company, 1955
- Thank you Tony Judt, for this adjective, which, while used by him in a different context, fits Mr. Trudeau here.
- It can’t just be about the women, The Globe and Mail (editorial) August 6, 2016
- (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women- An inquiry that seems to have no start, and no end, (The Globe and Mail, February 19, 2016.
- Penguin Books, 2012
- Tim Duggan Books, New York, 2015
- Philip Girard, legal historian and professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, A look at Canada’s history of indigenous slavery, Law Times, February 23rd, 2015
- In Indians, Slaves, and Mass Murder: The Hidden History, his New York Review of Books (November 24, 2016) review of The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America, by Andres Resendez, Houghton Miflin Harcourt, 2016
- Peter C. Newman. Company of Adventurers. Markham: Penguin Books Canada, 1986.
- Lines of a Persian poet quoted by Patrick Kinross. Ottoman Empire. The Folio Society, 2003.
And there are, of course, the haunting notes of the turn -of-the-twentieth century Greek from Alexandria, C.P. Cavafy, the great poet of cultures and empires in decline…In one poem Cavafy writes of Theophilos Palaiologos, a kinsman of the last emperor of Byzantium when it finally fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. I would rather die than live, Theophilos says as Constantinople is besieged. Cavafy writes:
how much of the pathos, the yearning of our race,
how much weariness…
your six tragic words contained.
-from In Europe’s Shadow- Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond, (above)