Colonization is “the action or process of settling among and establishing control over the Indigenous people of an area” (Oxford dictionaries).
Soon after the Niagara Treaty was ratified the settlers violated their treaty agreements. A steady influx of European settlers encroached on First Nation territories while bringing diseases that devastated Indigenous populations (Daschuk, 2013). Colonial officials had to sign the numbered treaties with different First Nation leaders as they moved westward (RCAP, p. 151-152). The oral agreements of the treaties entailed sharing the land and not interfering with First Nations’ ability to practice their cultural traditions in connection with their territories. Colonial representatives recorded a different version (p. 148) in writing of what was actually agreed to orally. They stated that First Nation leaders gave up their land. They used deception to document these agreements, and by 1876, the new colonial state of Canada created the Indian Act to legislate the colonization of Indigenous peoples. In the years that followed up until today, Canada has committed genocide against Indigenous peoples, fulfilling all five criteria of the United Nations’ definition of genocide , while violating every theme and article within the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (p.12-18).
In 2016 at the Think Indigenous conference in Saskatoon, Mylan Tootoosis posed the following question:
“Where does the colonial mind frame come from?”
He focused attention on the Roman Empire which colonized the societies that became Europe, that in turn colonized First Nations with the establishment of Canada. He wondered how they “developed the mindset that it’s ok to go into another land and take over.”
Tootoosis contrasted Indigenous ways of knowing that promote non-interference and land stewardship, with the colonial world view that values subjugation and control and that sees the land as something that can be owned and exploited (RCAP, p. 118).
Since our world view as a culture is shaped by the stories we tell, Mylan sought answers to his question by exploring the colonizer’s creation story in the founding of the Roman Empire.
Historical Thinking Questions
Check out the links below and answer the questions that follow.
1. Compare the roles and treatment of women in the different creation stories.
2. Colonization is often a violent process that entails forcibly replacing the values of an Indigenous population with a foreign value system. How might Canadian society be different if the Crown had honoured the treaties and if the Canadian government had not tried to erase Indigenous ways of knowing?
Human Rights Watch Climate Justice must include Gender Justice Rape Culture Forced Sterilizations #ItEndsHere: Rebelling against colonial gender violence Corporate Conquistadors Rape Indigenous Lands and Bodies
3. How has the colonizer’s creation story shaped the society that we live in today? (Historical Significance)
4. Why was the RCMP created? What year did the Dominion Lands Act come into place? When were treaties signed that allowed settlement on the lands that pertain to this act?
5. How does Canada fulfill Fanon’s description of the colonizer (past and present)?
6. Why did early settlers not honour the treaties? (Historical perspective) What is the role of settlers in maintaining a colonial state in Canada (past and present)?
7. This question is only for Grade 12’s — if you are not in Grade 12, please go on to the next question. Content contains sensitive subject matter. Read the following links. Compare how Canadian juries (random Canadian citizens) make decisions regarding men who murder girls and women, and transgender women who defend themselves against violence. How does the media and the colonial “justice” system perpetuate stereotypes that dehumanize marginalized women?
8. Explain how the learned behaviours of colonialism rooted in the founding of the Roman Empire have remained the same and how they have changed according to Monkman’s vision in Cash for Souls and in the links on this page. (Continuity & Change)
Poussin’s The Abduction of the Sabine Women, 1634 and detail of Kent Monkman’s Cash for Souls, 2016.
Daschuk, J. (2013). Clearing the Plains Disease, politics of starvation and the loss of Aboriginal life. University of Regina Press.
Fanon, F. (1963). The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Weidenfeld.
Tootoosis, M. (Mar 18, 2016). A creation story of colonialism: Historical processes and their contemporary existence, Think Indigenous conference. Saskatoon, SK.