Thursday, June 9, 2022

Canada, fur trade vs settler culture

Canada is a mixed bag, if there ever was one. As far as events are concerned, they have all happened here: The good, the bad and the ugly.

Let’s start with the good. For some two hundred years, from the sixteen hundreds and on, Europeans encountered the people of Turtle Island and engaged in a trading relationship, exchanging goods valued by both sides. In Canada that meant furs and pemmican (bush food) provided by the natives, in exchange for guns, powder, etc.

It was a relationship not unlike what individual clans and tribes used to have between themselves. A relationship between equals with mutual respect. As traders and native people intermingled, not surprisingly, a new type of person came in to being, the Metis, (a person of mixed Indigenous and European ancestry).

The men were very strong and resilient and the women were both attractive and smart. A whole culture of these people developed before disaster struck.

When Canada became a federation in 1867, railway lines started to snake their way across the continent from east to west, fuelled by European capital and bringing thousands upon thousands of settlers into the tribal lands of the west.

And so it came to be that the Indigenous person and the Metis person were marginalized and trivialized as control of lands was removed from them by force. That was bad. Here comes the ugly part:

Backed by the federal government, policies were put in place to rob the Indigenous people of their culture by stealing their children and breaking them into the European mindset by force in residential schools. To the point were they turned their backs on their own parents.

Sadly, to date the ‘settler attitude’ of mainstream Canadians has not changed in regards to Indigenous people. They are considered ‘persons of no interest’.

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