Choctaw Confederates

10 02 2011

I have been following the New York Times’s live blogging of the Civil War. Today’s blog post, the Choctaw Confederates, is about those First Nations who supported the Confederacy in the Civil War.

20,000 or so Choctaws – especially those whose families had intermarried with whites – now considered themselves not just Native Americans, but also Southerners. A significant number of tribal leaders owned black slaves.

For more, see here.

The contributor of this post is Adam Goodheart is the author of the forthcoming book “1861: The Civil War Awakening.” He lives in Washington, D.C., and on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where he is the Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience.

Flanagan on Native Property Rights

24 03 2010

Thomas Flanagan has published a great article in the Globe on restructuring property rights on First Nations communities. I liked how Flanagan distinguished his specific proposal from the famous Dawes General Allotment Act passed by the US Congress in 1887.

The Dawes Act of 1887

The creators of the Dawes Act attempted to use the concept of private property to destroy aboriginal culture. Flanagan makes it clear that his proposal is not aimed at assimilating the First Nations. He just wants to empower them economically.

When the Inuit Were Put in Zoos

1 12 2009

In 1880, a group of Inuit were transported to Germany to be exhibited in a zoo alongside wild animals. One of the Inuit, Abraham Ulrikab (c. 1845-1881) kept a diary during his captivity in trip to Europe. This diary was recently translated into English and published by the University of Ottawa Press. Ideas, CBC’s Radio 1’s flagship documentary program, is currently broadcasting a two-part documentary based on the diary. You can download the podcasts and check out images here. It is worth checking out.

Kudos to Ideas director Paul Kennedy for his stewardship of this program. Ideas has been broadcasting some very good documentaries  of late.

Canada’s History of Colonialism

2 10 2009
First Nations, 1870

First Nations, 1870

Native Groups have called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to apologize for saying that Canada has “no history of colonialism”.  (Also see here, here, and here). Harper made these remarks at the G20 in Pittsburgh, a recent gathering of the leaders of developed (G7) and emerging economies (including China, India, and Brazil). You can watch Mr Harper’s statement in Pittsburgh here.

First Nations groups say that Harper’s statement overlooks Canada’s long history of domestic colonialism. They have also said that Harper’s “colonialism denial” is incompatible with his recent apology for the residential schools and efforts to engage with aboriginals.

I can certainly see the point that Mr Harper was trying to make. Unlike Britain, the United States, France, and some of the other industrialized countries, Canada never had overseas colonies. The fact that Canada never had a colonial empire does colour the way in which former European colonies, such as India and Singapore, see us. We don’t have the baggage that the other major western countries do.  However, in equating “colonialism” with having overseas colonies in the tropics, Mr Harper may have been making a common mistake, the “saltwater fallacy” that says that if you colonize a territory that is connected to you by land, you aren’t a colonialist. By this definition, Russia and China would not be considered “colonialist” powers, since they colonized contiguous territories, Siberia and Tibet respectively.

Colonialism involved seizing overseas territories in what is commonly called the Third World. But colonialism can also be about the Fourth World, the indigenous communities that live within the borders of industrialized countries such as Canada, Australia, Sweden, and the United States.

Both sides in the debate generated by Mr Harper’s colonialism remark have made excellent points. One hopes that this debate will help to increase the public’s interest in Canadian history.

The image above is from Library and Archives Canada and is the public domain.

Simpson on First Nations

25 08 2009

Jeffrey Simpson has an interesting piece in today’s Globe and MailFirst nations aren’t big enough for true sovereignty: Aboriginal nationhood goals crash repeatedly against the reality of the numbers

Simpson’s argument in superficially plausible, at least insofar as it applies to very small Native bands living in regions in which Natives are the majority. (Simpson, however, overlooks small European microstates like San Marino which are indeed sovereign). Moreover, Simpson’s argument doesn’t really apply to regions where Natives are still in the majority, which is much of Canada’s landmass. The Inuit of Greenland are currently debating independence from Denmark. If Greenland can become a UN member state, than Nunavut probably could also. Moreover, Canada’s legal claim of sovereignty over much of the Arctic rests on Inuit sovereignty/nationhood. See Terry Fenge, “Inuit and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement: Supporting Canada’s Arctic Sovereignty” (Dec. 2007 – Jan. 2008) Policy Options .