Civil Indian Policy and aboriginal-white relations in nineteenth century Canada: a cultural genocide?

Twist, G. (2014) Civil Indian Policy and aboriginal-white relations in nineteenth century Canada: a cultural genocide? M.A. thesis, Canterbury Christ Church University.


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This dissertation examines the development of Indian Policy by the British Imperial Government in North America following its transition from the military to the civil branch of government. Through detailed analysis of primary and secondary material it will argue that there was a determined effort by the Church and State to destroy, in whole or in part, the social, political, spiritual, and other cultural traditions of the indigenous peoples in Canada. The dissertation will contextualise the Victorian ideology of superiority, and will provide a fresh outlook on the aboriginal-white relationship as it developed in the settlement era of Canadian expansion. The dissertation’s overall argument is that the culturally destructive intentions of Eurocentric policy makers and evangelisers should be seen as a kind of “cultural genocide”, because they imposed measures to dismantle forms of indigenous culture, with the intent of transferring or assimilating the physical person, as an individual, into the settler society.

The dissertation explores different forms of genocide from the definition ratified at the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide 1948 which focused solely on physical destruction. These forms of cultural destruction include political, spiritual, and economic genocide. The dissertation develops the argument that cultural genocide was limited to article 3 (e), and should include other aspects of destruction that undermined First Nations’ traditions, such as: forms of government, gender roles, economic pursuits, ceremonies, and spiritual beliefs.

An introduction contextualizes Eurocentricism, the ideology of superiority based upon European socio-political and religious belief, and the changing white perception of aboriginals from warrior to “expensive social nuisance”. A chapter on the Church-State effort to civilize the ‘Indian’ reveals how philanthropic measures intended to assist indigenous people were ultimately hindered by the assumption of Victorian superiority. Two further chapters – one an in-depth analysis on ‘Indian’ legislation, the other on historic treaties– highlight that economic prerogatives for a coast-to-coast settler society undermined Native sovereignty. The dissertation concludes that the Aboriginal-white relationship deteriorated as a result of the Civil Indian Policy; Indigenous people became wards of the State, were reduced spiritually and morally to a sub-human status; and were economically demoted to a peasant class that barely survived maybe?

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F1001 Canada (General)
Divisions: pre Nov-2014 > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History and American Studies
Depositing User: Mr Andrew Hudson
Date Deposited: 09 Jun 2015 10:55
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2016 18:41

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00