Imperialism, colonialism and structural violence: an example of the resistance of Piapot and Big Bear to reserve settlement

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Kennedy, Carla M.
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During the 19th century, British imperialism and Canadian colonialism aspired to subdue, subjugate and assimilate the Plains Cree (cf. Tobias 1992:148). This particular brand of colonialism employed Indian policy – a form of structural violence—rather than military force. I argue that structural violence was both legitimized and supported by cultural violence. The distortion of history is a prime example of cultural violence. That Canada followed an honorable and just policy in its dealings with Plains Indians (cf. Tobias 1983:519) is the contemporary residue of a myth created during colonial times in political circles to justify the dispossession of Aboriginal lands and resources. In the 19th Century, Cree leaders, Piapot and Big Bear, who were perceived as threats to Canadian “progress,” were routinely publicly maligned. The “official” historical literature often uncritically reflected these prevalent ethnocentric views of the day. Critical historical theorists, however, have offered a number of opposing views. This thesis focuses attention on the literature which takes a more critical and culturally informed approach to Canadian nation-building. It places a discussion of structural constraints at the centre of an exploration of the strategies Plains leaders used to resist a variety of Indian policies including reserve settlement.
Reserve, Resistance, Violence