Rupturing the myth of the peaceful western Canadian frontier: a socio-historical study of colonization, violence, and the North West Mounted Police, 1873-1905
Ennab, Fadi Saleem
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Recently there has been more critical attention given to the violent role of the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) in the unfolding of settlement and colonial laws in western Canada. However, few have offered a comprehensive analysis of the violent encounters that are recorded (and missing) in the archival records and correspondence of the NWMP, and other secondary sources. Similarly, few researchers have utilized the ‘past’ experiences of Aboriginal peoples to try and understand the ongoing chasm today between non-indigenous settlers and Aboriginal peoples of Canada. In making the “marginal central” (Fitzpatrick 1989), and simultaneously challenging the dominant colonial narrative, I offer a socio-historical analysis of western Canada during the NWMP era (1873-1905), to show how it was (and still is), like other colonial frontiers, a violent space and time. I explore this argument by situating the violent encounters between the NWMP, white settlers, and Aboriginal peoples within the colonial relations that were structured to maintain the marginalization and dispossession of Aboriginal peoples. Failing to recognize and resist this part of western Canadian history, and the underlying logic behind it, is denial and limits the rationality and potential of non-indigenous Canadian populations to work for, and even conceive of, achieving an authentic reconciliation with Aboriginal peoples.