Unsettling the Settler Within: Chapter 3

Posted on June 12, 2016. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, Ed890, First Nations, Masters, Race, Unsettling the Settler |


Photo Credit: Bittermilk.com

Regan dives more into the “Peacemaker Myth” in chapter 3 of Unsettling the Settler Within.  She discusses how Canada is built on this faulty notion that we are peacemakers and peacekeepers, and always have been.  She uses example after example to prove that this is not the case. She explains how a lot of people tend to compare the colonization in Canada to colonization in the USA, and how they think Canada’s is less violent because of treaty making.  She proves them wrong by showing how government officials and policy makers like Alexander Morris, Duncan Campbell Scott, and David Laird used policy to impart cultural and societal violence towards Canada’s Indigenous people. She even reveals how the Royal Canadian Mounted Police managed to secure a peacemaker reputation from Canada’s early days. “For the most part, the celebatory legend persists. A nation of peacemakers emerged from this popular literature, particularly the valorization of the North West Mounted Police in poetry and pulp fiction produced from the 1880’s to the 1940’s” (Regan, 2010, p. 103).

I was shocked when Regan reminded me of the popular series that played on television in the early 2000’s called Canada: A People’s History. I completely remember watching these shows on CBC. She quotes some astounding lines from an episode titled, “Pioneers Head West: Can Ottawa Settle the Frontier Without Bloodshed?”

“Canada’s answer to the western dilemma; bring peace and order to the West before the settlers arrive. This was established through the NWMP who developed good relations with the natives and encouraged them to negotiate with the Canadian government. During the 1870’s, the natives signed a series of treaties, which transferred land to the Canadian government and transferred Plains Indians onto reserves… by 1880, the frontier had peace and order and was ready for white settlement” (Regan, 2010, p. 104). 

canada a peoples history

Photo Credit: CBC

Regan describes how time and time again, Canada has built up this peacekeeper myth until it has become Canada’s truth. It perpetuates the idea that there were these ‘Great White Man’ heroes who must overcome enormous obstacles to fulfill their national dream” (Regan, 2010, p. 105). These popular myths and their idolized heroes are explaining and justifying the actions of Canada’s past and present. I can definitely see how these myths become the inherent foundation of our country, and how after a while, no one even questions this identity, but rather simply believes it all to be true.


“Mountie” Photo Credit: Sean via Flickr

When looking at how this concept will be reflected in my Treaty 4 Reconciliation re-telling project, I have decided that I would like to emphasize the fact that First Nations people deeply valued the ceremonial customs and spiritual practices around treaty making.  They were entering into these treaties with an understanding of human connection, and they desired to establish trust and respect with the Queen’s representatives. On the other hand, the treaty negotiators spoke a language of peace while offering lies.

“They gave chiefs the treaty pen to touch and thus signal their acceptance, these representatives of the settler government needed no weapons except their false words. Indigenous diplomats who had brought their own diplomatic principles and ceremonial practices to the negotiations had no way of knowing that peacemaking as they understood it had been perverted into an act of symbolic violence” (Regan, 2010, p. 101-102).

treaty medal

“Treaty Medal” Photo Credit: Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada

I have tried looking for video clips of a re-enactment of the signing of Treaty 4, and I haven’t found any good ones.  I am worried about how big this project is getting as I would really like some videos to be a part of my project. If I must, I am going to try and get some filmmakers help in re-creating parts of this re-telling, although I also understand that as I move forward, I want to be extremely sensitive to video taping and re-creating the ceremonial and spiritual practices of First Nation’s culture. I will be looking for guidance from my First Nation’s elders and allies in this way.

That said, if anyone reading this knows of anyone who is in the film industry who would like to help me create some short video clips, I would be happy to get in touch with them!

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[…] Settlement history” that I grew up learning. From this point on, I am acknowledging that Canada is not a peacemaking country, and it never has […]

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