Colonial Genocide in Indigenous North America

Duke University Press
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This important collection of essays expands the geographic, demographic, and analytic scope of the term genocide to encompass the effects of colonialism and settler colonialism in North America. Colonists made multiple and interconnected attempts to destroy Indigenous peoples as groups. The contributors examine these efforts through the lens of genocide. Considering some of the most destructive aspects of the colonization and subsequent settlement of North America, several essays address Indigenous boarding school systems imposed by both the Canadian and U.S. governments in attempts to "civilize" or "assimilate" Indigenous children. Contributors examine some of the most egregious assaults on Indigenous peoples and the natural environment, including massacres, land appropriation, the spread of disease, the near-extinction of the buffalo, and forced political restructuring of Indigenous communities. Assessing the record of these appalling events, the contributors maintain that North Americans must reckon with colonial and settler colonial attempts to annihilate Indigenous peoples.

Contributors. Jeff Benvenuto, Robbie Ethridge, Theodore Fontaine, Joseph P. Gone, Alexander Laban Hinton, Tasha Hubbard, Margaret D. Jabobs, Kiera L. Ladner, Tricia E. Logan, David B. MacDonald, Benjamin Madley, Jeremy Patzer, Julia Peristerakis, Christopher Powell, Colin Samson, Gray H. Whaley, Andrew Woolford
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About the author

Andrew Woolford is Professor of Sociology and Criminology and Social Justice Research Coordinator at the University of Manitoba.

Jeff Benvenuto is a Ph.D. student in the Division of Global Affairs at Rutgers University, Newark.

Alexander Laban Hinton is the Director of the Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights, Professor of Anthropology and Global Affairs, and the UNESCO Chair on Genocide Prevention at Rutgers University, Newark.

Theodore Fontaine is the author of Broken Circle: The Dark Legacy of Indian Residential Schools: A Memoir.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Oct 31, 2014
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Pages
360
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ISBN
9780822376149
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Canada / General
History / United States / General
Social Science / Ethnic Studies / Native American Studies
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This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Settler colonialism in Canada has traditionally been portrayed as a gentler, if not benevolent, colonialism—especially in contrast to the Indian Wars in the United States. This national mythology has penetrated into comparative genocide studies, where Canadian case studies are rarely discussed in edited volumes, genocide journals, or multi-national studies. Indeed, much of the extant literature on genocide in Canada rests at the level of self-justification, whereby authors draw on the U.N Genocide Convention or some other rubric to demonstrate that Canadian genocides are a legitimate topic of scholarly concern.
In recent years, however, discussion of genocide in Canada has become more pronounced, particularly in the wake of the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. This volume contributes to this ongoing discourse, providing scholarly analyses of the multiple dimensions or processes of colonial destruction and their aftermaths in Canada. Various acts of genocidal violence are covered, including residential schools, repressive legal or governmental controls, ecological destruction, and disease spread. Additionally, contributors draw comparisons to patterns of colonial destruction in other contexts, examine the ways in which Canada has sought to redress and commemorate colonial harms, and present novel theoretical and conceptual insights on colonial/settler genocides in Canada. This book was previously published as a special issue of the Journal of Genocide Research.
Mention “ethnic cleansing” and most Americans are likely to think of “sectarian” or “tribal” conflict in some far-off locale plagued by unstable or corrupt government. According to historian Gary Clayton Anderson, however, the United States has its own legacy of ethnic cleansing, and it involves American Indians.

In Ethnic Cleansing and the Indian, Anderson uses ethnic cleansing as an analytical tool to challenge the alluring idea that Anglo-American colonialism in the New World constituted genocide. Beginning with the era of European conquest, Anderson employs definitions of ethnic cleansing developed by the United Nations and the International Criminal Court to reassess key moments in the Anglo-American dispossession of American Indians.

Euro-Americans’ extensive use of violence against Native peoples is well documented. Yet Anderson argues that the inevitable goal of colonialism and U.S. Indian policy was not to exterminate a population, but to obtain land and resources from the Native peoples recognized as having legitimate possession. The clashes between Indians, settlers, and colonial and U.S. governments, and subsequent dispossession and forcible migration of Natives, fit the modern definition of ethnic cleansing.

To support the case for ethnic cleansing over genocide, Anderson begins with English conquerors’ desire to push Native peoples to the margin of settlement, a violent project restrained by the Enlightenment belief that all humans possess a “natural right” to life. Ethnic cleansing comes into greater analytical focus as Anderson engages every major period of British and U.S. Indian policy, especially armed conflict on the American frontier where government soldiers and citizen militias alike committed acts that would be considered war crimes today.

Drawing on a lifetime of research and thought about U.S.-Indian relations, Anderson analyzes the Jacksonian “Removal” policy, the gold rush in California, the dispossession of Oregon Natives, boarding schools and other “benevolent” forms of ethnic cleansing, and land allotment. Although not amounting to genocide, ethnic cleansing nevertheless encompassed a host of actions that would be deemed criminal today, all of which had long-lasting consequences for Native peoples.
A Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2017
 
At the end of the nineteenth century, Indigenous boarding schools were touted as the means for solving the “Indian problem” in both the United States and Canada. With the goal of permanently transforming Indigenous young people into Europeanized colonial subjects, the schools were ultimately a means for eliminating Indigenous communities as obstacles to land acquisition, resource extraction, and nation-building. Andrew Woolford analyzes the formulation of the “Indian problem” as a policy concern in the United States and Canada and examines how the “solution” of Indigenous boarding schools was implemented in Manitoba and New Mexico through complex chains that included multiple government offices with a variety of staffs, Indigenous peoples, and even nonhuman actors such as poverty, disease, and space. The genocidal project inherent in these boarding schools, however, did not unfold in either nation without diversion, resistance, and unintended consequences.

Inspired by the signing of the 2007 Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement in Canada, which provided a truth and reconciliation commission and compensation for survivors of residential schools, This Benevolent Experiment offers a multilayered, comparative analysis of Indigenous boarding schools in the United States and Canada. Because of differing historical, political, and structural influences, the two countries have arrived at two very different responses to the harm caused by assimilative education.

 
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