Monday, 25 February 2013

Book Review Louis Riel and the Creation of Modern Canada-Mythic Discourse in the Post-Colonial State

Here is Louis Riel at the Manitoba Legislature facing away towards the Assiniboine River. What is the message? Does he look to the river and the ebb and flow of flow of fortunes of his people of Manitoba? Does the river represent the past or the future or the present? Is symbolic Riel looking to the past. It is certainly magnificent to skate by this statue, but it is a shame so few people get to see from the river.
Book Review published in Aboriginal Policy Studies
Riel a little closer Feb 23 2013
Louis Riel and the Creation of Modern Canada-Mythic Discourse in the Post-Colonial State
Robert-Falcon Ouellette’s interview with the author, Jennifer Reid
aboriginal policy studies, Vol. 2, no. 2, 2013
ISSN: 1923-3299

Louis Riel and the Creation of Modern Canada
Mythic Discourse in the Post-Colonial State
Robert-Falcon Ouellette’s interview with the author, Jennifer Reid

The following is a conversation that took place on the radio show
At the Edge of Canada: Indigenous Research between the host, Dr. Robert-Falcon Ouellette, and Dr. Jennifer Reid. First broadcast on April 17, 2012, the two talk about Reid’s new book Louis Riel and the Creation of Modern Canada—Mythic Discourse in the Post-Colonial State (published by University of Manitoba Press). This interview was broadcast by the UMFM radio station and the podcast is hosted at The interview was transcribed by Bryan Tordon.
Robert: Welcome to At the Edge of Canada. I’m your host, Dr. Robert-Falcon Ouellette, and today I have with me Dr. Jennifer Reid from the University of Maine. Dr Reid received her PhD in religious studies from the University of Ottawa; she is the author of Myth, Symbol, and Colonial Encounter; Worse than Beasts: An Anatomy of Melancholy; and The Literature of Travel in 17th and 18th Century England, as well as numerous articles in the history of religions. She has edited the volume Religion and Global Culture: New Terrain in the Study of Religion, and she has just published her new book, called Louis Riel and the Creation of Modern Canada—Mythic Discourse in the Post-Colonial State, published by the University of Manitoba Press: so welcome, Jennifer. Tansai.
Jennifer : Well, thank you Robert.
Robert : I was reading your new book—well, it’s not a new book, in fact it’s an "old" book republished here in Canada for the first time. It’s called Louis Riel and the Creation of Modern Canada—Mythic Discourse in the Post-Colonial State. So why would you reissue a book in 2011 that was published in 2008?
Jennifer : Well, it was published in 2008 by University of New Mexico Press, so I think it probably targeted an American audience. I actually didn’t know it was going to be published again in Canada until I heard from University of Manitoba Press last fall saying that the press had negotiated the Canadian rights and were going to reissue it in Canada which was great. I was really happy.
Robert: Wow, that’s very exciting,
Jennifer: Yes, it’s what I wanted in the first place but I couldn’t get a bite in terms of Canadian publishers, so that’s why I went with the US publisher.
Robert: This book looks at the mythic significance that surrounds Louis Riel and explores the search for Canadian national identity. I was wondering if you could just talk a bit about the premise of the book.
Jennifer: There are a few things going on simultaneously in the book. One of the basic things that I’m interested in is how, in a broader sense, the notion of the nation state doesn’t work very well with post-colonial states. It’s a European construction, and with a nation state you need to have broad geopolitical notions of identity that rest on traditional things like religion, language, or ethnicity. This is what makes a nation, but in post-colonial states we lack those traditional markers for community. We don’t have a single nation in any post-colonial state. That’s the nature of colonialism: it mishmashes everybody together. So I started thinking about how, maybe, identity in this context has to reflect disjunctures and tensions rather than commonalities. Immediately, my long-term interest in Riel just kind of congealed around that. I thought about the constructions of Riel by so many different communities, and the so many different Riels that are out there, and it occurred to me that perhaps he could be one of those linchpins for thinking about identity in terms of disjuncture and tension. So that’s what it came out of.
Robert: Because you also write about the métissage and the creolization of the Canadian state.
Jennifer: Yes, I think that the fundamental thing we have to come to terms with in the modern period is that post-colonial states, the Atlantic world - essentially Africa, North America, South America - these states are incredibly variegated in terms of culture and we already know that we have different ways of talking about that. The US has its melting pot, and we want a mosaic, but we’re all trying to find a way to—of talking about the fact that we don’t have that unity. I like the idea of métissage partly because we get the term from an actual group of people who have lived through these tensions and have created something absolutely new in the New World. And Métis peoples hearken to a process, not of struggling to maintain discreet Old World nationalities, but of creating something very new. I think that’s what we have; we just haven’t created a language to talk about that.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Louis Riel Day Podcast Special

This is an hour long special in honour of Louis Riel Day (18th Feb, 2013 in Manitoba) presenting Aboriginal music of Turtle Island with a focus on Métis music. There are also segments talking about the history and life of Louis Riel. I hope you all enjoy.

Performers are Raymond St-Germain, Winston Wuttunee, Hawk and Eagle, Shingoose, and many more.

Human Rights of the Métis

The Making of Colonial Shatter Zones

This is an interview with Dr Robbie Ethridge, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Mississippi. We discussed her research and work when she was visiting the University of Manitoba. Robbie gave two talks about her work on January 24 2013 entitled Global Capital, Violence, and the Making of a Colonial Shatter Zone and  January 25 The Contours of Contact: A Continental North American Perspective. She has written several books such as Creek Country: The Creek Country and Their World, 1796-1816 (2003), and From Chicaza to Chickasaw: The European Invasion and the Transformation of the Mississippian World, 1540-1715 (2010). Her current research is on the rise and fall of the Mississippian world which examines the rise of the world of the prehistoric Mississippian chiefdoms, the 700-year history of this world, and the collapse of this world with European contact. I certainly felt there were strong links to current events and we could learn a great deal by understanding this period of great urbanization and re-creation of traditions within Indigneous communities.

To Learn More (interview and Podcast)


Thursday, 14 February 2013

Message Lost in Translation: The Indian Act & No Way Forward

This is an interview in french only that (Oct 22, 2012) I did with Radio-Canada about the Indian Act and the motions presented by liberal leader Bob Rae and the conservative Tory MP Rob Clarke in late 2012. Both Parties had presented very opposing points of view about how they see the need for changes to the Indian Act and how these changes should be implemented.

The Conservative point of view is to have a slow incremental changes while the liberal point of view is that the Indian Act should have massive change after consultations with First Nations. The problem is neither is really an adequate solution because the conservative view will modify an imperfect system and make it only more functional, but still imperfect while the liberals are not likely to get much consensus from politicians and First Nations. The proverbial Rock and a Hard place. perhaps we should all move to England and start a fresh.

I think the need for a major overhaul of the Indian Act is long overdue, but as we know the Conservative have no mandate (example Senator Brazeau) and have little chance to bring about consensus. The excuse that consensus will never come so we must impose a solution is also wrong. It is time we spent some long hard hours talking between Canadians about these issues. The issues though must be worded in terms that the average Canadian can understand, Human Rights. If First Nations people continue to use the term Treaty Rights, we will be talking to ourselves. We need to allow the average Canadian the ability to have a reference point something they can grasp.

For most Canadians they see treaty rights as being special rights that they do not have, wrongly or rightly this is the impression. While attending the American Indian Studies Conference in Phoenix Arizona on Feb 7-8 2013 I was in a hot tub with three Canadians and a couple of Americans. there were two parts to our debate the first part was after we each talked I realised we were not sharing the same common language about the issues. I changed my language and we finished the very constructive debate of 2 hours about the idea of human rights to education, housing, food security. The Canadians got it and understood when it was done in these term. Paul Nadasdy wrote a book Hunters and Bureaucrats: Power Knowledge and Aboriginal State Relations in the Southwest Yukon where he talks about how Aboriginal peoples must translate our concepts and understanding into term that average people can understand.

Interview with Radio-Canada about the Indian Act

A friend of mine Leo Baskatawang, who walked across Canada to change and abolish the Indian Act also talks about this issue: March4Justice

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Stories in a New Skin: Approaches to Inuit Literature

This is a conversation with Keavy Martin from the University of Alberta who has written a book about the oft ignored worlds of Inuit Literature. It is a fascinating look and what too many in Canada have little knowledge about. Inuit literature has a depth and breath encompassing many genres as explained by Keavy.

Keavy starts with the following quote by Elder Rita Nashook. “Southerners don't want to understand Inuit ways. They’re ignorant about our culture, don't consider our opinion and treat us like we know nothing. Inuit culture is oral and we keep knowledge in our minds. Even without text, our culture is full of wisdom.”

The true work of Keavy is translating not words, but the meaning between systems of knowledge and allow greater communication between cultures and peoples.

To Learn More  (interview and Podcast)  


Friday, 1 February 2013

Buffy Sainte-Marie Inspiring Generations of Canadians & Idlenomore

Buffy Ste-Marie &
Robert-Falcon Ouellette
Aboriginal House U of M
29 January 2013

I heard perhaps one of the most important speeches I will hear this year (Jan 29, 2013) by peace activist, artist and Cree woman Buffy Sainte-Marie about her thoughts on Idle no more, Indigenous rights and how we have a positive role to play in improving the lives of those around us. Buffy's message was one where we must stay positive and connect with others to build bridges in a non-violent manner. She discussed her role in the 1960-70s American Indian Movement and how that era has laid the ground work for the current movement to come forward and start addressing these issues and educating Canadians both individually and collectively on the rights of all Canadians to have a decent life based on human values without hierarchy. We each have a role to play according to our skills and desires and we are each important in moving our nation forward. It will not be the leaders who will change the system, but individuals who collectively, one by one, who will bring about improvements in the lives of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

One of Buffy's words of wisdom related to the idea that European when they first arrived in North America had come from the Spanish Inquisition, they had been engaged in dreadful warfare that had and still was killing millions. When they came here they knew nothing else and simple perpetuated what they had been doing for a thousand years on the Indigenous peoples of North America. While it does not make it right, it makes it easier to understand that they are also victims of themselves and their own culture. We need to help them as well.

“Idle No More is a dream come true for a lot of us across Canada who have been involved with decades of Aboriginal community efforts to make things better,” states Sainte-Marie. “Last week I did a quick iPhone video [of the protests] and it’s gotten tens of thousands of views so that tells you something about the Idle No More team, their expertise in social media, and the many people worldwide who agree with Idle No More. Bill C-45 must not stand” ( The Manitoban).

To Learn More