"For a subject worked and reworked so often in novels, motion pictures, and television, American Indians remain probably the least understood and most misunderstood Americans of us all."

-John F. Kennedy in
the introduction to The American Heritage Book of Indians

Friday, September 21, 2012

Canada... It's Different Here

So after a long absence from the blogging world, I have decided to return and embark on a new project in the wide world of indigenous appropriation and representation.

But first, the absence.  Just over a year ago, I moved to the beautiful city of Vancouver, British Columbia but not for the scenery or the recreation or the culture.  I arrived to better understand what I have been doing on this blog over these past three years.

I am currently pursuing a Master's Degree in the Department of History at the University of British Columbia.  After a year of coursework and a summer of research, I am finally writing my thesis but more on that later...

...because I wanna talk about CANADA!

beavers and mounties and maple leafs oh my!!!

Canada really is a different place.  People queue up in perfectly straight lines to get on the bus.  The road signs are in something called "kilometers per hour."  The money comes in funny colors other than green.

And there is subversive indigenous pop art on every street corner!

Wait... what?

You read that right.  Subversive indigenous pop art.  How else can you describe the above sign that skewers the colonial power structure with its blunt reminder that some people living here are indeed guests.  This is just one of a series of signs located on the University of British Columbia campus.  Every one includes the name of a different indigenous community serving as host.

Or perhaps you'd prefer something with a little more pop...

Enjoy Coast Salish Territory by Sonny Assu

Indigenous artists like Sonny Assu may use humor in their work but they have not forgotten one thing- indigenous issues are serious business here in Canada, especially in British Columbia.  The recent protests by the Musqueam over a construction site located on burial grounds is only the latest example.

As an American from the Midwest, it is especially jarring.  Where I come from, Native people are most visible as mascots, monuments, and media figures but the situation is really no different than in British Columbia.  Native communities and cultures in the United States are still around and acting as host in the city, in the country, really everywhere.

So like so many things, it all comes down to a matter of perception.  Making some people, places, things invisible when they are in fact staring you right in the face.  And this is by no means a recent phenomenon.

Over the next many months, I will be using this blog as a medium to explore this issues of memory and representation.  My research takes me to the state of North Dakota and I would like to extend a hearty welcome to anyone who wants to join me on this journey.  As always, I welcome all feedback as it will only make me think harder and write better.

Till then, I would like to leave you with an image to be explored later:

State Historical Society of North Dakota (2011-P-011-01)


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