UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

“We do not talk about our history here” : the Department of Indian Affairs, Musqueam-settler relations, and memory in a Vancouver neighbourhood Pleshakov, Alexandra Sanya


The Musqueam Indian Reserve is one of the few in North America located within the boundaries of a major city. Although historical narratives have long silenced the experiences of urban Aboriginal people, this case study draws attention to the many contexts in which Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people interacted across legal boundaries that supposedly kept reserve space and urban space separate. This thesis argues that the Department of Indian Affairs was the principal actor in both facilitating and constraining Musqueam and non-Musqueam relations in early-twentieth-century Vancouver though its control of land, resources, and the consumer economy. Furthermore, this thesis argues that the policies and practices of the state were so pervasive that they have come to dominate any memory of those relations today. Using an extensive collection of oral histories recently carried out for a local community history project in Vancouver, this study explores the processes through which the history of Musqueam and non-Musqueam interactions have been both remembered and erased. In doing so, this thesis makes clear the relationship of social history to social memory, and contributes to recent scholarly work in documenting how Aboriginal histories are necessarily urban histories.

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