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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The devil’s northern triangle : Howard Adams and Métis multidimensional relationships with and within colonialism Voth, Daniel Jacob-Paul


This dissertation deploys the life’s work of Métis scholar and activist Howard Adams to show that his binaristic positioning of Métis people within the colonial world is first productive for elucidating and analyzing the devastation wrought on his people by the processes of colonization, and second an incomplete analysis of Métis political relationships with and within colonialism. Adams’ thought contains an uncomfortable positioning whereby the Métis are framed as colonized subjects while also being the products of the racist and destructive processes of colonialism. Adams does not interrogate this uncomfortable positioning in his work. Instead, he reinforces Métis people as exclusively colonized subjects. This dissertation posits that being the products of colonialism while also being colonized subjects opens a space to examine the range of relationships Métis people have with their kin in other Indigenous nations. I argue that looking at inter-Indigenous politics through this complex positioning shows how Métis interact and resist the ideology and processes of colonialism that seek to terminate and dispossess them from their territories, while also illuminating the way Métis political actors engage in zero-sum—and in some cases, colonial—relationships with other Indigenous peoples. I examine this through the critical juncture formed during the Red River Resistance in 1869-70: in the process of resisting the advancement of the Settler state, Métis political actors attempted to set up a sphere of power at Red River to the exclusion of most other Indigenous peoples. I then examine the reproduction of the legacy of zero-sum relationships in the formation and breakup of the Indian and Métis Conference (forerunner to the Manitoba Métis Federation), followed by the attempt by Métis and other Indigenous peoples to strategically deploy the law. The examination of these strategic deployments is informed by the interaction between Métis and Treaty 1 peoples at the Manitoba Court of Appeal hearing of MMF v. Canada. I conclude that embracing the discomfort in Adams’ positioning helps inform Métis political engagements with other Indigenous peoples. The benefit of this positioning is that it contributes to building informed inter-Indigenous decolonizing movements.  

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