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In the spirit of the pioneers : historical consciousness, cultural colonialism and Indian/white relations in rural British Columbia Furniss, Elizabeth Mary


This dissertation is an ethnography of the cultural politics of Indian/white relations in a small, interior British Columbia resource city at the height of land claims conflict and tensions. Drawing on the theoretical approaches of Nicholas Thomas (1994) and Raymond Williams (1977, 1980), I show how the power that reinforces the subordination of aboriginal peoples in Canada is exercised by 'ordinary' rural Euro-Canadians whose cultural attitudes and activities are forces in an ongoing, contemporary system of colonial domination. In approaching these issues through in-depth ethnographic research with both the Native and Euro- Canadian populations and in exploring the dynamics of cultural domination and resistance at the level of a local, rural community, this dissertation stands as a unique contribution to the ethnographic study of colonialism and Native/non- Native relations in Canada. The dominant Euro-Canadian culture of the region is defined by a complex of understandings about history, society and identity that is thematically integrated through the idea of the frontier. At its heart, the frontier complex consists of an historical epistemology - a Canadian version of the American frontier myth (Slotkin 1992) - that celebrates the processes through which European explorers 'discovered' and 'conquered' North America and its aboriginal inhabitants, . Central to this complex is the Indian/white dichotomy, a founding archetype in Euro-Canadians' symbolic ordering of regional social relations and in their private and public constructions of collective identity. Also central is the Euro-Canadians' self-image of benevolent paternalism, an identity that appears repeatedly in discourses of national history and Native/non-Native relations. Facets of the frontier complex are expressed in diverse settings: casual conversations among Euro-Canadians, popular histories, museum displays, political discourse, public debates about aboriginal land claims, and the town's annual summer festival. In each setting, these practices contribute to the perpetuation of relations of inequality between Euro-Canadians and area Shuswap, Tsilhqot'in and Carrier peoples, and in each setting area Natives are engaging in diverse forms of resistance. The plurality of these strategies of resistance, rooted in different cultural identities, biographical experiences and political philosophies, reflects the creativity in which new forms of resistance are forged and tested in public contexts of Native/Euro-Canadian interaction.

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