Native Peoples of Canada

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Native Peoples of Canada The Indian does not exist. It is an imaginary figure, according to Daniel Francis (The Imaginary Indian), invented by Europeans that originated in Columbus's mistake, as he believed he had landed in the East Indies, and developed into fantasy. "Through the prism of white hopes, fears and prejudices, indigenous Americans would be seen to have lost contact with reality and to have become 'Indians'; that is anything non-Natives wanted them to be," (5). Thus they were attributed a wide range of conflicting characteristics, simultaneously seen as noble savages, full of stoicism, the last representatives of a dying race and blood-thirsty warriors, void of emotion and dull-witted, reflecting European romanticised notions. This manufactured image was presented in popular fiction, art, Hollywood films, school textbooks, newspapers and documentaries, where it was readily accepted as fact. So how did this affect the actual, existing indigenous population and how is their resistance to projected images of the 'other' manifested in today's post-colonial climate? In this short essay, I will examine how Native peoples of Canada have used literature to deconstruct the stereotypical manner in which they have been represented in European, Canadian and American portraits, creating a new style and, in certain cases, a new form which marries tradition with the present and looks forward to the future. I will be using All My Relations: Anthology of Contemporary Canadian Native Fiction, edited by Thomas King, alongside a variety of critical and theoretical works which illustrate the complex issues involved, in terms of post-colonial definitions, and some objections that have been raised in response to the... ... middle of paper ... ... brought about progress in pre-colonial or traditional Native literature. Only by exercising caution will the term remain useful. Perhaps the use of a term such as 'ethnicity' once it is redefined in a universal and non-derogatory way, engaging difference without allowing hierarchy will allow group consciousness to develop in a manner which is unfettered by the associations of colonialism. Works Cited: FRANCIS, Daniel. The Imaginary Indian: The Image of the Indian in Canadian Culture. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 1993. FRIDERES, James S. Native Peoples in Canada: Contemporary Conflicts. Scarborough: Prentice Hall, 1988. KING, Thomas, ed. All My Relations. McClelland and Stewart: Toronto, 1990. KING, Thomas. "Godzilla vs. Post-Colonial." PETRONE, Penny. Native Literature in Canada: From the Oral Tradition to the Present. Toronto: Oxford UP, 1990.

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