Fluid Authenticity: An Examination of the Historiography of Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples, 1965 – 2005

Fluid Authenticity: An Examination of the Historiography of Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples, 1965 – 2005

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How can you write about a culture whose history is passed on by oral traditions? Better yet, how can you comprehend a culture’s past which a dominant society desired to assimilate? These two questions outline the difficulty in understanding the historiography of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples. In 2003, Paige Raibmon published her article, “Living on Display: Colonial Visions of Aboriginal Domestic Spaces.” Her work, although focused on Canada’s colonial “notions of domesticity,” presents the role of Aboriginals as performers to European notions of indigenous culture and identity. Early social historians believe that Aboriginals’ place in history is in their interactions with European Jesuits. A decade later, historians argue Aboriginals exemplify a subordinate culture fighting against assimilating and hegemonic forces. More recently, social historical perspective shows Aboriginals as performers of the white-man’s constructed “authentic-Indian.” Obviously, there is disparity between historians’ viewpoints but each decade’s published histories concur with James Opp and John Walsh’s concept of local resistance. Using Raibmon’s paper as a starting point, a chronological examination of select histories reveals an evolving social historiography surrounding historians’ perceptions of Aboriginals’ local resistance attempts.
Before a select historiographical study on historians’ approaches to Aboriginals’ historical role can be addressed, the views and evidence presented by Raibmon require contextual examination. Raibmon maintains that to satisfy European colonizers’ perceptions of the Aboriginal, pressure from 19th century colonial missionaries, government, tourists, and anthropologists resulted in the creation of exhibits of Aboriginal...


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... no. 1 (2003): 1-32.

Raibman, Paige. "Living on Display: Colonial Visions of Aboriginal Domestic Spaces." (2003),
in James Opp & John C. Walsh. Home, Work & Play: Situating Canadian Social History.
2nd Edition DonMills: Oxford University Press, 2010: 31-44.

Ronda, James P. "The European Indian: Jesuit civilization planning in New France." Church
History 41, no. 3 (1972): 385-395.

Stone, Thomas. "Legal Mobilization and Legal Penetration: The Department of Indian Affairs
and the Canadian Party at St. Regis, 1876-1918." Ethnohistory 22, no. 4 (1975): 375-408.

Trigger, Bruce G. "The Jesuits and the Fur Trade." Ethnohistory 12, no. 1. North Carolina: Duke
University Press (1965): 30-53.

Zaslow, Morris. "The Missionary as Social Reformer: the Case of William Duncan." Journal of
the Canadian Church Historical Society 8, no. 3 (1966): 52-69.

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