[An abridged version of this paper was presented at a British Association of Canadian Studies special conference entitled Screening Culture: Constructing Image and Identity, held in York, England, 26-27 October, 1996. I would like to acknowledge funding from the SSHRC International Travel Grants Programme, and the Simon Fraser University School of Criminology, that made my participation at that conference possible.]
[Footnotes are marked with a footnote number between asterisks, e.g., *FN1*, and appear as endnotes following the end of the paper.]
The way we see an issue inevitably comes wrapped in our biographies, so perhaps the way to begin is by telling you a bit about how I came to be in this place. I am a methodologist by trade (e.g., see Palys, 1992, 1997), and my interests as an academic have moved over the years to be less centered on matters of epistemology - a more philosophically-oriented discipline concerned with the "oughts" of research - to become more and more focussed on the sociology of science: a more empirically-oriented search into the way that science is organized and does what it does; how the definition of what constitutes "scientific" inquiry has been and continues to be fought over; and the ways that our understandings both reflect and play a role in constituting what we (both as academics and as members of society) know and what we do (e.g., see Becker, 1996; Foucault, 1970, 1972).
Not unrelated to those concerns is my interest in the search for justice by Aboriginal and other Indigenous peoples (e.g., see Palys, 1993a, 1993b). Although I have been interested in this area for its own sake, the understandings that Aboriginal people have chosen to share with me have also influenced me considerably as a methodologian. I have come to see the efforts of "Western Science" to understand Aboriginal peoples as a singly tragic and useful case study of the sociology of science: a clash of epistemologies that has acted to the detriment of Aboriginal peoples, and where science, which vaunts the view that the truth shall set us free, has instead been a part of the oppression (e.g., see Palys, 1990).[*FN1*] Since much of my interest in Aboriginal justice has been in the policy area - and especially the failure of governmental policy and policy formulation processes to afford adequate space for Aboriginal peoples to exercise their rights of self-determination - I found my methodological interests focussing more and more on the way that our understandings shape research, which in turn shapes the form of policy that can and does emerge, which in turn reaffirms and shapes the understandings on which further research and policy are based (e.g., Palys, 1993a, 1997). Images and constructed identities - both within and beyond science - are a part of those processes. Let me start, therefore, by considering the science and policy domains as they relate to the understanding of aboriginal issues, and then start tying them to media portrayals, particularly in film.
As someone who has extolled the virtues of scientific understanding (e.g., see Palys, 1992, 1997), it is no great pleasure to review the manner in which colonials employed scientific reason and analysis in their service, nor the manner in which the institution of science so willingly offered itself to that task. A primary element here appears to have been Darwinian evolutionary theory, which, cast as social Darwinism, provided fuel for Eurocentric fires by suggesting that a "hierarchy" of races was merely part of the natural order, and that military campaigns were all simply part of ensuring the "survival of the fittest" (e.g., see Berkhofer, 1978; Stocking, 1987). [*FN2*]
Another example occurs in the assessment domain, where measurement theorists offered ostensibly "objective" data they interpreted as reaffirming the validity of the hierarchy of races, with Caucasians, conveniently enough, always at the top of the heap. Closer examination, however, reveals that these assertions do not go beyond tautology. Morton (1849; cited in Gould, 1981), for example, validated his belief in the link between brain size (cranial capacity) and intelligence by demonstrating that comparisons between the skulls of different races came out as they were "supposed" to: Caucasoid skulls were the largest, followed by Indians, followed by Blacks [see Gould (1981), for a detailed analysis and critique of that self-serving research].
Demonstrations of supposed cultural superiority also involved European cultures using their own proclivities and preferences as the measuring stick for "civilization," which effectively transformed the question of "How 'civilized' are you?" into "How much are you like us?". With the measure established, the results are obvious: no one is ever as much "like us" as "we" are, and hence no one will ever measure up to our criteria as well as we do. In history, for example, the European preference for written documentation immediately placed oral Aboriginal cultures in a disadvantageous position concerning the "evidence" of history: "our" documentary evidence counted; "their" oral history evidence did not.[ *FN3*] This left Indigenous peoples the world over, through western European eyes at least, as the "people without history" (see Wolf, 1982).
Although we might hope that such imperialist analyses would be a thing of the past, colonialist assumptions - background "understandings" so taken for granted they escape scrutiny - continue to the present. Deloria (1995), for example, examines some of anthropology's enduring chestnuts, such as the Bering Strait theory [*FN4*], and shows how they assume and reaffirm, rather than examine and test, contemporary understandings regarding the origins of peoples. Alfred (1995) examines the construct of "nationalism" as it has been considered in political science and history. He is particularly effective in showing how this term has been constrained by western European conceptions of nation-state, and contrasts this with Aboriginal (and particularly Mohawk) perceptions, which, he explains, conceive of both nation and state in dramatically different terms. Kline (1994) has examined the ways that racist ideologies regarding Aboriginal peoples make their ways into legal discourse.
Much attention has been paid to the policies and practices used by colonial and neo-colonial administrations to do what they thought was "best" for the indigenous peoples of North America. The record is not a positive one, a point so obvious that I will not dwell on it in detail here. Dyck (1991) uses the term "tutelage" to capture federal government attitudes to their Indian "wards." Twentieth century policy is perhaps epitomized by former deputy superintendent general of Indian Affairs Duncan Campbell Scott, who is well known for his quote that: "Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian department" (e.g., see Tennant, 1990, p.92). The means for this ostensibly benevolent attempt at ethnocide involved cradle-to-grave control via the Indian Act, the reservation system, the residential school system, location tickets, criminalizing expressions of culture, criminalizing efforts to assert land rights, and on and on (e.g., see Boldt, 1993; Fleras & Elliot, 1992; Palys, 1993b).
The colonial and then federal government's fiduciary obligations regarding Indians are clearly prescribed by the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Canadian Constitution, and have been reaffirmed most recently by the Supreme Court of Canada in such cases as Regina v. Sparrow (1992). However, as Boldt (1993) affirms, the "national interest" - which, notwithstanding the government's fiduciary obligations, has always been defined in terms of the interests of the settler populations - has always been pitted against the interests of Aboriginal peoples, with the "national interest" always taking precedence (see also below). The result is that non-Aboriginal Canada has prospered on the backs of First Nations resources, and at the expense of Aboriginal peoples; Aboriginal communities vary considerably in their situations but, overall, hold the worst position on any quality of life indicator you'd care to name (e.g., see Fleras & Elliot, 1992; Zimmerman, 1992).
Of course, not everyone is familiar with the intricacies of colonial policy, or reads scholarly tomes regarding science and epistemology. Similarly, most North Americans have never travelled back through time, or been to Alert Bay, or ever known a "real" Miq'maq or Mohawk. A broader understanding of the way hegemonic beliefs come to dominate a culture thus requires that we scrutinize "lay" books, television programmes, newspapers, magazines, and films - those mass media vehicles through which most people, including those who grow up to become legislators, policy analysts, and research scientists, come to know whatever it is we feel we know about other times, places and peoples. As Tennant (1992) stated in reference to British Columbia Supreme Court Chief Justice McEachern's horrific decision in the case of Delgamuukw v. The Queen: "every culture has its creation myths, and BC is no exception." It is the media that play to, create, and reaffirm those myths, thereby providing justification to those who engage in deleterious action. This makes a study of media portrayals of Aboriginal people/s a particularly useful undertaking.
A variety of authors have examined what books (e.g., Berkhofer, 1978), films (e.g., Bataille & Silet, 1980; Hilger, 1986; Price, 1973; Skinner, 1988), and the broader media (e.g., Churchill, Hill & Hill, 1980; Deloria, 1980; Francis, 1992) have told us about Aboriginal peoples. Notwithstanding the valuable contributions these analyses have made, they tend to be limited in two important respects. First, some are constrained by a methodological model that considers only how a certain "film image" might lead to "attitude creation or change". But such models are overly uni-directional and ignore the context in which those messages are both produced and consumed. One has no sense of why they might have "made sense" to those who produced or consumed them; popular film imagery reflects contemporary understandings as much as it influences them. Related to this is a second limitation, which is that most analyses tend to be restricted to relatively brief time periods, thus denying us the opportunity to engage in a more comprehensive analysis that shows how media imagery, and the context in which it is produced, change and influence each other over time.
The analysis I will now undertake - in which I examine science, policy, and film portrayals regarding Aboriginal peoples over time - will inevitably suffer its own limitations, particularly the limitations that arise when one tries to paint historical trends with an overly large brush. Nonetheless, I would suggest that it also offers certain benefits, especially given our collective goal of trying to understand the role that film media play in constructing image and identity, i.e., the theme of this conference.
One advantage of looking at trends over time is that we begin to see not some monolithic stereotype that leads us to confuse how things are with how things have "always" been, but start realizing that cultural legends, stories, and history change. Indeed, change is exactly what we would expect if it is the case that efforts at scientific understanding, policy regarding Indians, and film portrayals unite in the service of hegemonic interests. [*FN5*]. To the extent that hegemonic interests change, and if these are a primary source of and influence on film imagery, then we should clearly expect film imagery to change as well, in a manner that is consistent with changing hegemonic interest. Various authors have already shown that scientific accounts and Indian policy are subject to such influences.
Robin Fisher's (1977/1992) Contact and Conflict, for example, offered an important contribution to understanding changes in British (and then Canadian) policies regarding Indians over time. Although many analyses of Canadian Indian policy seem to focus only on more recent Indian policy as exemplified in the Indian Act (originally 1876), and conclude on that basis that British/Canadian policies respecting Aboriginal peoples have been involved only in varying levels of oppression, Fisher asks us to consider a more complex story. He distinguished between "contact" and "conflict" periods of Aboriginal-European relations, and described how the earlier "contact" period involved relations that were generally mutually respectful - as symbolized by the Two Row Wampum and, to some degree, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 - during a time when Aboriginal nations were useful to the newcomers to ensure survival, to act as guides, as military allies, and as productive partners in the fur trade. It was not until the early 1800s - by which time survival was no longer an issue, exploration of the continent was virtually complete, military alliances were redundant, and the fur trade had been replaced by an influx of settlers interested in tilling the soil and putting it to "productive" use - that a more aggressive and oppressive "conflict" period transpired.
Boldt (1993) encapsulates the situation well in his examination of how shifts in Indian policy have paralleled shifts in the "national interest," with the latter (which is never defined in Aboriginal terms) always being sacrificed to the former. Although Boldt's focus is on more recent periods than those addressed by Fisher (1977/1992), his conclusions are not inconsistent with Fisher's analysis:
Indian interests are always either subordinated or sacrificed to promote the "national interest." When the "national interest" requires fiscal retrenchment, then Indian program budgets are capped. When the "national interest" requires a federal-provincial constitutional accord, then Indian self-government is removed from the constitutional agenda. When the "national interest" dictates a reconciliation with Quebec, then the federal government's fiduciary responsibility for Indians in Quebec is abdicated. When the "national interest" dictates resource development, then aboriginal title is extinguished. (pp.71-72)
Of course, the finding that federal government policies have shifted in response to shifting hegemonic interests is hardly more than tautology - federal government policy virtually defines "hegemonic interests." The value of both Fisher (1977/1992) and Boldt (1993) is in their articulation of how these interests and policies have changed over time, and in clearly demonstrating that the colonial and federal governments have never seriously considered Aboriginal interests per se in their policy formulations.
Perhaps somewhat more provocative, given the social sciences' long-standing self-characterization of neutrality, have been analyses showing that academe has been similarly subservient to those same interests. A fascinating and unique examination of this proclivity comes from Bruce Trigger (1988), who examined depictions of Aboriginal peoples in histories of Canada written from 1744 to the present. His analysis reveals that, in the earliest period, histories were uniformly positive in their characterizations of Aboriginal peoples, with aboriginals referred to as industrious, honest, loyal, egalitarian, and perceptive. Of course, we should recall that this was the period that Fisher (1977/1992) referred to as the more positive "contact" period, i.e., when Aboriginal peoples were valued by Europeans for their survival skills, their contributions to the fur trade, and for their prowess as military allies.
Trigger (1988) notes that characterizations of Aboriginal peoples changed somewhat after 1759, the year in which the French lost their definitive battle with the British at the Plains of Abraham, thereby ensuring that the dominant European presence in North America would thereafter be British. Negative characterizations of Aboriginal people only appear among French histories at that time, however, with particular animosity directed toward members of the Iroquois Confederacy. Not coincidentally, the Iroquois alliance with the British had played a significant role in the French defeat.
Yet another turn in historical representations emerges around 1820, when English portrayals of Aboriginal peoples become as negative as had the French portrayals years before. The year 1820 is significant insofar as it corresponds roughly to the beginning of Fisher's (1977/1992) "conflict" period, which he saw as coincident with the end of the War of 1812. By that time, European settlement and knowledge of the country had already increased to the point where the Indians were no longer useful as guides or valued for their survival skills, and the fur trade had dwindled so that Aboriginal hunting skills were no longer required. The end of the War of 1812 now signaled the end of any external military threat, so that British alliances with First Nations against other European nations or nation states were no longer needed. English priorities could now turn to increased settlement and agricultural development. Aboriginal peoples were no longer of any use to the English; now they were only in the way.
Accordingly, by 1820 Aboriginal peoples start to receive a less favourable portrayal in British histories of Canada as well. The same peoples who were depicted as honest, industrious, loyal, and perceptive a mere 60 years previous, now all of a sudden were depicted as shifty, unreliable, disingenuous and lazy, and their "unproductive" use of the land was lamented and cajoled. Needless to say, such a view is handy if one's interests are to feel justified in expropriating Indian territory, controlling Indian populations, and "protecting" them from their own cultural excesses. By the 1900s, with the land well-secured, and aided by legislation in the Indian Act that made it illegal for Indians to initiate land claims actions against the government, or even to raise money or talk to a lawyer for that purpose, Indians rarely even appear in histories of Canada, other than as props for the European actors who now dominate those accounts. In sum, Trigger's (1988) analysis shows that historians were among the main purveyors of hegemonic treatises, living up to the description of history as a "justification of the present." [*FN6*]
These shifts in both science and in policy should attune us to expect the possibility of media imagery helping to reaffirm these same hegemonic interests. Indeed, Boldt (1993) says so in as many words during his analysis of Canada's Indian policy from a "national interest" perspective:
The "national interest" policy imperative has extended even to creating appropriate Indian stereotypes to rationalize and justify the "Indian policies" designed to serve the "national interest". When the "national interest" dictated the taking of Indian lands, the Indian was given the image of a "heathen", implying an ignorant, cruel, dirty, immoral, lazy, subhuman species. This image was elaborated and validated with gruesome fictional accounts of Indian cruelty, treachery, and perversity. Such a subhuman species could have no moral claim or legal title to land that God created for his [sic] children. This Indian stereotype justified both military and missionary actions against Indians - genocide and ethnocide.
When the "national interest" imperative required that Indians should be removed from their ancestral lands to make way for settlers and business enterprise, the image of Indians was transmuted from heathen into a childlike people, ignorant, naïve, and vulnerable to exploitation, debauching by alcohol, and abuse by unprincipled European traffickers. Such a people needed government protection, and thus the reserve system was introduced, along with the Indian Act.
When the "national interest" imperative prescribed that Indians should be "Canadians as all other Canadians", they were given the image of a racial minority group, of disadvantaged citizens suffering from multiple burdens of segregation, prejudice, discrimination, inequality, and lack of individual rights. This set the scene for the 1969 White Paper that identified their special status, their aboriginal rights and their land claims as the "cause" of all their disadvantages, and sought to terminate these elements of the aboriginal heritage. (pp.69-70)
Having shown that both social science and Indian policy have varied in a manner consistent with an emerging national hegemony, we can now turn our attention to film constructions of Aboriginal people/s, and consider these in the light of the broader scientific and policy contexts in which they were produced.
Of course, any discussion of film imagery engages a twentieth century phenomenon, commencing with Louis Lumière's introduction of the cinématographe in 1895. My review of film portrayals of Aboriginal peoples thus begins here, and will recognize four separate periods, as outlined below. I will state at the outset that the divisions between periods are not as sharp in reality as they will appear in my analysis, and I also readily admit to the dangers that come from trying to offer any "overall characterization" of extended time periods in which there is inevitably considerable diversity (e.g., see Foucault, 1970, 1972). Nonetheless, the characterizations are consistent with existing literature and, when viewed in the policy/science contexts I offer, provide useful and defensible distinctions that further our understanding of the role that film imagery plays in reflecting and influencing contiguous trends in science, policy, and social beliefs.
The birth of film takes place in a world in which Aboriginal peoples are believed to be destined for "extinction" [*FN7*] through disease and (in the race/gene - rather than cultural - definition of "Indianness" of the time) genetic dissolution. Social demographers provided the negatively-sloped graph that verified the inevitability of this demise (see Dippie, 1982); we weren't quite there yet, but it took no great imagination to extrapolate the numbers to zero. Social Darwinism explained that the process was no more than the inexorable flow of nature - however tragic this demise might be, it was just another example of one obsolete life form giving way to another that was more fit (see Berkhofer, 1978; Stocking, 1987). Indian policy of the time, which focussed on forced assimilation through such means as the Indian Act, was seen by those who forwarded it as merely legislating the inevitable.
It is also by around the turn of the century that European settlers and explorers start to run out of "pre-contact" Indians; by the 1890s, there were no longer any Indians who had never seen whites, meaning there were no cultures anywhere in what was considered their "pristine" pre-contact state. [*FN8*] Related to this, the late nineteenth century is also a time when anthropologists are only beginning to make contact with Aboriginal peoples directly [*FN9*], in part as a mission by the Smithsonian to capture the last vestiges of Aboriginal cultures before they disappeared, and early filmmakers joined them in this task. The film they produced was a sort of quasi-anthropological docudrama, ranging from Curtis's (1914) In the Land of the Head Hunters (later renamed In the Land of the War Canoes) to Flaherty's (1922) famous Nanook of the North, the latter of which is credited by many as marking the beginning of documentary filmmaking. In both of these cases, the choice of focal people is non-coincidental, given the formulation I've offered above. The Kwaguleth who were the subject of In the Land of the Head Hunters were among the last of the Northwest Coast Indians to be contacted by Europeans, although Curtis was by no means the first to contact them. Similarly, Nanook involved the remote northern Inuit, whose primary contact with Europeans by that time came only from occasional explorers and with owners of trading posts.
Both films were also clearly hegemonic. In the Land of the Head Hunters was a collage of scenes depicting costumes and dances that were a part of pre-contact Kwaguleth life. By the time the film was made, many Kwaguleth wore European-style clothing, but Curtis ensured they were festooned in cedar-bark dress. The story line was also imposed by Curtis, who told a tale of love and familial feud to which the folks back home could relate. Though we see some costuming and dance, we actually learn little about Kwaguleth culture and the system of beliefs that underlay their behaviour. With no cultural referents but our own, the Kwaguleth appear superstitious and barbaric (reaffirmed also by the film's original title), leaving us satisfied that the demise of their culture, though tragic, is also inevitable and to be welcomed by European and Kwaguleth alike.
The same hegemonic character can also be extended to Nanook. The film is a stark contrast to "Land of..." in many respects - we learn more about Inuit culture than we did about the Kwaguleth, for example, through a sampling of their life space, and seeing the context in which they live. We also benefit from Flaherty's scripted explanations, borne from an understanding and affection that reflected the years he spent with his Arctic friends (e.g., see Barsam, 1973). Nonetheless, there is still the question of whether this is the film Nanook and his family would have made, and the mere posing of the question reminds us that the most probable answer would be "no".
Of course, Hollywood was also in the action at this time. They, too, were into a sort of docudrama, with an emphasis on legend-making, but with whites (settler populations) as their intended audience. We have the settlers in Oklahoma going for the big land grab, but nowhere is there any indication of the Cherokee Trail of Tears and how the land became vacant. In D.W. Griffiths's The Massacre (1913), we get the first of what would eventually be forty-two different renditions (according to Hilger, 1986) of George Amstrong Custer, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Griffiths was certainly not the last to emphasize the alleged sneakiness of the Indians, and the valour of the American settlers, thereby providing hegemonic justification as to why it was appropriate to slaughter Indians by the village full. The Massacre was also significant insofar as it contained all the elements that would come to define Aboriginal images in the mainstream media for decades to come, including: (a) an emphasis on Plains Indians, and especially the Sioux; (b) living in tipis; (c) wearing feathered headdresses; (d) riding on horseback; (e) always either stoic or stealthful; and (f) locked into the 1850-1890 period (e.g., see Churchill, Hill and Hill, 1980).
Nonetheless, if the depiction of the Indian in film of this first period relies heavily on the image of the "noble savage," then (The Massacre to the contrary) the emphasis is still clearly on "noble." The general view of this period is perhaps epitomized by a film entitled Vanishing Race (Seitz, 1925). The film begins with the filmmakers' quoting social Darwinist Herbert Spencer's idea that "in history, as in nature, the fittest survive" - an interesting use of the science of the day - and ends with an extreme long shot of a procession of Indians vanishing into the horizon, out of the picture (see Hilger, 1986, pp.7-8). The message was clear: however tragic, these noble people are disappearing, so let's remember them while we can. Implicit in this was a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy - if we assumed that the passing of the Indian was inevitable, then there was no reason to devote the energy to ensuring they did not, or of incorporating them in any plans for the future.
This second time period is associated with a growing awareness, and, by 1930, the clear demographic evidence, that rumours of the impending demise of Aboriginal peoples were premature (see Dippie, 1982). Aboriginal peoples were not simply going to vanish, either numerically (the numbers of Indians in federal registries started to grow again from 1930 onwards, and birth rates were on the rise), or culturally (the assimilation that federal officials initially thought Aboriginal peoples would welcome was met only with resistance). The intended corpse was banging at the coffin walls, still demanding justice in the form of treaty rights and fair mutual accommodation regarding traditional territories (e.g., see Tennant, 1990). If "nature" would not do the job, then we would have to do it ourselves.
But psychologically it is a very different situation depending on whether the witch walks or is dragged to her burning at the stake. In the former, she accepts her status as a witch, recognizes its stigma, accepts our authority, and agrees that her salvation requires her demise. Every action on her part reaffirms to us the correctness of our action. But if she does not accept the label or recognize its deviance, and her strong resistance questions our authority, then even though her opinion at some level does not matter (since she soon will be dead), we are left having to reaffirm to one another that what we are doing is "correct." The analogy is readily apparent. When "nature" was the one to blame for the demise of the Indian, or if Aboriginal people would passively accept their dispersal into the broader genetic and cultural pool, then we could mourn their passing and offer eulogies to their nobility. But if their passing was "required" for the pursuit of our own hegemonic interest, and the circumstances "required" us to light the lethal fire ourselves, then our own peace of mind required some legitimation and rationalization of our action.
These years thus marked the beginning of a different kind of war. It was during this period that Indian policies in Canada were elevated (or sank) to new levels of oppression, with reinforced cradle-to-grave legislation that criminalized expressions of culture (e.g., the potlatch and other ceremonial festivals), and criminalized any effort to pursue Aboriginal land or other treaty rights in court, or seek a lawyer for such a purpose, or even to raise money with the intention of seeking a lawyer for such a purpose (see Boldt, 1993; Dyck, 1991; Palys, 1993b; Tennant, 1990). Indians were going to disappear whether they wanted to or not.
The film industry played its hegemonic part by offering self-justifying stories in which settler filmmakers articulated the settler perspective. This involved putting a positive spin on the historical slaughter of Aboriginal peoples, and reaffirming the moral rightness of policies that appropriated Aboriginal resources, kept Indians under control, and tried to squeeze any remaining "Indian-ness" from them. Films of this period constructed the myths that many of us grew up with: (a) the homogeneity, savagery and inferiority of "Indians" and Indian culture; (b) the bravery and honour of settler populations; and (c) the myth that North American Indians were conquered peoples. Not surprisingly, most films also emphasized the 1850-1890 period when Aboriginal peoples were at their weakest and most desperate. The general message was that the Indians deserved to be killed (the settlers were only acting in "self-defense" against the savage heathens), and that Aboriginal cultures would inevitably disappear, since they were obsolete, inferior, and had nothing to offer the contemporary world. Though the central image was still that of the "noble savage," the emphasis was now on "savage." Films that exemplify this period include Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939), and They Died With Their Boots On (Raoul Walsh, 1942).
Stagecoach (1939) is particularly interesting for several reasons, not the least of which is that Aboriginal characters are notable for their physical absence from the screen throughout most of the movie. Scriptwriting normally involves the introduction of characters in the first portion of the film, some scenes that demonstrate persona and identify villains and heroes, and action that establishes the threat that provides the dramatic tension that propels the film. In Stagecoach, however, the only characters we ever meet in Act I, and hence can identify with, are those who are riding on the stagecoach. The Indians are referred to (e.g., "You're all going to be scalped and massacred by that old butcher, Geronimo"), and we see a burned out ranch that we are supposed to infer was attacked by Indians, and we also get several "Indian-point-of-view" shots from a mountain top that makes the stagecoach seem vulnerable and under hostile surveillance; but mostly they just loom as an unseen presence/threat throughout the film. The first Indians we see are those who attack the stagecoach in the film's climax. Perhaps this is an indication of how well-defined the Indian persona was by that time; character development was not required, since their role as villain and threat was already well established. And, of course, we never hear any Indian talk, presumably because they have nothing to say.
They Died With Their Boots On (1942) is yet another film concerning the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Because it deals with an actual historical event, and has been the subject of so many films, including The Massacre (1913), which I noted above, and Little Big Man (1970), which I will consider below, it is most instructive to consider the particular form it took in the period I'm now considering. Certainly the film's character development is instructive - the first two-thirds of the film are spent solely with George Armstrong Custer, and to know him is to like him. By the time the plot finally takes Custer to South Dakota and his final post as commanding officer of the Seventh Cavalry, we care for him; his eccentricity is acknowledged, but the general message is that he is a man of valour and integrity.
The role of Crazy Horse is played by a non-Aboriginal actor - Anthony Quinn - who plays the Aboriginal leader in film-appropriate stoic fashion. An early meeting between the two leaders - in which Custer knocks Crazy Horse off his horse - shows us that Custer is not bloodthirsty (i.e., he could have killed Crazy Horse but did not), and that Crazy Horse is no match to Custer in one-to-one combat. Other scenes show that Custer is only concerned with keeping the peace (e.g., he makes a treaty with Crazy Horse), and any animosities between Indians and settlers that are stirred up by settlers are attributed to the work of isolated greedy whites, rather than the result of any systematic government policy. The final battle at the Little Bighorn actually takes up only a small proportion of the total film. The film tells us that the battle began when a huge number of Indians sneak up on and attack a small and vulnerable Seventh Cavalry, killing them all; Custer is the last to remain standing, until Crazy Horse delivers the final, fatal blow. The facts of the matter are quite different, of course (e.g., see Welch, 1994).
A third period of Aboriginal film portrayals extends from approximately 1945 to approximately 1970, reflecting a change of heart that is said to have emerged from Canadian and American experience in World War II. Tennant (1990) suggests that an appreciation of Indian contributions to the war effort (particularly because natives were not subject to conscription, and hence their participation was voluntary), growing realization of the material poverty in which most Indians lived, and the failure of government policies to improve their lot, all combined to spur renewed concern about Canada's "Indian problem." Fleras and Elliott (1992) and C. Tennant (1994) note that an additional motive was to distance North American policies from the overt and horrific racism of the Nazis; after fighting a war for freedom, it was time to take care of our own back yard.
Changes occurred both nationally and internationally in the direction of "softening" policy, and welcoming Aboriginal peoples into existing structures, although rarely with Aboriginal input, and rarely in the directions that Aboriginal peoples themselves would have preferred. For the most part, the operating assumptions that never left were that Aboriginal ways of life were part of a bygone era, and that Indian-ness was something that any rational person would want to leave behind.
In Canada, many of the Indian Act's more oppressive and overtly ethnocidal elements were deleted in a 1951 revision (e.g., prohibition of the potlatch, and prohibition of making inquiries or hiring a lawyer to pursue land claims were both rescinded). Indians also received the right to vote in federal elections in 1960. Various committees and commissions of the 1950s and 1960s took turns showing very clearly the material impoverishment that government and its policies had wrought: higher infant mortality rates, shorter life expectancies, lower educational attainments, higher incarceration rates, and the negative end of every other social indicator on which Natives and non-natives could be compared. Little of any consequence occurred, however, largely because of enduring differences between Aboriginals, who renewed their push for resolution of land claims and aboriginal rights issues, and the government and its bureaucracy, who wanted the Indians to start acting a bit more like everyone else. The federal attitude is captured well by a letter from Arthur Laing (later to become Minister of Indian Affairs from 1966-1968) to Gordon Robertson (a senior civil servant), in which he claimed that the main problem with the Indians was that they had not yet accepted the values the government wanted them to accept: "The prime condition in the progress of the Indian people must be the development by themselves of a desire for the goals which we think they should want." (letter dated 19 October 1963; cited by Weaver, 1981, p.48). Federal objectives, in other words, were still to assimilate Aboriginal peoples, and the way to do so was to provide all the individual rights that all Canadians enjoyed, but none of the collective rights that Canada's original inhabitants were due.
Similar events were occurring in the international arena, where the International Labor Organization (ILO) took the initiative both in deploring the situations faced by Indigenous peoples around the world, and in calling for changes that would help alleviate those conditions. And yet the ILO initiatives embodied no respect for Indigenous peoples - who were referred to as "backward and underprivileged" (from Proceedings of a 1949 ILO conference; cited by Tennant, 1994, p.26) - and there was no questioning but that assimilation was the desired objective. As C. Tennant (1994) expresses it:
[One] significant feature of the ILO period is that writers express the objectives of the engagement with indigenous peoples with confidence. Assimilation and integration were unproblematically desirable objectives, and had clearly defined meanings in the context of an unquestioned background rhetoric of progress. (p.29)
It is this "confidence" that most fascinates me, since this is one place where media portrayals play their significant role in helping justify the unjustifiable by showing stories of a type and in a manner that allows even the most horrific action to "make sense" to those who perpetrate it. Chris Tennant (1994) captures the social psychology of this very well when he notes:
The representation of indigenous peoples as ignoble primitives not only supports a general rhetoric of progress: it also legitimizes the development and assimilation of indigenous peoples themselves. If progress is accepted as desirable, and if indigenous peoples are located at the far bottom end of the ladder of progress, then is an act of compassion and human-ity to develop and assimilate indigenous peoples into modern society. Indeed, this was the self-confident and enthusiastic project of the ILO in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s: to help indigenous peoples develop out of their miserable lives and into the modern world. (p.10)
We have seen that the second period of film I identified (1920-1945) did its hegemonic part not only by offering justifications for a horrific past, but also in devaluing the worth of indigenous cultures and people in a manner that lay the foundation for the third period in which the desirability of assimilation was assumed. Only by bringing such an understanding to the process could a "caring" ILO assume that "doing good" for indigenous people would necessarily involve providing the mechanisms through which they could leave all cultural attachments behind.
The third period of film portrayals I have identified here were similarly "caring," and yet both brought and encouraged ethnocidal understandings. On the one hand, the more overtly hostile film portrayals of Indians of the preceding period faded away, and were replaced by portrayals which seemed more sympathetic: they paid renewed attention to the "nobility" of Indian character, and acknowledged many of the more negative actions of settler populations (e.g., land theft; murder; racism). Their hegemonic character is still evident, however, in several respects: (a) more heinous actions (land grabs, treaty violations, specific massacres) are explained away as the regrettable actions of isolated misguided individuals, rather than broadly and systematically pursued objectives; (b) "Indian-ness" continues to be treated as a relic that is left behind when one no longer has the buffalo hunt or uses tipis; and (c) the "inevitable" passing of the "noble red man" is affirmed and accepted. Examples of films in this period include Broken Arrow (Delmer Dave, 1950) and Cheyenne Autumn (John Ford, 1964).
Cheyenne Autumn [*FN10*], for example, begins in Oklahoma with the Cheyenne awaiting a federal government party who are to sign a treaty with them. The party never shows up, and we learn later that it was because the officials deemed the trail to the Cheyenne was "too dusty," and that they preferred to rest for that evening's Officer's Ball. The Cheyenne have had enough broken promises, and set out to return to their original homelands. Captain Archer (Richard Widmark) sees the injustice of the situation, but is given the order to bring the Cheyenne back. As the Cheyenne continue their trek, and are caught and escape, Archer, a Quaker woman, and the Secretary of the Interior (the "good" whites) are pitted against callous politicians, a fanatical fort commander, and a cowboy who kills an unarmed starving Indian simply because he has always wanted to do so (the "bad" whites), against the backdrop of the chase of the Cheyenne and their ongoing experience of injustice and governmental neglect.
The film is a significant departure from the previous period insofar as it acknowledges white injustice and broken promises. At the same time, it is another example of stereotypical Aboriginal characters (stoic, tragic, defeated) played by non-Aboriginal actors, against an ideological backdrop in which the Cheyenne way of life is assumed obsolete in the face of inevitable progress. In a culminating scene, the Secretary of the Interior (Edward G. Robinson) arrives just in time to save the day by stopping what otherwise would have been yet another Army massacre of Cheyenne men, women and children. The Cheyenne leaders (Little Wolf and Dull Knife, played by Ricardo Montoban and Gilbert Roland) note the string of broken promises they have been given, but seem prepared to believe Edward G. Robinson when he promises things will be different, and that he personally will tell the American people about the injustices the Cheyenne have incurred. Dull Knife then notes apologetically that they have no tobacco for their peace pipe, however, at which point the Secretary suggests they start a new custom, and passes out cigars. Though the two Cheyenne look slightly stunned by the gesture, the message is that they have joined the "new" American way, and will have much to learn in their "new" society.
The last thirty years have seen significant new positions advanced in science and policy regarding Aboriginal peoples, along with attendant shifts in film portrayals. Science, for example, has undergone a significant democratization that began in the mid- to late-1960s with a greater participation in academe of women, blacks, Aboriginals, third-world academics, and so on (e.g., see Denzin & Lincoln, 1994). Courses at the universities also changed considerably, with the initiation of programmes in Women's studies, Black studies, and so on.
Not all parts of Science have been willing participants in this enterprise, however, with some reluctant to let go of turf they have long held as their own. Nonetheless, there has been a recognizable diversity in the range of perspectives that is entertained as "legitimate" within the academy. Those engaged in First Nations studies, for example, have found their work enriched by paying historical attention to oral history evidence and the voices of Aboriginal peoples (e.g., see Fisher & Coates, 1988), and feminist scholarship has become an integral part of the academy. More broadly, the last few decades have seen the emergence of a postmodern perspective that explicitly eschews the idea that any single perspective can proclaim itself foundational by fiat (e.g., see Denzin & Lincoln, 1994; Palys, 1997). In theory, at least, it is clearly established in the academy that epistemological tolerance and mutual respect is an ideal that should be sought, although different universities, departments, and persons practice it to varying degrees.
Analogous strides have occurred in the domain of indigenous policies, with several "turning points" that can be identified within this fourth time period. One negative event marking the transition from periods three to four was the tabling of the federal government's White Paper in 1969, which was the culmination of all the federal government's assimilative proclivities in one document. The positive side of this event was that it created an unprecedented unity among and show of power by First Nations peoples who summarily and vociferously rejected it, leading to its eventual withdrawal. A more clearly positive event was the moral victory by the Nisga'a in the Supreme Court of Canada in the Calder case (1973), which formally placed Aboriginal rights on the map once again. Although the Canadian government has been reluctant to use the words "self-determination" in subsequent negotiations with national Aboriginal groups, the 70s, 80s and 90s have certainly seen strides made in the direction of self-governance, and achieved the formal recognition of Aboriginal and treaty rights in the Constitution Act (1982).
Similar progress has been made on the international stage, where the "assimilation" talk of the ILO era has been replaced by discussions that involve the word "self-determination," although indigenous peoples remain more comfortable with its use than nation-states. As Chris Tennant (1994) describes the transition,
The techniques of pragmatic engagement in the later era of the UN involvement were and continue to be quite different from those of the earlier period. The objective of engagement has changed from national assimilation to self-determination and autonomy within an international framework. Indigenous peoples are themselves recognized as important actors with independent objectives. With the shift from assimilation to autonomy has come a de-centering of control over the engagement. The image of national governments working with the assistance of international agencies to assimilate their indigenous populations now seems simplistic and arrogant. The United Nations, other international agencies, states, and indigenous peoples are all actors in what is understood to be a process of mutual engagement. (p.29)
Indeed, indigenous peoples' representatives now regularly participate in many United Nations forums, the most central being the UN's Working Group on Indigenous Populations, which was formed in 1982. Of course, the extent to which those voices are being heard and heeded is another story. The Draft Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, for example, although passed by a substantial majority of indigenous peoples who attended the 12th session of the Working Group in 1994, and subsequently by members of the Working Group itself, has met with considerable resistance from nation-state governments as it moves through levels of the UN hierarchy.
Film imagery regarding Aboriginal peoples has changed in a parallel manner to science and policy as outlined above, with three different levels of Aboriginal voice.
Although the films of the 50s and 60s included some degree of sympathy in their portrayal, empathy for Aboriginal peoples was little evident until the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is here where we see the beginnings of "Aboriginal perspectives" in film, although these typically take the form of non-Aboriginal filmmakers' views of what an aboriginal perspective might have been. The prototypes here are Little Big Man (1970) and Tell Them Willie Boy is Here (1969). Little Big Man, for example, offers a very different view of the Battle of the Little Bighorn than was the case in They Died With Their Boots On (1942). Though the star of the show - Dustin Hoffman - is still non-Aboriginal, as both Jack Cragg and Little Big Man, the film gives a stronger sense of Aboriginal points of view, and we even have the opportunity to identify with the Cheyenne and other Aboriginals. The rendition of events is truer to the facts of both Custer and the battle - we first see Custer engineering the Washita Massacre to establish the technique of killing whole villages of Indians when they congregated in winter (e.g., see Welch, 1994), and we see that it was actually Custer who attacked the Indians at Little Bighorn, as opposed to the Indians ambushing Custer, as was depicted in They Died With Their Boots On. Little Big Man is also truer to fact in what it reveals about the genocidal and strategic quality of settler intervention, as opposed to the "bad apple" depictions that characterized earlier portrayals of corrupt or greedy whites. Little Big Man also finally brings us one of the first Aboriginal stars in Chief Dan George. Whether the film was a "success," however, depends on your point of view. Georgakas (1980) is tepid about the film:
Little Big Man is two movies in one. One paints a sympathetic picture of Indian life and the other is a crude burlesque of the white West. Nowhere is there a clash of real values. We identify with the Indians because they are nice. We are not troubled with problematic things like ownership of skins, minerals, and land. The Indians held the land was owned communally and could not be bought or sold. Their lives emphasized spiritual over material things. ... Their communal way of living with reverence for all life made their way incompatible with the "manifest destiny" of the young American republic. Like Soldier Blue, Little Big Man fails to deal with these questions as it moves simplemindedly from massacre to massacre. (p.140)
Churchill et al (1980) are more scathing:
Little Big Man itself represents a rather transparent attempt by Hollywood to buy off dissident criticism via a "sympathetic" approach to the standard stereotypical themes. The time structure is fully within the vastly overabused period of the 1860s and 1870s. The Indians are the perfect plains type so loved by filmmakers, and, of course, the lead character just happens to be a young white captured by wild Indians, and who, incidentally, just happens to carry the rather unique name (same as the film title) of an actual Oglala of historical note. (p.45)
Mainstream films have progressed little beyond the level of Little Big Man, notwith-standing a few exceptions I will indicate below. More recent productions such as Kevin Costner's Dances With Wolves (1992) in the United States, and Black Robe (1994) in Canada may have bigger budgets, incorporate Aboriginal actors, and given us more of the "other side" in Aboriginal perspective, but they are still the white-man-as-star, and involve a white perspective on what some Aboriginal perspectives on events might have been (e.g., see Churchill, 1994). Others - such as Disney's Indian in the Cupboard (1995) and Pocahontas (1995) - seem like little more than the newest generation of assimilationist pap.
It is outside the Hollywood mainstream that aboriginal film portrayals have reached the next step, which involves more fully embodying aboriginal voice. British filmmaker Michael Apted, for example, in his balancing act between Hollywood extravaganza (e.g., Coal Miner's Daughter; Gorillas in the Mist; Thunderheart) and lower budget documentary (e.g., 7-Up through to 35-Up), has given voice to the Oglala Sioux and Lakota, and members of the American Indian Movement in his documentary reexamination of the Leonard Pelltier story, entitled Incident at Oglala (1992). In Canada, a series of films involving the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), and filmmakers such as Hugh Brody [e.g., Time Immemorial (1991), A Washing of Tears (1993)] have similarly given the screen to Aboriginal peoples who tell their story.
More importantly, however, is the growing involvement of Aboriginal people in making Aboriginal film, i.e., telling their own stories. For example, Kanehsatake (Obomsawin, 1993) shows voices from the inside of the 1992 Oka conflict, and is both informative and moving in its historical analysis and portrayal of Mohawk life during that conflict. The NFB has also started Studio I as a production vehicle for Aboriginal filmmakers, and filmmakers such as Loretta Todd (e.g., see Helping Hands, 1994), much of whose early work was often produced with NFB support, are now well-established. It is noteworthy that much of the emphasis in aboriginal-produced film to date has been on documentary and docudrama. After having been kept outside of the mainstream media for so long - with no access to the reigns of production, which meant that it was always someone else telling their own stories, or giving their side or their perception of events - Aboriginal peoples have not surprisingly emphasized "setting the record straight." Winds of War (1994), for example, is just one of many examples that could be cited. Produced by the indigenous peoples of Hawai'i, the film tells the story of the American overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai'i in 1893, and of US interference in island life for the purpose of establishing strategic military bases.
If I can end this section of paper on a cautious note, however, I would draw attention to one particular trend in contemporary film portrayals that I find both understandable and worrisome. And perhaps I should preface my caution by noting that I am from the province of British Columbia, where treaty negotiations are now in progress after a more than 130 year hiatus. Until 1991, the BC government had held to the policy that treaties were not necessary, and that there were no such things as Aboriginal rights. With the first of the modern treaties - with the Nisga'a - now having been approved in principle, a backlash has emerged among many who would prefer to play political hardball rather than restore justice, and once again ensure dominance rather than try and enshrine an egalitarian and mutually respectful resolution.
It is against this backdrop that I would note the major emphasis in more recent film produced by both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal filmmakers is on "correcting the record." And while such films are both needed and welcome - since all too few Canadians have anything even approximating an understanding of Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal relations in Canadian history - I would also note such films offer a double-edged sword. As Kline (1994) has asserted and shown, a major element of anti-Aboriginal ideology is the idea that Aboriginality is a part of the past, i.e., that, somehow, "being Aboriginal" is a status that is somehow lost or sullied once one chooses to drive a car or eat pizza. This view undermines Aboriginal treaty settlements and the realization of self-determination to the extent that it is associated with skepticism about the legitimacy of contemporary treaties and landclaims settlements. This resistance exists across the political spectrum and would be well-served by film which educates us not only about the past, but which also show how Aboriginal-ness is also thriving in the present, and has every right to choose its own future.
I have tried to interweave science, policy and film to show how each has changed over time, and how changes in each have appeared, thus far at least, to both reflect and shape hegemonic interest. And although my analysis suffers from the inevitable limitations of trying to paint historical processes with a very coarse brush, I hope it will also move us away from what appear to be common misconceptions of science, policy and media as monolithic entities that never change. Although one can write off science, policy and the media as "always" having been negative, stereotypical and racist in its thrust, my possibly naïve optimism leads me to believe that it is more helpful in the long run to recognize variation in the kinds of themes that have appeared, and the kinds of interests these have served, if for no other reason than to remind us that change has occurred. If change was possible, then it is possible, and believing that is a necessary prerequisite to addressing the injustices that continue to exist.
I hope my analysis also will serve to sensitize people active in the science, policy and film arenas to consider the contextual influences and understandings that each brings to their task. As Kline (1994) asserts it:
We should not lose sight of the importance of investigating the connection between ideologies and the interests they help to constitute as well as promote. Recognition of the grounding of ideologies in economic, political, and cultural relations also has important implications for the development of strategies to eliminate racist ideologies. It suggests that we should concentrate less on trying exclusively to persuade those who articulate racist representations that they are "wrong" and more on changing those particular economic and political relations. (p.453)
I have not dealt with any questions about which might be the more potent causal agent, or where change happens first. If the three are interconnected, then bold formulations in any one can help open the door to reformulations in any other. We all - academics, filmmakers, and policymakers - have interdependent roles to play, with none of us and all of us subservient to or dependent on the others.
Alfred, G.R. (1995). Heeding the voices of our ancestors: Kahnawake Mohawk politics and the rise of Native nationalism. Toronto: Oxford University Press.
Barsam, R.M. (1973). Nonfiction film: A critical history. NY: E.P.Dutton.
Bataille, G., and Silet, G.P. (Eds.) (1980). The pretend Indians: Images of Native Americans in the movies. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press.
Becker, H.S. (1996). The epistemology of qualitative research. In R. Jessor, A. Colby, and R. Schweder (Eds.), Ethnography and human development: Context and meaning in social inquiry. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp.53-71.
Berkhofer, R.F., Jr. (1978). The white man's Indian: Images of the American Indian from Columbus to the present. New York: Vintage Books.
Boldt, M. (1993). Surviving as Indians: The challenge of self-government. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Churchill, W. (1994). And they did it like dogs in the dirt...: An American Indian analysis of Black Robe. In W.Churchill (Compilation), Indians are us? Culture and genocide in Native North America. Toronto, Ont.: Between the Lines Publishers.
Churchill, W., Hill, M. A., and Hill, N. S., Jr. (1980). Examination of stereotyping: An analytical survey of twentieth century Indian entertainers. In G. Bataille and G. P. Silet (Eds.). The pretend Indians: Images of Native Americans in the movies. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, pp.35-48.
Deloria, V. (1980). The American Indian image in North America. In G. Bataille and G. P. Silet (Eds.). The pretend Indians: Images of Native Americans in the movies. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, pp.49-54. [Reprinted from the Encyclopedia of Indians in the Americas, vol. 1, St.Clair Shores, Michigan: Scholarly Press, 1974, pp.40-48.]
Deloria, V., Jr. (1995). Red earth, white lies: Native Americans and the myth of scientific fact. New York: Scribner.
Denzin, N.K., and Lincoln, Y.S. (Eds.) (1994). Handbook of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Dippie, B.W. (1982). The vanishing Indian: White attitudes and U.S. Indian policy. Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas Press.
Dyck, N. (1991). What is the Indian 'problem': Tutelage and resistance in Canadian Indian administration. St. John's, Nfld.: Institute of Social and Economic Research, Memorial University.
Fisher, R. (1992). Contact and conflict: Indian-European relations in British Columbia, 1774-1890 (2nd Edition). Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press. [First edition published in 1977.]
Fisher, R., and Coates, K. (Eds.) (1988). Out of the background: Readings on Canadian Native history. Mississauga, Ontario: Copp Clark Pitman.
Fleras, A., and Elliot, J.L. (1992). The nations within: Aboriginal-state relations in Canada, the United States, and New Zealand. Toronto: Oxford University Press.
Foucault, M. (1970). The order of things. London: Tavistock.
Foucault, M. (1972). The archaeology of knowledge. New York: Pantheon Books.
Francis, D. (1992). The imaginary Indian: The Image of the Indian in Canadian culture. Vancouver, BC: Arsenal Pulp Press.
Georgakas, D. (1980). They have not spoken: American Indians in film. In G. Bataille and G. P. Silet (Eds.). The pretend Indians: Images of Native Americans in the movies. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, pp.134-142. [Reprinted from Film Quarterly, 1972, 25, 26-32.]
Gould, S.J. (1981). The mismeasure of man. New York: W.W.Norton & Company.
Hilger, M. (1986). The American Indian in film. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.
Kline, M. (1994). The colour of law: Ideological representations of First Nations in legal discourse. Social and Legal Studies, 3, 451-476.
Morton, S.G. (1849). Observations on the size of the brain in various races and families of man. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, 4, 221-224. Cited in S.J. Gould (1981), The mismeasure of man. New York: W.W.Norton & Company.
Palys, T.S. (1990). Ideology, epistemology, and modes of inquiry: Aboriginal issues, criteria of evaluation research, and trajectories of truth. Paper presented at the annual meetings of the West Coast Law & Society group. [A copy of the paper is available at my World Wide Web home page at http://www.sfu.ca/~palys/palys.htm].
Palys, T.S. (1992). Research decisions: Qualitative and quantitative perspectives. Toronto: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Palys, T.S. (1993). Considerations for achieving "Aboriginal justice" in Canada. Paper presented at the annual meetings of the Western Association of Sociology and Anthropology; Vancouver, B.C. [Copy available at my World Wide Web home page (see URL above)].
Palys, T.S. (1993). Prospects for Aboriginal justice in Canada. (A position paper concerning the history and prospective future of issues of Aboriginal Justice). Burnaby: Simon Fraser University School of Criminology. [A copy of the paper may be seen on my World Wide Web home page (see URL above)].
Palys, T.S. (1997). Research decisions: Qualitative and quantitative perspectives. (2nd Edition) Toronto: Harcourt Brace & Company.
Price, J.A. (1973). The stereotyping of North American Indians in motion pictures. Ethnohistory, 20, 153-171. Reprinted in G. Bataille and G. P. Silet (Eds.) (1980). The pretend Indians: Images of Native Americans in the movies. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, pp.75-91.
Skinner, J.M. (1988). The portrayal of the Canadian Native in the American cinema: Selected cases. East-West, 2(2), 115-128.
Stocking, G.W., Jr. (1987). Victorian anthropology. New York: The Free Press.
Tennant, C. (1994). Indigenous peoples, international institutions, and the international legal literature from 1945-1993. Human Rights Quarterly, 16(1), 1-57.
Tennant, P. (1990). Aboriginal people and politics: The Indian land question in British Columbia, 1849-1989. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.
Tennant, P. (1992). The place of Delgamuukw in British Columbia history and politics - and vice versa. In F. Cassidy (Ed.). Aboriginal Title in British Columbia: Delgamuukw v The Queen. (Proceedings of a Conference held September 10-11, 1991). Lantzville, B.C.: Oolichan Books, pp.73-91.
Trigger, B.G. (1988). The historians' Indian: Native Americans in Canadian historical writing from Charlevoix to the present. In R. Fisher and K. Coates (Eds.) Out of the background: Readings on Canadian Native history. Mississauga, Ontario: Copp Clark Pitman, pp.19-44.
Vidich, A.J., and Lyman, S.M. (1994). Qualitative methods: Their history in sociology and anthropology. In N.K.Denzin & Y.S.Lincoln (Eds.) Handbook of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp.23-59.
Weaver, Sally M. (1981). Making Canadian Indian policy: The hidden agenda, 1968-1970. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Welch, J. (1994). Killing Custer: The battle of the Little Bighorn and the fate of the Plains Indians. NY: Penguin.
Wolf, E.R. (1982). Europe and the people without history. Berkeley, Ca.: University of California Press.
Zimmerman, S. (1992). "The revolving door of despair": Aboriginal involvement in the criminal justice system. University of British Columbia Law Review, Special Edition, 367-426.
1. There is undoubtedly no one "western scientific" perspective, but I think it is reasonable to lump these perspectives here to the extent that its variants do, as a whole, differ in their central thrust from other ways of looking at the world. The same can be said, of course, regarding "aboriginal perspectives" or "feminist perspectives", where each of these terms is a convenient shorthand to identify a collection of schools of thought that, overall, differ from other collections of schools of thought in their central tendency, but where the use of a single term masks the considerable diversity that exists within each.
2. I have come to believe that the problem is less with Darwinian theory per se, and more a reflection of the uses to which the theory has been put, and the meanings that have been emphasized. For example, the theory has been interpreted hierarchically, and been imbued with concepts of "development" and "progress", but it can just as easily be seen as merely a taxonomy of difference and relationships. Similarly, notions of "progress" and "development" imply we are "going somewhere", when the theory can also be read from the viewpoint that we are going nowhere, or at least nowhere that can confidently be determined on an a priori basis, but that we merely respond as species to varying sets of conditions that are partially within our control, and partially not. Further, the phrase "survival of the fittest" is actually an inaccurate one; Darwinians will tell you that the actual phrase is "survival of the fit". The difference between the two is telling, since the former implies an inevitable competition for dominance from which only one can survive, while the second implies that there can be many differing forms that are equally but diversely adaptive to prevailing conditions. Further to that, Darwinism has been used to justify the oppression of others, when the theory is equally well suited to valuing the diversity among us all since, as a species, the broader our diversity, the higher the likelihood that, in the event of catastrophe, some among us would survive.
3. A chilling, recent example of exactly this phenomenon is evident in the decision of Chief Justice McEachern in the BC Supreme Court case of Delgamuukw versus The Queen (1991). The elders of the Gitksan and Wetsue'eten nations courageously decided to reveal the contents of their adaox (oral histories) to the Chief Justice, causing Delgamuukw to be the lengthiest trial in the history of the Commonwealth. In the end, the Chief Justice proclaimed that he didn't know what to do with such evidence, and would make do with the documentary evidence (produced by the colonials) instead.
4. The Bering Strait theory suggests that Aboriginal peoples came to North America from the northern Russia/Mongolia area some 15,000 years ago via a land bridge that existed between Alaska and Siberia during the last ice age. Deloria (1995) develops a compelling argument for the implausibility of that theory, and pieces together his own on the basis of oral history testimony, and a "decolonized" reading of available evidence.
5. I don't mean this in a conspiratorial sense, but would suggest that different people in independent positions of power can produce "connected" visions when each of their respective dominant groups is relatively homogeneous, and shares a similar perspective and set of hegemonic interests.
6. I recall having read this phrase some time ago, but cannot remember its original source. If any reader of this paper can help me out on this matter, it would be most gratefully appreciated.
7. Chris Tennant (1994) draws attention to the common use made of this word in reference to Indigenous peoples, since it is normally used in reference to flora and fauna rather than people. He asks us to "Compare the effect of these two made up sentences. First: 'In the absence of concerted international action, it is a virtual certainty that many of the indigenous societies of the Amazon basin will become extinct.' Second: 'A possible effect of global warming is that the societies of the low country - in particular the Dutch - will become extinct.'" (see footnote 63, p.16)
8. It is yet another colonial legacy that "contact" is defined only in terms of contact with Europeans, suggesting these were the only contacts that "counted". But there is evidence that other contacts, without the uniquely European efforts at colonization involved, had occurred previously. In British Columbia, for example, there apparently is evidence that a group of Asian monks spent more than two score years here in the 5th century, AD, before returning to Asia, where a record of their experiences remains in a "Chinese yearbook". Similarly, on the east coast of Canada, though the visits of the Norse in the 11th century are by now well-known, "contact" is still considered synonymous with the arrivals of European John Cabot in 1497.
9. This may seem an odd statement to those who hold the image of the lonely anthropologist living for extended periods among indigenous peoples, and writing about their cultures, but the phenomenon of anthropologist-in-the-field is actually a relatively recent one. Earlier contacts and written accounts tended to be done by missionaries, explorers, travellers, and colonial officials; the "anthropologists" were back in Europe digesting these accounts and putting them in theoretical perspective. The professionalization of ethnography, involving observation in the field, did not begin until the early 19th century, and was not a well-established practice until very late in the 19th century (e.g., see Vidich & Lyman, 1994).
10. The seasonal imagery is significant here. Autumn is seen as synonymous with the end of summer and a period of growth, and Cheyenne Autumn certainly conveys the idea that we are witnessing the inevitable end of the Cheyenne as they were known to exist. One wishes that the circumstances of history would have made Cheyenne Spring - a new season of renewal and growth - the more appropriate title.
If you would like to send a note, either click on this e-mail link now, or send one later to email@example.com.
From this page, you can return to the Ted Palys home page, the SFU home page, or the SFU Criminology home page. You can also check out other articles I've written. (This page was last updated on 2 November 1996).
Number of times this page has been visited: _____________