Below the Radar Transcript

Episode 37: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition — with Glen Coulthard

Speakers: Rachel Wong, Am Johal, Glen Coulthard, Ebony Magnus

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Rachel Wong  0:06
Hello, listeners. I'm Rachel Wong with SFU's Vancity Office of Community Engagement. And thank you so much for tuning in to this week's episode of Below the Radar. We would like to acknowledge that Below the Radar is recorded on the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. On this week's episode, we are live from the Vancouver Podcast Festival with special guest Glenn Coulthard. Glen is an associate professor in the First Nations and Indigenous Studies Program, in the Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia. He is also the author of the book, Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition. On this episode, our host Am Johal and Glenn talk about Glenn's work and research, how he's helped to provide opportunities for countless Indigenous students to learn in their own communities, and what continues to drive him to do the research and work that he does.

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Am Johal  1:14
Thank you very much to the Vancouver Public Library and the Vancouver podcast festival for the invitation. We organize a lot of public events at SFU. Since we moved into the School for Contemporary Arts, and some years, we're doing almost 100 public events and became overwhelming, and we thought that starting a podcast would be an interesting way to meet with people in a different type of way — have different types of conversations. And since we were based out of the art school, it really was around arts, culture and community — we're neighboring the Downtown Eastside and so social and environmental justice were really important, getting into urban issues as well. And we've really been kind of making it up as we go along. Because we've never put out a podcast before, none of us are radio announcers or those types of things. And so maybe within a year or two, we'll have a sense of what we're actually doing. I also want to acknowledge the presence of Fiorella Pinillos and Paige Smith, who are also the producers of Below the Radar. I also wanted to recognize that we're on the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and the Tsleil-Waututh peoples. And I'm really delighted that my friend, Glenn Coulthard could join us here. And I first met Glenn at a poker party in February 2010, during the Olympics, and we got into a political conversation. And as the night went on, I was like, wow, this guy really knows his stuff. And it's been really great to have been involved when Glenn launched his book, Red Skin, White Masks at SFU. And it's really gone on to win many awards. So welcome, Glenn.

Glen Coulthard  2:47
Thanks Am. That's very kind. Just as a brief introduction, my name is Glenn. I'm a prof UBC in First Nations and Indigenous Studies as well as the Department of Political Science. And I'm also a Yellowknives Dene First Nation member, and I'm looking forward to compensation.

Am Johal  3:03
So some of you might not be aware of the book. It came out in 2014, Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition. It came out to fantastic reviews and awards. It's been used as a textbook in multiple departments, not just here in Canada, but around the world. And I'd say you've got a bit of a fanclub Glen, which is probably a bit weird for an awkward dude, like you. It started out as your doctoral dissertation at the University of Victoria. You're working with people like James Telly, and others. And can you talk about how you approached the writing project, particularly after a dissertation? Because it's a particular way of writing a book to a broader audience?

Glen Coulthard  3:42
Yeah, that's a great question. So the book started actually a little bit earlier as a master's thesis where I was looking into the Dene struggle for self-determination in the 1970s, in the Northwest Territories. And particularly how it kind of manifests around the resistance to a pipeline project, not surprisingly, called the Mackenzie Valley pipeline proposal. I had grown up significantly off my traditional territory, in a way that had separated me from the kind of foundation of our culture. So I took on the research project as my own sort of crash course in Dene civics. So it was a reintroduction to the land, and the people and the politics and the history of the North, that had been kind of violently separated from processes of displacement or what have you. So I started that as kind of a research project and then I essentially had to bracket what I was doing and this history, because there was just too much information. The public record is huge. The Berger Inquiry has all of its archives, and everything is just available to kind of patch together that history. So I just kind of did a critique of recognition and the demands that the Dene were making in the state's response and left it at that. And there was a whole host of theoretical questions that I hadn't fleshed out which I saved for the dissertation. So I then wrote the dissertation, and then kind of had to spice it up a little bit for the book projects. So I didn't finish it as a research project to begin with. But then I had to kind of add a few chapters. But during that time post-dissertation to the publication of the book, more happened. So there's like one of the most transformative political movements led by Indigenous peoples in the last 40 years had kind of fallen on my lap. And I didn't know how to approach it, without just kind of — both as an active participant, but also as an observer, just letting it kind of play its course. In order to be able to think through some of the stuff that I do in the book, with that being a central topic around how to organize the text.

Am Johal  5:48
One of the terms that you talk about is grounded normativity in the book. I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit about that.

Glen Coulthard  5:57
Yeah, so the book is partially in engagement with how poorly Marxist political theory has been able to address Indigenous struggles or struggles around settler colonialism in general. With its emphasis on labour exploitation as being the core injustice that we need to solve in this world. I wanted to, to understand, or to build a critique of colonialism and capitalism, where the relationship to land and dispossession is as central to labour exploitation, and kind of making the mess that we live in right now. And in order to do that, I found that it was necessary not only to kind of learn the intellectual history of the Dene, but the practices and relationships to land that form the critical sort of backbone to their critique of capitalism and colonialism in the present. So grounded normativity is the practical ethics through that engagement with land and the practices and knowledges that the land produces or enables, rather, and then deploying that framework as a critique. So what I do is I challenged kind of the Marxist centrality of labour exploitation, by throwing in a critique of colonialism and capitalism, grounded in identity, practical ethics, related to land.

Am Johal  7:16
The reception to the book is not only been in the academy, but more importantly, it's being read by activists. I see people reading it on the bus. It's very practical in terms of Indigenous communities, a whole generation of young activists, and you've won book awards as well from the Caribbean Scholars Association  The Frantz Fanon Award. What about the reception have you found the most interesting, and the most rewarding, in terms of how you encounter conversations about your work related to the book?

Glen Coulthard  7:43
I think by far the most interesting way in which it's received, is how site-specific the reception is, and how it changes depending on where I'm at. So up north when I gave the book launch on my territory in Yellowknife, the reception was kind of like we had elders and community members in the audience. And they were half asleep. [laughs] "What's Glenn, talking about now?" Just a bunch of teasing and like, it's just irrelevant. Kind of, we're here to support a family member rather than a scholar. [Am laughs] So that was funny. This is kind of the home base of this idea. And they could care less. But they showed up and that was nice. Vancouver was really lovely. It was probably the loveliest reception of it, because we held it at SFU Downtown in the Woodward's building. It was a really good turnout, my mom was there. In Vancouver, actually, it's one of the most well-rounded receptions — where Indigenous peoples are central to the conversation. And people are really engaged with the Indigenous politics in the book. But they're also really interested in the theoretical stuff that I do, especially kind of drawing off of that third-world theorizing of Franz Fanon, Marx, and stuff like that. So it was really cool in that it was well-rounded. In the US, depending on where it is and receives — like, for instance, I gave a talk in Chicago at a university there. And the room was largely filled with black studies scholars. And their interests was really kind of giving me the gears on how I got to use Fanon to diagnose settler colonialism, rather than structures of enslavement and anti-blackness — with very little discussion or concern about Indigenous politics. That kind of stuck with me, because when the book was being written, it was in kind of the revolutionary heyday of Idle No More, but it was published with Black Lives Matter on the horizon. So it really kind of gave me a crash course and the importance of the ethics of context, I should have provided more context in order to avoid some of the concerns over appropriations. When I've talked in Europe about it. No one cares about Indigenous politics there. It's just a 100% Fanon book.

Am Johal  10:01
Interesting. So you've been involved with Dechinta for over a decade. I think it was mentioned in your bio. And people might not be aware. I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit about what that program is. And I know it's sort of related to your work at UBC as well. But you've kind of fought for that, in a way, a really remarkable land based program.

Glen Coulthard  10:19
It started in 2009, roughly by kind of a collective of Northern scholars and activists and Indigenous leaders. And the idea was to establish a post secondary option for Indigenous and northern students who, for whatever reasons, have not been provided the opportunity to pursue their post secondary education. And when you look at what sort of barriers exist for that there's many. Some are financial, there's a lot of experience with racism with the schooling system in the north. And a resistance to leave the territory in order to get their post secondary schooling. There's no post secondary university option in the north at the moment. Family relations and obligations that keep you close to home, particularly experienced by Indigenous women. And then there's a lot of stories about alienation and racism for those students who do end up going to Edmonton or Vancouver, or wherever. So we wanted to create an Indigenous-led post secondary program that is related to, and led by elders and knowledge holders and land users. Where the land is central to people's education, with the idea being that we want to break the back of the connection between Western education and colonialism. And in doing so you have the center land and Indigenous knowledge. So we started a program, we've been running semesters and short courses every year for the last 10 years. Since taking over the chairpersonship of the board. And also as an instructor, I use it as a way to redirect resources — public resources, into providing community members with non-alienated very meaningful employment — living and teaching on the land, in ways that capitalism and colonialism has really kind of hampered or made unaccessible in an escalated way over the last half century.

Am Johal  12:23
Interestingly, in a kind of radical program that you've been involved with, and it ended up being a route by which you met colonial royalty, like William and Kate.

Glen Coulthard  12:35
Yes, so Will and Kate. Oh, thanks for phrasing that. [laughs] Will and Kate were here for their honeymoon. I can't remember but in 2012, maybe — it's an actually an interesting story. So I was very, very against the idea that we should host Will and Kate. But it came out that they were paying a visit as part of their Canadian trip, to Yellowknife. And I think it was the GNWT, the Government of the Northwest Territories, put out a call to think about things that they might do to host them. And their kind of profile within the royal family, like their humanitarian stuff was around youth and education. So Dechinta — I was not just chairperson of the board at that point. Dechinta went and put in kind of sneaky without talking to me an application to host, then sure enough, they decided that they would visit us. I was really pissed off. And I was like we can't we can't host these two. They're like the epitome of like they're this — they're not even metaphorically empire, they are like literally empire. But then I got to thinking, I was talking to one of my colleagues — was like, well, the elders really want to speak to them. And I was like, I could imagine why, but they're like, because they signed treaty with that family in 1900. They want to have this opportunity to speak with that family face to face and tell them what a poor job Canada has done. And representing that family's honor and, and a name. I was like, fine. Okay, that's that's, I guess that's a good example of why this might be important, but I still wasn't convinced. And then another I think it was my aunt. She was like, you know the last time that the royal family was in town. Dettah my community is about 35 kilometers outside of Yellowknife. And it didn't have a road in the 1960s and it didn't have electricity. And the Queen's visit in the late 60s also went to Yellowknife. And the elders of Dene First Nation was able to pressure the federal government to build both the road and to provide electricity to the community, under the spectacle — like the international spectacle of the Queen's visit. I was like fine. Seems like a good enough reason. And then if that weren't enough, I was visiting my grandmother, she doesn't speak English. I understand Dogrib a bit, but I'm not I'm not a speaker. So my aunt and I were visiting just kind of sitting around the kitchen table at my grandmother's and she starts telling the story. And my aunt is translating it for me. And she's like, you know, when the Queen was here in 68, or whatever 68 or 69, your grandfather, he has passed away now. Napoleon Liske who a fisher by trade — lent out or leased out his boat for the RCMP, I believe, who were doing security on the bay between Dettah and Yellowknife for the purpose of the visit. So they had the boat for a few days and then returned it, damaged to the point where it wasn't working. So my grandfather, and his brother kept kind of pressuring the RCMP to repair the boat, and they refused, they started pressuring the federal government to step in and do something about it, because his livelihood depended on the boat. And they didn't do anything. So they came up with the idea — my grandfather didn't speak English, or write English as well. So his brother, I believe the story goes, helped them draft a letter. And they wrote the queen. They wrote, the royal family, told them about how this was like one more incidents in a long series of incidents with respect to the dishonor of the crown, and how it violated a kind of the spirit and intent of treaty, and all these sorts of issues. And the queen, or the royal family replaced the boat. [laughs] And I was like 'for fucks sakes', I was like fine, we'll host them. I will now officially shut up.

Am Johal  16:41
Yeah. [laughs] And the students had a chance to interact directly with them.

Glen Coulthard  16:48
Yeah, we had an in-camera seminar. And the students who are kind of getting a crash course and anti-colonial sort of theory and practice. Let them have it for about an hour and a half. Yeah.

Am Johal  17:00
But it was in-camera. [laughs] 

Glen Coulthard  17:03
It was funny.

Am Johal  17:04
And how do you see the future of the Dechinto program, it's clearly evolved over 10 years, and stable funding and all of those types of things. But I imagine you guys have now a really long record of doing this over time. And you got a bit of a teaching release from UBC to be involved with it as well?

Glen Coulthard  17:19
Teaching transfers. So they recognize the community work and teaching that I do as part of my academic job. We have some promised funding from the federal government. So that will both make things a bit easier economically, but more stressful, because I think there'll be an expectation to scale up a bit. And when you're working with community in the way that we do, it's really important to have a kind of very intimate and hands on sort of relationship with community. So it's not really conducive to scaling up in the way that the metrics regarding kind of post secondary education and student success demand. So I think there'll be arguments that way. But yeah, we're kind of regionally diversifying. So we're no longer just on Yellowknife Dene territory, but we've been working with the Kaska, and then the Sahtu, further, further north. We're venturing into supporting community programming in northern BC and the Yukon. So I'm really looking forward to being able to use some of that money to redistribute back into communities, again, providing meaningful non-alienated employment for people who just want to live on the land and, and demonstrate their expertise and knowledge of that land.

Am Johal  18:32
Now, you've been working at UBC since 2009 or 2010. I feel like something like that, 2010 or 2011. And there's been a number of other theorists that you're in conversation with. Leanne Simpson was just in town recently. I know you've been in conversation with her for a long time, she teaches at Dechinta, people like Audra Simpson, who's at Columbia. But in terms of conversations happening in Indigenous Studies, who are you in conversation with? Or whose work are you finding interesting to grapple with and interrogate?

Glen Coulthard  19:03
Yeah, the Simpsons are a force unto themselves. So I've learned a lot from Audra Simpson, who wrote an important book on Kahnawá:ke called Mohawk Interruptus. And then Leanne Simpson's work is probably the most theoretically sophisticated kind of approach to understanding Indigenous politics within Indigenous thought. So I've kind of engaged most with their ideas. More recently, I've been working on some new stuff, kind of looking at the kind of global influences of anti-colonial struggles across the world and shaping Red Power politics in the 1960s and 70s. So some of the Internationalism work that's looking at kind of, in the wake of the renewed histories of 1968 sort of thing, globally. I've been really interesting to me and then Nick Estes book — a Lakota historian, on kind of centuries long struggles that culminates in things like Standing Rock. He does some some interesting historical work that has been useful for me. So yeah, like I get sucked into projects, so I actually haven't been reading in the field as much as I should. It's just specific to the project that I'm working on. So I read a lot of 60s radicalism, actually a lot of Mao and Maoist sort of stuff. [laughs]

Am Johal  20:30
[laughs] So you were involved in a project recently with Doreen Manuel, who lives here, to republish her father's book. George Manuel wrote a classic from 1974, called The Fourth World with University of Minnesota Press, and its really part of the decolonization canon in terms of deconstructing settler colonialism, and particularly in the context here. I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit about the work of what you find still so politically potent and relevant about it, and maybe the political moment that it came out of as well.

Glen Coulthard  21:07
So George Manuel is a Secwépemc leader, he's passed on, he was absolutely central in almost every major Indigenous organization nationally, provincially and internationally. So he served as Chief of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, served as National Chief in the National Indian Brotherhood, which goes on to become the Assembly of First Nations. And then he was a founder of the World Council of Indigenous peoples, which went on to be absolutely central to the development of the UN Declaration on Indigenous peoples. So he's like a force to be reckoned with. So the fact that his 1974 book, which looks at the provincial playspace politics of dispossession in in British Columbia, to the national stage, to the international stage. Where he's kind of critiquing this 400 years of colonization, which he characterizes as a kind of Manichaean struggle between two different concepts of land, land as a commodity versus land as a relationship, which propels this colonial relationship into the present. It just blew my mind, that thing has been out of print for so long. And I remember a few years ago, being in discussion, mentioning it with Art Manuel, his son, whose now passed away. And we started initially some conversations on how we would be able to get that book back into print. But then they just kind of fell to the side with Art being so busy that he is, and whatnot. And then it came up, as I was just having a beer with my publisher, and I'm actually in pretty good — I'm in a good relationship with that press at the moment. And he was he was asking if there was anything that you'd like from the past archive, that I thought might need to see or ought to see the light of day again, and I was like, immediately was George Manuel’s book, The Fourth World. And he got a copy and read it over the weekend. That was when NAISA the Native American Indigenous Studies Association was here in Vancouver at UBC. And he had read it over the weekend. He's like, we need to publish this again. And then it was a matter of getting the family's approval. So it was kind of easy after that, and then they asked if, if Doreen would write the afterword. And then if I would write a context piece for an introduction.

Am Johal  23:23
And the original press doesn't exist anymore, right? The one the that originally put it out..

Glen Coulthard  23:28
Fulcrum? I think it was, I can't remember. No...

Am Johal  23:30
Okay. Interesting. It's a book that just came out earlier this year. So I highly recommend getting it if you can. Now in your work, one of the through lines, you mentioned him already, Frantz Fanon. And we just did a film screening the other day where you were on a panel, but he's kind of a constant in your theoretical work, but just wondering how you first encountered the work of Fanon. And for some people that might not be aware of Fanon, maybe give us some background and who he is.

Glen Coulthard  23:58
Yeah so he is a revolutionary. Well, he was everything. He was a psychiatrist, a political theorist, and then turned Algerian revolutionary. So he was born in Martinique, spent overseas doing schooling in France, where he really kind of comes clashing in with the kind of white supremacy of European culture, and French culture in particular. And ends up kind of exploring the psychological or inner workings of colonialism and cultural racism, through his dissertation project, which actually didn't get published as a dissertation. But his first book, Black Skin, White Masks. And it's really gets at the core of how colonialism reproduces itself through a both kind of an economic structure, and the way in which that structure gets internalized by colonial subjects, in ways that render the violence of it seem more muted or natural. And when I read it, it just seemed like — it was like I was hearing somebodies own lived experience that overlapped really importantly with my own. So I didn't even read it as an academic, I read it as — me and my friend John Monroe, were in East Van. And we worked at that map store that was below. Just by on — Granville there, by something world and maps. And so we used to be able to get discounts from normal bookstores, because we were in the book business as retailers. So we would order books for wholesale, then just drink beers and read them. And Fanon was one of those books where I was just like, wow, this is speaking to me. This is verlaps very much so with my experience. So when it came years later, when I ended up deciding to try going to school, there became more like use for that book. And in my scholarship, it became also central to the way I think and understand the world of colonialism. In its inner workings, I guess.

Am Johal  26:10
Yeah, one of the projects you've been working on, you've been doing some writing on housing, gentrification and dispossession, and trying to intervene a bit around how gentrification has been talked about. And some of the limitations perhaps are around — particularly for Marxist geographers. Can you describe that project and what you're trying to do with it?

Glen Coulthard  26:31
It used to be far more complicated in my brain, but all I do is trace a kind of movement history, which looks at how gentrification has come to be wedded and inseparably so, from native land and sovereignty struggles. So you can no longer — any sort of anti gentrification displacement activism has to take into consideration the relationship of those forces with dispossession, and displacement of Indigenous peoples and political orders. But that wasn't always the case. People didn't always see it that way. So you can actually — Vancouver provides a very interesting example of how those two kind of struggles become wedded. So for instance, in 1986, with Expo, you had very little Indigenous presence publicly, or in terms of acknowledgement within the anti-displacement efforts at that point. It's still very much white-organizing. and the question of Indigenous land struggles doesn't pop up in the in the public record, or by people who I have been talking to. So the next major episode in this is the struggles around Woodward's and the Woodsquat, and there is far more Indigenous presence there. But it's one which is from my understanding wasn't super easy — there wasn't always a productive conversation. Because when you're organizing around abstract notions of like, reclaiming the neighborhood, the reclamation of the commons, and you have Indigenous peoples there being like, ‘what are you reclaiming, and for who? This is Indigenous land.’ And this is the most recent manifestation of dispossession and displacement in a centuries long struggle with those violences, by Indigenous peoples here, in what is now Vancouver. So apparently there was tensions and conflicts, that amounted in a split in the movement at Woodward's, and there was some separate organizing that Indigenous peoples were doing on the same issue, but one that foregrounded Indigenous land struggles. And then by the time you get to the next episode, which is 2010, it is 100% led and by Indigenous peoples, and framed almost exclusively — where anti-gentrification efforts are 100% understood through an Indigenous sovereignty frame in the 2010 campaign. So now you see this wedding of these two discourses and struggles. But my concern is that we don't know what to do with that. So we still relying on like, when we're thinking about anti-gentrification, there's still talk of land grants, it's always a state related sort of claim, which brings the state back into communities. Way more surveilled — surveillance sort of sense. So we don't know what to do when we're confronted with if gentrification is related to colonialism in this non-metaphorical way, then why would anti-gentrification and decolonization look like? And I don't think we know, my hinting would be that we have to understand Indigenous peoples jurisdictions, and reinstate jurisdictional issues more than just redistribute material resources and property. But I hadn't I'm not sure we know an answer to that. So this very short sort of book — long essay is exploring some of those.

Am Johal  29:58
Yeah, when will that be coming out? 

Glen Coulthard  30:00
Some time.

Am Johal  30:01
Kay somtime. [laughs] In one of your other current research project, which is a big one, you referenced it earlier — you're looking at radical decolonization networks, movements between Indigenous communities and sites of decolonization internationally, particularly in newly emerging nations in Africa. You give examples, like there was a delegation that went to China in the mid-70s, members of your nation went to Tanzania and met with political leaders there, but what are you sort of uncovering in the process of your research in terms of looking at that period, in the 60s and early 70s?

Glen Coulthard  30:37
Well, part of the reason I'm looking at it is, like I said, the book was written as a kind of my own introduction to Dene civics. So I was reintroducing myself, not only to my intellectual history and the politics of our nation, but also the land relationships that form the backbone of their critique. And I was doing so in the Fenonian sense, kind of as a form of intellectual and personal decolonization. So this is really kind of a local and personal project, which isn't necessarily written as such, but it was. But in focusing so much on the playspace foundation of our critique of colonialism and capitalism. And necessarily left out all of the global sort of contexts that are informing that struggle. So when I come to write a book on Marx, and more importantly Fanon, it can be read out of the blue. So the critique, for instance, at Northwestern in Chicago was like, how do you get to Fanon — you're not talking about anti-blackness, or the black liberation struggle. You're talking about Indigenous peoples. What's up with that? And I was like, I wish I would have been able to say, there's a long history of engagement between these communities between red power and black power. Red power, and kind of the International anti-colonial struggles in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. So I'm just telling that story. So in a sense, this new project is like a prequel or the predecessor, it's the context book that makes the theoretical interventions and Indigenous politics that I do in Red Skin, White Masks, actually make some historical sense.

Am Johal  32:17
Yeah, so you've had an interesting route going into becoming a tenured prof at UBC, winning all these book awards and stuff. But you started off as like a East Vancouver thug. How was that route to becoming an academic superstar? 

Glen Coulthard  32:33
It was in the stars man. [Am laughs] Yeah, no, I was just joking with him. I had the honor of attending an award ceremony for 49 Langarans that went onto do something. So they're celebrating their 49th year on 49th Avenue. And so a bunch of them and staff, and profs or instructors and stuff, were asked to come celebrate. But that was it — 1998, just trying to get off the streets a bit, out of the party scene, be a little bit healthier, I decided to try and get some adult education upgrading. And I went to Langera and turns out all the teachers in my life were incredibly wrong about how intelligent I was. [laughs] Just kidding. And I was like, I was shocked —I knew how to write an essay. And like, apparently, I had a knack for bullshit. And then I ended up being able to use those grades that I got at Langara, to get into a transfer program into the University of Alberta, which had a Aboriginal bridging program for adult Indigenous students that didn't have a basis of admission, otherwise. Back then it was called, a probation program. So I made the transition into U of A, where you’re allied to take three courses, and I did well. And one of them actually was an Indigenous Studies course. I didn’t look back after that, 10 years later, I had my PhD.

Am Johal  34:01
Amazing. So you've taken a long sweep, both in terms of your research, and also your lived experience — discussions with elders at your nation. And this sort of long sweep from — since we just had a federal election, Trudeau senior to Trudeau Jr. I’m wondering if you can sort of give your kind of political take on this sort of long moment, in terms of federal government relations with Indigenous communities, and how some things have changed and how some things really haven't.

Glen Coulthard  34:31
Yeahhh. [laughs] It's funny because when I wrote the book ir was also — it started at when it was Paul Martin and Chretien and the liberals. And I just understood that colonialism kind of had to represent itself as its opposite, and did so by appealing to a discourse of rights. So it was recognition as the way in which, you script the rights that Indigenous peoples have in limited sort of ways, that don't get at some of the fundamentals that would challenge settlement and and development on their territories. And that's the way that colonialism in liberal democracies works. Is through a limited recognition of one's rights rather than a denial of them. And they learned that the hard way with the first Trudeau, and the white paper in 1969. They just decided to make everybody equal in one fell swoop, just abolish Indian Affairs, get rid of the Indian Act, turnover lands to Indigenous communities and free simple private property, and just get rid of Indians and in an act of legislation. And that created an uproar. And then we have this turn towards, ‘well, maybe we'll have to recognize your rights instead of just stomp all over them.’ 

But when I was really kind of working on some of the latter stages of the book, it was through the Harper administration, and they really didn't pay all that much attention to recognition politics. They had a more kind of hostile sort of anti-native like — there was a both a social conservatism, which expressed itself in anti-native racism, like Harper was pretty clear about that. Often by hiring people like Thomas Flanagan, from the University of Calgary as one of his right hand men, in his early campaigning. And then he also had a neoconservative sort of commitment to just letting the market figure things out. But this put him in conflict with Indigenous peoples all the time. 

So I was like, this doesn't seem to be — aside from the like the shitty gesture, unauthentic gesture and apology, that he made in Parliament in 2008. Harper didn't seem to play by the recognition game. And I think that that eventually ended up bringing him down through the rise of things like Idle No More. And then we move back into Trudeau, who was like coming out of the gates is the epitome of kind of symbolic recognition, without any sort of substance behind it. Which made it really difficult to critique, because I was like, this is now — the book is actually relevant. But because Harper was so vilified and hated, you couldn't really say — even amongst Indigenous circles, it was hard to say anything about Trudeau because of a harm-reduction approach to colonialism, I guess. [Am laughs] And then eventually, I was like, well just let it simmer. This guy will show his cards pretty quick. [chuckles] You'll see, you'll see. We'll get back to good old colonialism soon enough. And sure enough, it is you buy a pipeline, and you can like blackface. That's what happens when you elect a frat boy into public office. Is like, yeah, I think the book is now more relevant than it was when it was published in the Harper years. 

Am Johal  37:35
Glen, thank you so much for joining us on Below the Radar. Thank you very much for joining us this afternoon. And thank you once again for the invitation from the Vancouver Podcasting Festival and the Vancouver Public Library. Thank you.


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Rachel Wong  37:55
Thank you again to Glen Coulthard for joining us on this week's episode of Below the Radar. If you want to learn more about the books that were discussed during this episode, including Red Skin, White Masks, and The Fourth World, we've left links to them in the episode description below, where you can read more about the books and also get your own copy. As well, we wanted to give a big shout out to the folks at the Vancouver Podcast Festival for the invitation to participate in the 2019 Festival. You can learn more about them by checking out their website, then We've left a link to their website in the episode description as well. On our next episode, we'll hear from Ebony Magnus, the head of the Belzberg Library at SFU Vancouver. Ebany came into this role during the 30th anniversary of SFU Vancouver. And she has a particular focus on community involvement, both internal and external, as one of her key priorities for this branch.

Ebony Magnus  38:52
Anniversaries are great times to kind of look back at the successes, and also look forward towards what we want to do next. And so I think I'm in an interesting place where people are really appreciative of everything that's happened at SFU Vancouver, at Belzberg over the last three decades, but also excited to see what we're going to do.

[theme music]

Rachel Wong  39:12
As always many thanks so the team that puts this podcast together. Which includes myself (Rachel Wong), Paige Smith and Fiorella Pinillos. Davis Steele is the composer of our theme music. Finally, thank you to you for listening. We'll talk to you next time on Below the Radar.

Transcript auto-generated by and edited by the Below the Radar team.
January 21, 2020

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