Severing the Ties that Bind: Government Repression of Indigenous Religious Ceremonies on the Prairies


Excerpt from Introduction, Page 3-4:

"Government officials and missionaries contended that certain indigenous religious practices were immoral and seriously undermined the assimilative objectives of Canadian Indian policy. However, the rationale for adopting coercive measures against indigenous religions had much deeper roots, which were grounded in Christian Victorian ethnocentric notions of cultural inferiority and inherent contradictions between Western capitalism and pre-industrial societies. The repressive measures adopted by the Department of Indian Affairs against various ceremonial practices were not simply indicators of European-Canadian intolerance for non-Christian religions or customs foreign to their own. Rather, they were based on a belief on the part of Department officials - and it was correct - that there existed a direct connection between indigenous worldview, ceremonial life, and the social, economic, and political structures of the community. Furthermore, the official vision of Canada was that of a culturally and politically homogeneous nation. No politician of the day could imagine the continued existence of numerous Aboriginal nations that differed significantly from their own. The ultimate goal of Canadian Indian policy was the political, economic, and cultural absorption of all Aboriginal peoples into the general citizenry and economy of the Canadian nation-state. The Canadian government adopted special legislation that imposed a wardship political status on all Aboriginal people and officially supported the destruction of indigenous cultural systems.

In addition to examining the history of the development and implementation off federal policies to suppress ceremonies, this study also explores the various forms of Aboriginal response to these measures. The initiatives undertaken by Aboriginal communities to resist or to mitigate the circumstances of their repression had a direct effect not only upon their cultural expression but also upon government policy and its implementation. For those who wished to retain their traditional forms of religious worship, the repressive measures provided a very real challenge to their cultural integrity. Officially powerless within the nation-state and governed by the Indian Act, which provided the federal government with sweeping powers over almost every aspect of their lives, prairie Aboriginal peoples initiated a number of culturally accommodative responses to the suppression of ceremonial life." (3-4).

Publication Information

Pettipas, Katherine. Severing the Ties That Bind Government Repression of Indigenous Religious Ceremonies on the Prairies. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1994.

Pettipas, Katherine
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