Rupturing the Myth of the Peaceful Western Canadian Frontier: A Socio-Historical Study of Colonization, Violence, and the North West Mounted Police, 1873-1905


Abstract, Page ii:

"Recently there has been more critical attention given to the violent role of the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) in the unfolding of settlement and colonial laws in western Canada. However, few have offered a comprehensive analysis of the violent encounters that are recorded (and missing) in the archival records and correspondence of the NWMP, and other secondary sources. Similarly, few researchers have utilized the ‘past’ experiences of Aboriginal peoples to try and understand the ongoing chasm today between non-Indigenous settlers and Aboriginal peoples of Canada. In making the “marginal central” (Fitzpatrick 1989), and simultaneously challenging the dominant colonial narrative, I offer a socio-historical analysis of western Canada during the NWMP era (1873-1905), to show how it was (and still is), like other colonial frontiers, a violent space and time. I explore this argument by situating the violent encounters between the NWMP, white settlers, and Aboriginal peoples within the colonial relations that were structured to maintain the marginalization and dispossession of Aboriginal peoples. Failing to recognize and resist this part of western Canadian history, and the underlying logic behind it, is denial and limits the rationality and potential of non-Indigenous Canadian populations to work for, and even conceive of, achieving an authentic reconciliation with Aboriginal peoples." (ii).

Excerpt, Page 3:

"The frontier is commonly seen as a historical stage of development that progresses from an undeveloped to a developed civilized stage (Knafla 1995: 11). Based on this interpretation, the further development of the frontier entailed a retreat of the colonized (Aboriginal peoples). Moreover, due to this perceived stage of development the frontier is symbolically seen as a meeting or clashing place of peoples in which cultural and geographic borders were not clearly defined (Adelman and Aron 1999: 815). This particular conception of the frontier makes it difficult for researchers to look at violence as part of the colonial relations imposed on indigenous populations who are resistant to it. Even when violence is analyzed and not seen as aberrant, it is not seen as part of the 3 landscape of the frontier but rather as part of its development and later settlement process (Knafla 1995: 12)

In contrast to this conception of the frontier and the widely accepted and celebrated view of the NWMP, one can conceptualize the frontier as a specific space and time that is part of larger geographical “borderlands” (Adelman and Aron 1999: 816). Borderlands are seen as the contested boundaries between colonizers and the colonized. Eventually, due to colonial laws and their enforcement, borderlands became juridically established as “bordered land” (Adelman and Aron 1999: 816), and consequently inscribed with inclusive and exclusive meanings. The included were given by colonial (British-Canadian) sovereignty, freedom, and autonomy; for the excluded, life within the borders meant the loss of political, social, and individual status (Adelman and Aron 1999: 840). In this thesis, I argue that if this critical sociological conception is adopted, along with a refined postcolonial analysis, one is better able to critically investigate the extent of frontier violence. Drawing on this critical conception of frontiers and bordered lands as constantly contested spaces, the purpose of this thesis is to offer an analysis of the western Canadian frontier, during the NWMP era, to show how the Canadian frontier, like other frontiers, was a violent space and time." (3).

Publication Information

Ennab, Saleem Fadi. "Rupturing the Myth of the Peaceful Western Canadian Frontier: A Socio-Historical Study of Colonization, Violence, and the North West Mounted Police, 1873-1905." MA thesis, University of Manitoba, 2010.

Ennui, Fadi Saleem
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