The influence of betterment discourses on Canadian Aboriginal peoples in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries

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Abstract:

Based on government archival sources, fieldwork and the historical perspectives, experiences and oral histories of Aboriginal peoples, this paper argues that late nineteenth and early twentieth century Indian policy, and more specifically the File Hills farm colony, was deeply influenced by betterment discourses. The presumption of this discourse was that Aboriginal peoples, who clearly were not vanishing as promised, could be transformed into something approaching white settlers by reshaping, controlling, and managing their environments, both private and public, and by altering their genetics and morals. While the betterment discourse and the File Hills colony have each been the focus of research, no one to our knowledge has focused on the importance of betterment thought in the establishment and application of Indian policy and its significance for the File Hills colony.

Keywords: Indian policy; amélioration; betterment; eugenics; eugénique; euthenics; euthénique; first nations; politique indienne; premières nations

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1541-0064.2009.00281.x

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6 ( ), Email: 4cdb@queensu.ca 2: Department of Geography, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6 ( ), Email: anne.godlewska@queensu.ca

Publication date: December 1, 2009

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