Native Canadians in Literature

Introduction: Literature offers a strong and passionate voice for the past. The literature of the Native Canadian is a voice we, the people of Canada, can no longer ignore. There is little to be gained by dwelling on the past. Nevertheless, there is much to be realized by accepting what has passed, with all of its mistakes and dust we might otherwise wish to hide under the carpets. English literature, since at least the sixteenth century, has a firm grounding in Canadian history. As a white Anglo Saxon Protestant, we can see where we came from, who we are, what we are and, maybe most importantly, why we are the people that comprise this enigmatic Canadian continent. But what if you aren\'t one of those fortunate enough to be of European Christian descent?

Abstract: Christianity is one of the most profound influences this world has ever known. Almost every facet of Canadian life, past or present, is manifest with it. White Anglo Saxon Protestants came to this country with adventure in their hearts and spreading the word of God on their minds. The new settlers soon found that they were not alone in the country they proclaimed as their own. They found a people, different from themselves and with no loyalty to the Almighty God. This untamed, human was called ‘savage\' and, ignorantly, despised for their commitment to no one but themselves. With Christianity as their guide, the European settler managed to almost destroy that culture for no other reason than it was different than its own. The historical record of the literature of those two cultures serves as the proof that Christianity was at the center of the cruel treatment the European showed the Native Canadian.

Systematically, through war, genocide, legislation and ‘wayward Indian camps\' the people were broken, their culture decimated and their souls eventually converted to the word of God. Literature contributes to this destruction in two ways: 1) by perpetuating and adding to the fallacies that existed about the native Canadian and; 2) by serving as an extensive record of the injustices served the native Canadian by other Canadians. The natives have their own literary record of the indignities they faced at the hands of the merciless Canadian settlers and government. A simple comparison of the two cultures literature would not befit what actually transpired between the cultures.

The following analysis will serve to present an argument that Christianity is a central cause of the modern tragedy of the Canadian Native. There is no differentiation among the various Native cultures. Native, for the purpose of this exploration, will be a combination of any, and all, Native people who came into contact with the European. French Canadian relations are not explored because they did not have the same detrimental impact as that of English speaking Canada. In particular, specific examination of the English literature from the 1700\'s to the mid 1800\'s will be conducted. The historical context will be the main focus and various examples of literary prose from both cultures, will serve as the tangible proof that, to borrow a phrase from the composition, ‘What ails the Indian\', is actually nothing more than a big, white, lie.

Protection. Civilization. Assimilation. These words represent the ideals serving as the foundation for legislation set forth by the Canadian government, struggling to manage the problem of having people indigenous to a country, living in the nation, they were assuming for their own. The Canadian government believed that the Indians were incapable of dealing with people of European ancestry without being exploited. Therefore, the government had to protect the person and property of the Indian from exploitation by the European, which meant that the Indian was to have special status in the political and social structure of Canada.1 They also had a duty to protect the Canadian from the ‘uncivilized\' ways of the Indian and, when protection and civilization were achieved, assimilation would already be in place. The special status was assigned to the Natives through a series of legislation called the Indian Acts and, which acted as the backbone for most Indian legislation until the 1960\'s (see Acts endnote). So, under the guise of protection from the masses, and after civilization to the cultural standard, only then would assimilation of the