Land and Colonization: A Nehinuw (Cree) Perspective
Goulet, Keith Napoleon
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation is about land, colonization, and Indigenous people. While focusing broadly on Algonquian peoples, special attention is given to the Spruce Island Cree of Cumberland House in northeastern Saskatchewan. The use of the Nehinuw (Cree) language and cultural historical knowledge provides new factual information, and new conceptual understandings on the issue of land and adjoining matters that critique, reaffirm or challenge existing assumptions and misconceptions regarding Indigenous peoples, Algonquian peoples, and the people of Kaminstigominuhigoskak, Spruce Island (Cumberland House). This study begins with a review and critique of twentieth century scholarship on Algonquian land tenure which mainly arose as a consequence of Indigenous land claims. This literature is analysed and critiqued using Cree conceptual knowledge and understanding. Methodological issues surrounding the use of Cree Nehinuw narratives and oral history are analysed. The historical dynamics, developments, and events that have impacted the people and the land will be examined including: the discovery doctrine, Rupert’s Land, the Royal Proclamation of 1763, the fur trade, smallpox, the Metis, the First Nations treaties, and the discriminatory pressures of government policy, law and the influx of European settlers. Examples of cultural exchange stemming from the interaction between Europeans and Indigenous people will be presented, for example, a review on how the view of the land as Mother Earth evolved in English as well as its unique four stage development in the Nehinuw (Cree) language. As a response to the limitations of existing academic research and a re-examination of the history especially as it pertains to Cree and Algonquian lands, the use of Nehinuwehin (Cree language) and Cree understandings provide the evidence and overview of the Kaminstigominuhigoskak, Spruce Island (Cumberland) Cree concept of territoriality. Nehinuwehin (Cree language), Nehinuw (Cree) content and Cree methodological devices including grammatical analysis are used to examine relevant and meaningful key Nehinuw concepts such as nituskeenan/kituskeenuw our land, our national territory; pugitinasowin, which does not mean gifting but instead means a tributary offering; major forms of Cree narrative including ahtotumohina, (stories of events), achimohina, ( stories of activities) and achunoogehina, (legendary stories); and Keewetin, the “going home” or north wind and its connection to glaciers. Conjointly with this new historical evidence of Cree conceptual understanding, this research exposes the far-reaching effects of colonization and racism that continue to be reflected in words, narratives, and actions. New analysis using the Cree –gan concept of artificial substitution exposes the far-reaching tentacles of colonization and racism that are deeply entrenched in the very grammar of the Cree Nehinuw language. Ogimaw, the genuine leader or chief of a traditional Cree nation, literally became ogimagan, the subordinate artificial chief or leader in the new Indian Affairs Chief and Council system. When it comes to the specific case of land, uskee, the genuine land of the whole becomes uskeegan, meaning the artificial plot of land or private property. While the land of the whole nation continues to be referred to as our land and our national territory, the more specific individual or “family” private property becomes uskeeganis or the little artificial plot of land. For the European, private property is elevated as an essential part of “civilizing” ideology while the Cree looked upon it as being an artificial substitute of the genuine land of the whole. Cree Nehinuw knowledge, methodology, and perspectives provide the foundational base in this research. The decolonization of historical methodology requires constructive critical action at the specific language and cultural historical levels of a particular Indigenous Nation which in this case is the Kaminstigominuhigoskak or Spruce Island (Cumberland) Cree. This study outlines specific Cree Nehinuw methodological devices and the substantive finding that the Cree Nehinuw term for “our land” and “our country’ and “our national territory’ is “nituskeenan/kituskeenuw.” This finding directly challenges the existing research which limits the Cree or Algonquian concepts of land as being based on the individual or “family” rather than the nation. New Cree geopolitical territorial concepts that include use, resources, camps, homelands, places of existence, gathering centres and shared lands are introduced to provide the substantive basis and critical contextual shift from the Euro-centred view on the issue of land to a more balanced perspective where Indigenous language and understandings are given a more thorough and substantive recognition.