Erin Morton

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Dr. Erin Morton is a leading national expert in the field of Canadian cultural history and visual cultural studies, and author/editor of two books and over a dozen peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters in this area. One of these books (Negotiations in a Vacant Lot: Studying the Visual in Canada, co-edited with Lynda Jessup and Kirsty Robertson, MQUP 2014) was described by UBC’s John O’Brian as “chang[ing] how we should think about visual culture and art history in Canada” (BC Studies). Her single-authored monograph, For Folk’s Sake: Art and Economy in Twentieth-Century Nova Scotia (MQUP 2016) is the first critical history of the creative category “folk art” in Canada. She was PI of a SSHRC project that examined connections between settler colonialism, folk art, and North American integration (“Bordering the Vernacular: Canada, Folk Art, and the New North America”).

Abstract: 

Unsettling Creative Labour in Canada: The Myth of the White Proletariat under Treaty Six

When in August 2016 a white farmer fatally shot Colten Boushie, a 22-year old Cree man, the farmer’s wife allegedly shouted “That’s what you get for trespassing on private property.” Yet due to a confluence of violences that the Canadian settler state has enacted under the parametres of Treaty Six since 1876, Boushie and his people could have never owned the farm in North Battleford where he was killed—at least not in the liberal capitalist proprietary sense. This paper will explore three contexts that intersect with Boushie’s murder at the hands of white supremacist property owners. First, it will consider the historical violence on Treaty Six land, from the hangings of Louis Riel and Assiniboine and Cree Warriors after the events of 1885. Second, the “peasant farming” provisions of Treaty Six, which saw Indigenous farmers “crawl before they walked” by relegating them to the use of “primitive” agricultural technologies –the same technologies that white farmers became nostalgic for and represented through various “folk art” creativities, such as decorated oxen yokes, sickles, and spades. Third, the racist settler state agricultural policy that emerged in reaction to 1885 and relegated Indigenous farmers to limited use of their newly jurisdictional reserve lands; though they thrived anyway, the settler state violently stole their harvests.

Talk Date: April 27, 1:15 – 3:15 Panel III (closed): Settler Politics and Creative Labour

Venue: University Senate Chamber

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