“In modern times a person cannot walk into a stranger’s home and claim ownership of the house and the furnishings without committing a crime. What European explorers did at the time of contact and after was tantamount to walking into a person’s home and taking possession of the house and the belongings.” -Tamara Starblanket from Treaties: Negotiations and Rights
What constitutes the ownership of land? Better yet, can land already occupied by peoples be discovered? Tamara Starblanket addresses these questions surrounding negotiation between the British Crown and the Indigenous people of Canada, and really begins to untangle the diversion between the two groups’ understanding of a treaty. Whereas explorers like Christopher Columbus are glorified for their ‘discoveries’, Starblanket does a good job of making the distinction between the two very separate ideas of land agreement in Canada throughout the 1800’s. One of the main reasons I believe this topic is one worth discussing is due to its relevance to our current discussions about Ingenious ownership of land, knowing that the vast majority of the British Colombian land that we live on is unceded territory. Thus, looking at this resource will give us an informed look at the beginnings of this issue, and help us deal with the ‘unfinished business’ that has been left in its wake.
From the very beginning of the article, it is recognized that a number of agreements were made between the British Crown and the Indigenous People of Canada during the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s, mainly regarding the issue of land jurisdiction. However, the incongruities in each group’s understanding of the standing Treaty are the root causes for divide; the Eurocentric mindset of the British was greatly contrasted by the traditional Indigenous lifestyle. Whereas the Europeans had the inherent sense of ownership over Canadian land from the moment they stepped upon shore, the Indigenous People recognized their formal negotiations as “peace and friendship agreements, not land surrender agreements”. So, we can see that we have two groups of people who are making agreements with two very different sets of values or desired outcomes. And what this article really sets out to accomplish is distinguishing these opposing values between both parties, as well as how the Eurocentric way of thinking comes into play. In fact, this topic directly correlates with the B2 section of the Social Studies 10 prescribed learning outcomes, specifically in the POL that states, ” It is expected that students will… critique the rationale for treaties… and evaluate their impact on the Aboriginal Peoples”. To be put plainly, the very heart of this article digs at rationale: where does the European sense of entitlement come from, and how was it different from that of Indigenous People?
In terms of personal inquiry, an important part of Social Studies for me is finding the connecting line between the events of a century ago to the issues we are facing today. Like I mentioned before, we have not reached the endpoint of this issue; the question of whose land we live on is still in discussion. Do we still remain in the assumption that the sheer fact that we occupy this land denotes ownership? The issue is complicated from both ends: during Early Canada and during our modern age. It still requires a bit of critical understanding to come to a point where we can begin to unravel it, and this article does a good job beginning to do so.