Saturday, July 16, 2005


I was talking with a friend this week about my M.A research and I mentioned that the bulk of my primary sources were contained in the Indian Affairs record group at the National Archives.

When I said this, my friend automatically assumed that I was referring to a division of Foreign Affairs that dealt with the country of India. It was not until a few moments later, as I began talking about nineteenth century Upper Canada, the state, and Aboriginal people, that my friend realized that when I had said "Indian Affairs" I was referring to the government's dealings with First Nations people.

My friend then remarked that not even ten years ago, upon hearing the word 'Indian' he would have been unsure if it referred to Indian nationals or First Nations people.

We both remarked that it was intersting to realize the change in language usuage over our short liftimes and that it was a positive development, if a small one.

Posted by Matthew @ 4:59 p.m.

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Hi Matt,
While I am happy to agree with your general premise, that it is positive that we as a people are moving toward a correct, less offensive trend in nomenclature, I wonder that it is a positive sign that we are forgetting the existence of linguistic possibilities from our past: should we forget (even in our most present consciousness) that not so long ago, the department of "Indian affairs" referred to the indiginous peoples of North America? I often find it sad that we forget even our most offensive pieces of history--it is our past, and the place from which we have come. To move into a space in which we can conveniently advance into the bright future of inoffensive progress makes me wonder how long before we forget why we "progressed" in the first place, and furthermore wonder what sorts of regression are going unmarked as we plunge unreflectingly forward.
This is not to say that I wish we resurrected our past bigotries, but simply that we remain at least linguistically, and hopefully historically aware of them. Ambiguity and the reflection it entails should never be sacrificed for anything, no matter how positive.

Posted by Anonymous Alan @ July 20, 2005 9:32 p.m. #
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