The complex issue of indigenous heritage

Posted in Articles, Canada, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing, United States on 2017-01-10 19:09Z by Steven

The complex issue of indigenous heritage

The Toronto Star

Don Smith, Professor Emeritus of History
University of Calgary

Archie Belaney, famously known as Grey Owl until his dealth in 1938, is an example of the complex issue of indigenous identifcation. (TORONTO STAR ARCHIVES)

Acclaimed novelist Joseph Boyden faces controversy surrounding his heritage but there is a long history in North American of blurred lines.

The question of the indigenous identity of prize-winning novelist Joseph Boyden had raised great media attention. It is a complex issue.

Joseph-Louis Gill (1719-1798), one of the famous 18th century chiefs of the Abenaki First Nations, resident at Odanak, just west of Montreal, was “white.” But only in a biological sense, as both his parents had been captives adopted into Indian families and raised in Indian fashion.

Among the Red River Métis in the 19th century, the Métis patriot, André Nault (1830-1924), was born of French Canadian parents who had become fully integrated into the Red River Métis community in what is now southern Manitoba. The buffalo hunter and captain of the Métis stood by his first cousin Louis Riel in the Red River Resistance of 1869-70, serving in his provisional government. Three of Nault’s sons took part in the events of 1885 in Saskatchewan.

In Joseph Boyden’s case no evidence, to my knowledge, has emerged that he was raised in an indigenous community. He was not a Joseph-Louis Gill or André Nault. Instead, his Aboriginal connection relates to his distant indigenous ancestry on both his mother’s and father’s side. This enters into another realm entirely.

I have studied the life of Archie Belaney (1888-1938), the Canadian writer who presented himself as indigenous, as Grey Owl, the son of a Scot and an Apache woman. He died on April 13, 1938. The day after his death the Globe and Mail termed him, “the most famous of Canadian Indians.” Then, within just one week the story broke. It was revealed that he was actually born and raised in Hastings, England. His “racial” origins were a total fantasy…

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Long Lance

Posted in Biography, Canada, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing, Videos on 2011-07-27 04:42Z by Steven

Long Lance

National Film Board of Canada
Running Time: 00:55:00

Bernie Dichek, Director

Was he a black man, a white man, or an Indian chief? This documentary looks at legendary and fascinating impostor Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance. In the early 1900s, he garnered international acclaim as a soldier, journalist, writer, photographer, bon vivant and movie star. But despite his very public life, his origins remain a mystery. Based on a book by Donald Smith, this film outlines Long Lance’s almost unbelievable life story.

For more information, click here.

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The First Black Prairie Novel: Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance’s Autobiography and the Repression of Prairie Blackness

Posted in Articles, Canada, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing on 2011-06-30 02:16Z by Steven

The First Black Prairie Novel: Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance’s Autobiography and the Repression of Prairie Blackness

Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d’Ă©tudes canadiennes
Volume 45, Number 2 (Spring 2011)
pages 31-57
E-ISSN: 1911-0251; Print ISSN: 0021-9495
DOI: 10.1353/jcs.2011.0022

Karina Vernon, Assistant Professor of English
University of Toronto

This essay situates Chief Buffalo Child’s Long Lance: The Autobiography of a Blackfoot Indian Chief (1928) within the cultural context of its production, the anti-Black racial climate of the Canadian Prairies in the early part of the twentieth century, in order to analyze the textual repression of its author’s Blackness. Although the Autobiography has been discredited as a fraud because, as Donald B. Smith discovered, Long Lance was not in fact Blackfoot as the Autobiography claims, but “mixed blood” from North Carolina, this essay reclaims it as the first novel penned on the Prairies by a Black author, for it tells a true—more metaphorical and allegorical than factual—story about the desire on the part of displaced “new” world Blacks for Indigenous status and belonging. This essay examines the implications of claiming the Autobiography as the first Black prairie novel and explores how reading it as fiction rather than autobiography extends our understandings of “passing,” racial identification and transformation.

Cet article situe l’autobiographie Long Lance: The Autobiography of a Blackfoot Indian Chief (1928) du Chef Buffalo Child dans le contexte culturel de sa production—le climat racial anti-Noirs des Prairies canadiennes au dĂ©but du XXe siècle—afin d’analyser la rĂ©pression textuelle de son auteur noir. Donald B. Smith a par la suite considĂ©rĂ© cette autobiographie comme une imposture, ayant dĂ©couvert que Long Lance ne faisait pas partie de la confĂ©dĂ©ration des Pieds-Noirs, mais Ă©tait plutĂ´t un « sang-mĂŞlĂ© » de la Caroline du Nord. Cependant, l’auteur du prĂ©sent article considère cette autobiographie comme le premier roman Ă©crit dans les Prairies par un Noir puisqu’il raconte une histoire vraie—quoique plus mĂ©taphorique et allĂ©gorique que factuelle—du dĂ©sir des Noirs dĂ©placĂ©s du « Nouveau » Monde d’acquĂ©rir le statut d’indigène et d’appartenir Ă  leur monde. L’article examine les consĂ©quences de la classification de cette pseudo-autobiographie comme le premier roman des Prairies Ă©crit par un Noir et explore les manières dont sa lecture en tant qu’Ĺ“uvre de fiction plutĂ´t qu’autobiographie nous aide Ă  mieux comprendre le concept de « passage », d’identification et de transformation raciales.

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