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Ethnohistory

More than the Sum of Our Rebellions:


Mtis Histories beyond Batoche
Chris Andersen, University of Alberta

Abstract. Anchored in public memory discussions most recently inaugurated by


Pierre Noras distinction between sites and environments of memory, this
article juxtaposes the official telling of Mtis history in national historic sites (in
this case, the Batoche National Historic Site in Batoche, Saskatchewan, located in
western Canada) with that of more vernacular histories rooted in its postrebellion
era. Who are the Mtis of the Batoche National Historic Site? When does their history end at Batoche and why? This article seeks to explore Mtis extended families
and communities distinctive and complex forms of identity that, while rooted in
nineteenth-century experiences, share little in common with narratives produced
in official celebratory practices. What does more recent, vernacular history reveal
about the simplistic correlations often drawn between historical events and contemporary Mtis identities and issues, and how can such vernacular history help
us to reconceive Mtis identity rooted not in nineteenth-century difference but in
twentieth-century density?

In Canada, more than 950 sites have been declared to be of national historical significance. While this has included a plethora of places, persons, and
events, in the 1990s the Ministry of Canadian Heritage formally stated a
specific commitment to increase the commemoration of aboriginal histories (formalizing practices that had begun in the 1970s) and has included
within this context artifacts and narratives specific to Mtis history. Yet the
national narratives of colonial nation-states like those in Canada and elsewhere tend to celebrate only selected elements of the past and in a manner designed not merely to reflect but to embed and reaffirm specific ideas
about culture, power, and identity into the fabric of an imagined community.1 Counternarratives, particularly indigenous ones, are by their very
Ethnohistory 61:4 (Fall 2014)DOI 10.1215/00141801-2717795
Copyright 2014 by American Society for Ethnohistory

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nature discordant and conflicting. If mentioned at all, they are accorded


a much-diminished role, often pigeonholed into officially sanctioned celebratory narratives. These dynamics have conspired to produce an official
commemorative history landscape that solidifies rather than challenges official stories about Canadas past by emphasizing exotic, often distantly historical aspects of indigenous societies rather than presenting them in their
complex modernity.
In recent years, indigenous peoples and their allies have labored diligently to produce historical representations less celebratory of the nation-
state and its past and more cognizant of complex, on-the-ground realities that marked historical interrelations between settler and indigenous
societies.2 While this labor remains an important interruptive to the discursive and material terrain within which colonial nationalism is (re)constructed, it is tacitly anchored in a troubling notion: namely, that while
official sites paint an incomplete or inaccurate picture of the history that
is presented, this can be rectified by the increased presence of indigenous
perspectives; or, equally troubling, that complicating those historical landscapes can alter broader stereotypes circulating in contemporary society.
For example, James Clifford and others have employed Mary Louise Pratts
idea of a contact zone to explain how spaces of cultural representation
like museums and national historic sites3can be spaces of mutual recognition rather than mere manifestations of colonial power.4
In this article I argue that while constituting an important corrective to
the simplistic and acontextual distortions of indigenous history present at
many commemorative sites, the coproduction literature fails to sufficiently
emphasize the extent to which the very fabric of official narratives produces
what Roxanne Caftanzoglou refers to as an allochronic incorporation
that, in mummifying Mtis community in the strands of Canadian commemorative fabric, shortchanges the complexity, resistance, adaptation,
and resilience of indigenous nations and their communities in the years
(sometimes centuries) following the historical locales they emphasize.5 As
such, simply complicating the historical eras emphasized in official commemorative contexts like those of national historic sites does little to fray
the edges of this broader fabric. What are required, additionally, are histories that do not presuppose the legitimacy of the contexts within which official histories commemorate.
It is in this context, then, that the article is divided into three parts.
Part 1 situates the role of official commemoration in the colonial production
of national memory, in particular how it largely (though never completely)
limits the time frames within which indigenous history is recounted. I begin
by emphasizing the constitutive power of official authority (especially that

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of state institutions) in any discussion of national memory. I then more specifically discuss Parks Canadas Commemorative Integrity Statement,
a document that details the specific contexts within which it renders history nationally important and therefore eligible for official commemoration. Part 2 then explores Mtis history at the Batoche national historic
site, a pillar of Mtis national memory, in the context of its nationally
commemorative integrity. Finally, and taking as an example a vignette
from my own family, the article presents an argument for how we can (and
should) counter the kinds of indigenous histories currently in commemorative vogue with a more embodied, more regionally/locally attentive, and
more recent historyemphasizing, in other words, our modernity. We
begin, however, where much indigenous memory nationally endsits official commemoration.
Part 1: Commemorative Integrity and
Canadian National History
Any discussion of national history must include the power of modern state
authority, particularly its seemingly singular ability to legitimize as obvious
or natural what are in fact historical and thus ultimately arbitrary visions of
the world. That is, official authority like that of state agencies possesses a
nearly unparalleled power to make people see and believe, to get them to
know and recognize, to impose the legitimate divisions of the social world
and, thereby, to make and unmake groups.6 If social reality congeals and
calcifies in the wake of such classification struggles, this power to classify proves fundamental to political struggle. Categoriesespecially those
ordained by official authoritiesconstruct social reality as much as they
express it. In nation-states like Canada, this overwhelmingly takes the form
of nationalist narrativization.
National identities like those produced in official commemorative
contexts work, in this sense, to produce and solidify particular claims to a
cultural unity and homogeneity (what Benedict Anderson, Ernest Gellner,
and Eric Hobsbawm, respectively, referred to as a common culture, including the perception of common roots and territory along with their associated symbols).7 That is, they produce powerfulbut otherwise arbitrary
narrations of nation, fundamentally shaping how we understand the social
world.8 Cultural studies theorist Stuart Hall argues that state institutions
act centrifugally to (re)produce sentiments and institutions of unity, homogeneity, and commonality (perhaps ironically) by suturing together the various forms of differences/hierarchies (sex, race, sexual orientation, etc.).9
Among the most powerful devices at the disposal of state agencies is

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their ability to shape the contours of national memory. In their own distinctive ways, museums, national historic sites, public television, and the like
each embed celebratory and highly selective narratives about culture and
identity that reproduce specific visions of nationness. Such pasts become
usable insofar as they reaffirm not only the moral and material progress of
the nation but (in a Canadian context) its equality and tolerance of diversity as well.10 In the foreword to the 2000 Batoche National Historic Site
Management Plan, for example, Minister of Heritage Sheila Copps writes,
National historic sites represent a means for Canadians to learn and share
the story of our country. As places where we can commemorate our history
and our diverse heritage, they contribute to an understanding and collective
sense of Canadas national identity.11
It is, however, one thing to talk abstractly about the importance of
commemoration to nation-states and quite another to explore the complex mechanisms through which the power of state forms is refracted in
commemorative spaces (perhaps unsurprisingly, such processes are highly
nationally vernacular). In Canada, the major body responsible for official
commemoration is the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada
(HSMBC), which exists under the auspices of Parks Canada (though the
latter oversees only a relatively small proportion of the other). To earn a
national designation, a place (archeological site, structure, building or
group of buildings, district or cultural landscape) must be associated with
a nationally significant aspect of Canadian history; a person may be designated of national historic significance if that person individually or as the
representative of a group made an outstanding and lasting contribution to
Canadian history; and finally, an event may be designated of national historic significance if it represents a defining action, episode, movement, or
experience in Canadian history.12
Insofar as indigenous presence has long been positioned as one of the
many natural obstacles to be overcome in the early growth of Canada, the
indigenous presence in Canadas Story is commemorated to the extent
that it can be sutured into expansionist, teleological narratives.13 David
Neufeld suggests, more specifically, that such a narrative emphasizes the
heritage of trans-Atlantic cultural ties to western Europe, the geography
of the country, and the political history that established its boundaries,
thus both justifying the countrys existence and underlining its differences
from the United States.14 As I explain next, this commemorative ideal has
impacted Mtis history in distinctive ways that demonstrate the enunciative
poverty mentioned above.

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Part 2: Mtis History at Batoche


The Mtis, one of three indigenous peoples recognized in Canadas constitution, are caught on the horns of two (sometimes competing) discourses
that of nationalism and that of racialization. Racialization tends to depict
Mtis identity in terms of an essential mixedness due largely to our postcontact origins and apparently obvious mixed indigenous and nonindigenous ancestry. More nationally, Mtis identity is imagined in terms of the
historical symbols, people, places, and events that produced our historical
peoplehood.15
In conceiving Mtis history nationally, we could do worse than to situate (a) ground zero of its memory in Batoche, Saskatchewan. Until the spring
of 1885, Batoche was a small and relatively recently formed village situated
on the picturesque banks of what is now called the South Saskatchewan
River and located in territories previously long held (and now shared) by
various tribal peoples. During that year, Mtis militia went to war, such as
it was, against the Canadian state, such as it was. A long and complicated
history contextualizes this eventual conflictknown to Canadian historians as the North West Uprisingbut for brevitys sake, I will synopsize:
the Mtis were reacting to a broad replacement of a centuries-old fur trade
political economy with an emerging agrarian-based one, along with the
incommensurable conceptions and use of land and racialized hierarchies
of life that accompanied the change. As they were increasingly crowded in
their territories by the massive influx of immigrants from Europe, and following a litany of the Canadian governments broken promises, bad faith,
and inaction, the Mtis took up arms.16
As conflicts go, the North West Uprising was a tiny bump on the massive landscape of nineteenth-century global colonialism. Following several
successful skirmishes against Canadian armed forces in the spring of 1885,
poor military tactics and an eventual lack of ammunition (not to mention
clerical goodwill) hastened our military demise. The Battle of Batoche constituted the final nail in our collective coffin, inaugurating our economic and
political destruction and precipitating a large-scale diaspora of Mtis, often
through kin networks, to all points of the compass.17
Half a century later, in 1923, Batoche was first designated as a national
historic site through the placement of a plaque to commemorate its location
in the armed conflict between the Mtis and Canadian forces half a century
earlier. In the 1950s, this was broadened to include discussion on the Mtis
community at Batoche. In the 1970s, it was recognized for its geographic
position as part of the Carlton Trail (a major freight line to the region); the
designation was broadened again in the 1980s to note the plethora of agri-

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cultural patterns characterizing early prairie agrarian labor within which


the Mtis distinctive river long lot system was recognized. In addition,
Batoche was recognized for its role in the opening of the Canadian west,
and, most recently, the federal government allocated $50,000 to the site for
commemoration of Mtis veterans killed in previous wars.18
Today, visitors to the Batoche national historic site are invited to interact with on-site interpreters and to immerse themselves in (need it be said,
historical) Mtis culture. Children in particular are invited to join the
North West Field Force that fought the Mtis in 1885, to play dress up
with the historical interpreters, and to help build a Red River framed
structure (a style of historical Mtis architecture). The sites cultural
resourcesthat is, resources used to frame Mtis and Canadian identities
and motivationsinclude a historic church and rectory that highlight the
role of the church in Mtis life during the period; a period-specific Mtis
farm; a North West Field Force camp; examples of a Mtis river lot farm
system; Mtis and North West force rifle pits; and a cemetery with a monument to the mass grave into which Mtis soldiers who died during the battle
were tossed by Canadian troops.19
What is interesting about the Batoche National Historic Site is not the
sanitization of its history or the bending of its narratives to the commemorative integrity principles by which all national historic sites in Canada must
abide. Rather, the Batoche site is located adjacent to the contemporary
Mtis community of Batoche,20 which shares little horizon, despite its geographic proximity, with National Historic Site (NHS) depictions. Indeed,
Mtis who continued to live in the area following the uprisingas many
didbecame officially, if ironically, undead, their lives and their authenticity as Mtis fading into a historical horizon painted over by the broad
strokes of Canadas commemorative brush.21
We will situate these insights more theoretically in a moment, but for
now, let me admit that these observations about commemorative history
are obviousbanal, even. Many might legitimately suggest that blaming
official commemorative venues for failing to present a sufficiently complex understanding of indigenous history is like blaming cartoon characters
for not looking like real people. Nonetheless, national historic sites produce a set of dispositions and practicesin an extremely powerful for(u)m
of historical knowledge productionthat seek the truth of Mtis history
in its material and narrative complicity to Canadas. Given the power of
national historic sites like Batoche to deeply shape public perceptions about
Mtis identity (with thousands of visitors every year), sites of memory do
not simply exist where environments of memory once did (as Pierre Nora
once suggested);22 rather, on an unequal playing field of resource distribu-

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tion within the fieldand on the prevailing winds of racialized public perception outside itthey muscle out competing narratives of Mtis identity
altogether. As I explain in the final section, despite the increased presence of
indigenous voices at National Historic Sites, the historical knowledge produced in such venues minimizes the modernity of Mtis society and indigenous society more broadly.
Part 3: Mtis Modernities, a Social History
The violence of historical abstraction that characterizes official histories
on indigenous social relations like those of the Mtis has created a historical black hole that, with several notable exceptions, spans nearly half
a century.23 Importantly, however, I am not arguing that the twentieth-
century histories of Mtis communities are more authentic or real than
those emphasized at national historic sites (as though that were possible or
desirable) but rather that they complicate, contextualize, and extend them.
By exploring the twentieth century and by being attentive to what Brendan
Hokowhitu has referred to as the Indigeneity of immediacy and Philip J.
Deloria has termed Indians in unexpected places, we can glean additional
information that better marks the fractured and contradictory processes
of co-optation and contestation within which Mtis families and communities negotiated their way in the changing political economy of the Canadian nation-state.24 Such subsequent histories are largely absent from more
formal, site-based accounts of Mtis history and culture like those found
at Batoche.
My critique of the Batoche NHS is not an empirical one, then (i.e.,
that its depictions of Mtis life during that time and place are inaccurate,
though they may be).25 Rather, my criticism is more ontological, insofar as
national historic site visitors are unlikely to recognize the partiality of the
repertoire of images and narratives about Mtis identity to one site, one era,
and one community. In this final section, I will use examples from my own
Mtis family, the Arcands. Though wrought by the events of 1885, our subsequent experiences and social relations are in no way reducible to them.
Thinking beyond Batoche and beyond 1885, how can we conceive of Mtis
histories in ways that emphasize a greater densitywhat Clifford Geertz
might in another context refer to as thick descriptionthat accounts for
near history as well as far?26 To coin a phrase, how might we produce
a more conceptually three-dimensional Mtis history? The beginnings of
an answer, at least for me, came out of the ashes of my mom and kokums
(grandmothers) passing in the fall of 2007 (see fig. 1).

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Figure 1. Kokum in front of the car

From Lieux to Milieux of Memory


In October 2007, my kokum passed away suddenly of a heart attack at
82 or 83 years of age (her exact age is unclear, as no one is certain whether
she was baptized when she was born or whether, working their trapline,
my great grandparents waited until the following spring to see a priest).
There are now more than a hundred of us in our immediate family, and
nearly all attended the funeral. Following the wake, the funeral, and the
church lunch, several of us drove out to the old farmstead in the parkland
region of Saskatchewan,27 where my mushum (grandfather) and kokum had
moved in the 1930s after being burned out of their squatter homestead by
white farmers while away harvesting. Kokum, who had lived at the farm-

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stead for more than half a century following her arrival to work as a cook
for mushum (whom she eventually married), had moved into town years
earlier, succumbing to the gout and arthritis that left her unable to walk
or chop wood, two aspects vital to living in a farmhouse with no running
water, indoor plumbing, or central heating and with little insulation.
The thing you need to understand about my kokum is that she was an
unrepentant pack rat. In digging through the mountain of stuff she kept
neatly packed away in the back room of the farmhouse, we came across old
records; matchboxes full of everything but matches; baking powder tins full
of nails, thimbles, used stamps, and, in one instance, baking powder; and
boxes full of what might charitably be called keepsakes. Sitting in kokums
front room and digging through a large tobacco tin, I came across a series
of photograph negatives of a kind I had never encountered before. Trying
my luck at several mass development kiosks, I finally had them developed,
scanned, and digitized at a specialty shop. The images they produced were
at once startling and quotidian.
The social relations and material culture these photographs captured revealed a density of Mtis social relations that shared little in common with the narrow nineteenth-century understandings of Mtis identity
emphasized at the Batoche National Historic Site28 (or, for that matter, with
much of conventional Mtis historiography). Instead, these images offered
a vibrant and, given the number of people in the photographs no longer with
us, poignant look into the life of what was by all accounts an utterly typical
Mtis family of the Parkland region of Saskatchewan between the 1940s
and 1960s. That is, the northern parkland region of these pictures bore witness to the emergence of distinctive and complex forms of Mtis identity
and memory constituted not in the well-known events of the nineteenth
century but in equally constitutiveif less well-documentedtwentieth-
century social relations. As such, their very presence serves to contextualize
formal/official narratives of Mtis history with more recentand vernacularly rootedMtis history.
What these images offer, in other words, is a vernacular social history
of Mtis life: an investigation of what James Opp and John Walsh have
termed the home, work, and play aspects of social history29that
is, the social organization and family life, customs and traditions, social
issues, religion, relations with First Nations and whites, labor opportunities, womens positions, and culture, to name but a few.30 These images
allow us to better understand the complex impact of Canadas evolving
modernity on Mtis individuals, families, and communities as we adapted
to/became embedded in/resisted the changing economic and cultural pitch
of Canadian societyand the manner in which we impacted Canadas own

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Figure 2. Big John

modernity. What did it mean to be Mtis in the post-WWII twentieth century? What did our everyday experiences comprise? What practices, strategies, and material culture shaped self and other integral to our articulations
of identity? How were broader government policiesand softer cultural
forms (like popular culture)manifested in the various domains of social
life, and how were these incorporated and/or resisted by Mtis? (see fig. 2).
Much of the existing discussion pertaining to everyday-life kinds of
issues comes not from scholarly research but rather in the context of personal narrative and reminiscence in the form of biographies and autobiographies of Mtis people and communities31 or government-sponsored socioeconomic surveys.32 While fascinating in their own right, neither of these

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literatures offers much in the way of analysis that links subjective experiences to structural contexts and the changing political economies of the
region and era. Nonetheless, these modalities of historical memory bring
to light the powerful forces being brought to bear on Mtis communities,
whether in terms of poverty, racism (face-to-face as well as structural), or
economic pursuits caught on the cusp of fading fur trade economies, agricultural pursuits, and growing resource-extraction industries such as logging, mining, and commercial fishing.
The vernacularity of these (auto)biographies notwithstanding,
abstracted scholarly arguments about the impacts of colonialismeven
increasingly agentic ones produced in the wake of the presence of indigenous
voices at commemorative venuesdo little to reveal the complex contexts
within which agency and structure exist in their geographic and sociopolitical contexts throughout arguably the most constitutively powerful century
in human history. In light of this limitation, future research must seek to
better embed the experiences of Mtis communities in twentieth-century
events and experiences by situating them in light of broad macrostructural
changes occurring globally, nationally, provincially, and regionally, in both
the interwar and post-WWII eras. Certainly, aboriginal communities and
whites, and Mtis and First Nations, experienced these disruptions and
continuities differently. Nonetheless, all were embedded, in ways distinctive
to place and time, in the same political economies of an evolving Canadian
nation-state. This is as true for the early and interwar years of the twentieth century as for the post-WWII era. Little can be explored through narrative formats that require their suturing to larger narratives of the Canadian
nation-state and its histories.
Conclusion
The article began with a discussion of the constitutive power of state forms
in the (re)production of narratives of nationalism and the powerful role
played by commemorative history in this context. In Canada, official commemoration is powerfully contextualized by Canadas commemorative
integrity statement, which sets out criteria and boundaries for the recognition of indigenous history in the context of the Canadian nation-state and
its development. Thus I am more cautious than Laura Peers, in particular,
who has argued that the inclusion of indigenous voices in national historic
site contexts pose[s] fundamental challenges to the central messages that
these places communicate about the past.33 I certainly agree with her that
the addition of native interpreters to historical reconstruction sites can produce teachable moments in indigenous/nonindigenous interactions, but

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I am less optimistic about their ability to interrupt hegemonic stereotypes


about indigenous authenticity. One of the truisms of colonialism is that
nonindigenous people can choose when and how they have relationships
with indigenous peoplesand no matter how complicated or balanced the
historical narratives present at such locales, their edges are still produced in
the shadow of Canadas commemorative ideals.
The point of this realization, however, is not to critique the valuable
labor undertaken by indigenous communities to provide more attentive historiographies at official commemorative venues. Rather, my point that such
presence and inputparticularly at national historic siteswill rarely be
enough to interrupt larger dominant discourses in the manner Peers hopes
they will: indigenous people rarely control the central message around
which official commemorative narratives are wrapped. Mtis history like
that at Batochetethered to the events of 1885pays little attention to the
evolving and constitutive power of Canadian state forms as they impacted
and shaped Mtis communities in the twentieth century and the agentic
contexts within which such power was played out in local contexts.
As it stands, the Batoche national historic site (used here as an exemplar of larger colonial social relations) presents unnecessarily abstracted
and disembodied portraits of Mtis community and identity. What is
required instead (or in addition) is a history from below. Undertaken in
a Mtis historical context, this means a history in between: between the
nineteenth and twenty-first centuries, of course, but also between structure and agency; between the local, the regional, and the global; between
indigenous peoples and whites; and between commemorative, scholarly,
and community histories. Failure to do so leaves us explaining twenty-first-
century Mtis social relations by reference to nineteenth-century events
and their immediate aftermath, as though the twentieth centurywhich
bore witness to some of the most profound ruptures in social relations ever
experiencedhad never happened.
Notes
This article is part of a Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada
funded Insight grant.
1 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread
of Nationalism (New York, 1991).
2 For a sample of this literature, see Karen Cooper, Spirited Encounters: American Indians Protest Museum Policies and Practices (Lanham, MD, 2008); Clara
Sue Kidwell and Ann Marie Plane, Representing Native American History,
Public Historian 18, no. 4 (1996): 918; Mary Lawlor, Public Native America:
Tribal Self-Representation in Museums, Powwows, and Casinos (New Brunswick,

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NJ, 2006); Ruth Phillips, Re-placing Objects: Historical Practices for the Second Museum Age, Canadian Historical Review 86, no. 1 (2005): 83110; Laura
Peers, Playing Ourselves: Interpreting Native Histories at Historic Reconstructions
(Lanham, MD, 2007); and Laura Peers and Alison Brown, Museums and Source
Communities: A Routledge Reader (London, 2003).
3 Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London,
1992). Conflating sites of commemorationsuch as, for example, museums and
historic sitesis fraught. For my purposes especially, while they often engage
in similar kinds of dynamics with indigenous communities and while the narratives they generate are similarly prestigious (see Peers, Playing Ourselves, xvii),
the distinctive internal dynamics and investments of their agents nevertheless
suggest caution in any comparison.
4 James Clifford, Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century
(Cambridge, 1997); Pratt, Imperial Eyes.
5 Roxanne Caftanzoglou, The Sacred Rock and the Profane Settlement: Place,
Memory, and Identity under the Acropolis, Oral History 28, no. 1 (2000): 47.
6 Pierre Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power, trans. Gino Raymond and
Matthew Adamson (Cambridge, 1992), 221; emphasis removed.
7 Anderson, Imagined Communities; Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism
(Ithaca, 1983); Eric Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme,
Myth, Reality (Cambridge, 1990).
8 Homi Bhabha, Introduction: Narrating the Nation, in Nation and Narration,
ed. Homi Bhabha (London, 1990), 17.
9 Stuart Hall, The Question of Cultural Identity, in Modernity: An Introduction to Modern Societies, ed. Stuart Hall, David Held, Don Hubert, and Kenneth
Thompson (Cambridge, 1995), 595634.
10 See Eva Mackey, The House of Difference: Cultural Politics and National Identity
in Canada (Toronto, 2002).
11 Parks Canada, Batoche National Historic Site of Canada Management Plan
(Ottawa, 2000), i, available at www.pc.gc.ca/APPS/CP-NR/release_e.asp?bgid
=321&andor1=bg.
12 HSMBC (Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada), Criteria General
Guidelines Specific Guidelines for Evaluating Subjects of Potential National Historic Significance (Ottawa, 2008), 3. For discussion of the history of the HSMBC,
see Christopher Taylor, Negotiating the Past: The Making of Canadas National
Historic Parks and Sites (Montreal, 1990); and Yves Pelletier, The Politics of
Selection: The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and the Imperial
Commemoration of Canadian History 19191950, Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 17, no. 1 (2006): 12550.
13 See David Neufeld, Ethics in the Practice of Public History with Aboriginal
Communities, The Public Historian 28, no. 1 (2006): 11721; and David Neufeld, Parks Canada, the Commemoration of Canada, and Northern Aboriginal Oral History, in Oral History and Public Memories, ed. Paula Hamilton and
Linda Shopes (Philadelphia, 2008), 730. Additionally, in Playing Ourselves,
Laura Peers makes the important point that commemorative ideals may only be
manifested in the context of the day-to-day pragmatics of managing a national
historic site (including budgets, personnel, etc.). For example, Batoches management plan makes explicit reference to incorporating local landscape into the
sites commemorative heritage as well as conveying the many voices of history

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to account for differing viewpoints on the same event (Parks Canada, Batoche),
part of the mid-1980s attempt by HSMBC to balance historical narratives at
national historic sites (see Neufeld, Parks Canada, 8). The Batoche management plan incorporates local indigenous voices in its discussion of historical
aspects deemed relevant as well as the decision to create or maintain local natural
resources rather than, for example, another (equally arbitrary/relevant) feature
of history that costs more or does not fit within management criteria.
14 See Neufeld, Parks Canada, 7.
15 See Chris Andersen, From Nation to Population: The Racialization of Mtis
in the Canadian Census, Nations and Nationalism 14, no. 2 (2008): 34768;
and Chris Andersen, Moya Tipimsook (The People Who Arent Their Own
Bosses): Racialization and the Misrecognition of Mtis in Upper Great Lakes
Ethnohistory, Ethnohistory 58, no. 1 (2011): 3763.
16 For these broad changes in social relations, see Bob Beal and Rod Mcleod, Prairie Fire: The 1885 North-West Rebellion (Edmonton, AB, 1984).
17 For a detailed account of the conflicts themselves, see Walter Hildebrante, Battle
of Batoche: Entrenched Small Warfare and the Entrenched Metis (Ottawa, 1985).
18 Parks Canada, Batoche, 1; Memorial in Batoche to Honour Mtis Veterans,
CBC News, 23 July 2011, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/story/2011
/07/23/batoche-metis-spoons.html.
19 Batoche National Historic Site, www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/sk/batoche/index
.aspx (accessed 9 May 2014).
20 This should not be confused with the village of Batoche, which eventually diminished in the generations following the North West Uprising. For a discussion
of this community following 1885, see Diane P. Payment, The Free PeopleLes
Gens Libres: A History of the Mtis Community of Batoche, Saskatchewan (Calgary, 2009).
21 Importantly, this is complicated by the presence of aboriginal voices in the creation and contours of the Batoche NHSthat is, this cannot be written off as a
simple reflection of Canadian colonialism.
22 Pierre Nora, Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Memoire, Representations 26 (1989): 725.
23 For historical abstraction, see Derek Sayer, The Violence of Abstraction: The Analytic Foundations of Historical Materialism (London, 1987); for the black hole,
see Heather Devine, The People Who Own Themselves (Calgary, AB, 2004);
Nathalie Kermoal, Missing from History: The Economic, Social, and Political
Roles of Mtis Women of the Mackenzie Basin 17901990, in Picking Up the
Threads: Mtis History in the Mackenzie Basin, ed. Mtis Heritage Association
of the Northwest Territories (Yellowknife, NT, 1998), 13769; Payment, Free
People; and, despite himself, Marcel Giraud, The Mtis of the Canadian West,
vol. 1, trans. George Woodcock (Edmonton, AB, 1986).

24 Brendan Hokowhitu, Indigenous Existentialism and the Body, Cultural
Studies Review 15, no. 2 (2010): 10118; Philip J. Deloria, Indians in Unexpected
Places (Lawrence, 2004).
25 For example, in his review of the Batoche NHS, University of Saskatchewan historian Keith Thor Carlson argues that the principal narratives emphasized tend
to absolve mainstream Canadian society of its historic and ongoing complicity
in the marginalization of Mtis people and the alienation of Mtis land and
resources. Keith Thor Carlson, Colonialist Apology and the Batoche National

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Historical Site Multi-media Presentation, Public Historian 31, no. 1 (2008):


12024.
26 Clifford Geertz, Interpretation of Cultures (New York, 1973), 6. On density, see
Chris Andersen, Critical Indigenous Studies: From Difference to Density,
Cultural Studies Review 15, no. 2 (2009): 97115.
27 Located north of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, the parkland is a broad boreal
forest fringe region characterized by a mixed landscape of farmland and small
forest tracts that gave rise to a distinct mixed economy of logging, farming,
hunting, fishing, vegetation harvesting, and wage laboring for white farmers.
28 Batoche has recently undertaken a massive, multimillion-dollar renovation of
the site. Among the newly added features is a startlingly poignant Mtis art
exhibit featuring the art of more than twenty Mtis artists. While this exhibit
certainly offers an alternative history to that presented in other parts of the site,
its astonishing complexity notwithstanding, it has seemingly traded a historical
difference for an aesthetic one. Nonetheless, my argument here should not be
seen as a critique of the tremendous labor undertaken at the Batoche NHS
which I regard as among the finest examples of incorporating indigenous voices
into an official commemorative contextbut rather as the perhaps inevitable
effect of the enunciative fabric that binds the edges of conversations and manifestations of history in such venues.
29 James Opp and John Walsh, Home, Work, and Play (Oxford, 2010).
30 See Payment, Free People.
31 Herb Belcourt, Walking in the Woods: a Mtis Journey (Victoria, 2006); Maria
Campbell, Halfbreed (Toronto, 1973); Leah Dorian, Remembrances: Interviews
with Mtis Veterans (Saskatoon, SK, 1997).
32 Helen Buckley, The Indians and Mtis of Northern Saskatchewan: A Report on Economic and Social Development (Saskatoon, SK, 1963); Jean Lagass, The People of
Indian Ancestry in Manitoba (Winnipeg, MB, 1959); Vic Valentine, Some Problems of the Mtis of Northern Saskatchewan (Toronto, 1953); Vic Valentine, The
Metis of Northern Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, SK, 1955).
33 Peers, Playing Ourselves, xxi.

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