Excerpted from Whitey Don’t see that: The rising recognition of ‘white privilege’ in Western academia (PDF) by Momoko Price at The Ubyssey, November 2006:
Dominique Clement, a human rights historian at the University of Victoria, said researching the First Nations social movement during the 20th Century is a funny thing, because there are very few documents on the topic to research.
“First Nations is interesting. There’s very, very little written on First Nations human rights activism. There’s this weird period between 1910 and 1969 where First Nations were not terribly politically active.”
You might wonder why this might be the case. And unless you’re up-tospeed on graduate-level Canadian history, you probably won’t guess the real reason. It wasn’t simply because First Nations were poor, or displaced, or lacked support (though these reasons obviously contributed.) It was because Aboriginal activism was explicitly against federal law.
“In the early 20th Century, Aboriginal groups formed organisations to basically call for better conditions on reserves and call for education rights and things like that,” Clement explained. “Sometime in the early 1920s, the federal government essentially criminalised and put in the Indian Act that Aboriginal groups could not form political associations and they were also not allowed to litigate land claims…That lasted until about 1969.”
So until around 1970, less than 40 years ago, Aboriginal communities were not only legally ripped apart by abusive residential schooling systems, they were also legally prohibited from publicising or protesting their circumstances. Moreover, they were unable to fight for their own land.
It’s stains like these in the history of our cultural quilt that affect the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community today, but as Berg said about the nature of historical privilege and marginalisation, privilege to the privileged is nearly invisible, while marginalisation to the marginalised is glaring.
Clement, Baum, Bercuson and Berg— all prominent Canadian social scientists— agree that education
and awareness of our real history, with all the racism and injustice, is key to understanding how our
society works today. Because when it comes to race issues, the reason why things are ‘the way they are’
rarely, if ever, reflects solely what you think you see in front of you.