fenn stewart on grey owl and the settler wilderness in saskatchewan


Fenn Stewart, ‘Grey Owl in the White Settler Wilderness: “Imaginary Indians” in Canadian Culture and Law’, Law, Culture and the Humanities (first published on October 8, 2014)

This article considers Grey Owl’s tenure in Saskatchewan’s Prince Albert National Park as a “telling instance” of the ways in which iconic Canadian wilderness spaces have been constructed in white settler culture and law – not only through the erasure of Indigenous people(s), but also through highly visible forms of cultural appropriation, including the installation of “imaginary Indians.” Placed in the context of the complex history of Treaty Six, the story of Grey Owl reveals how white settler culture and law have been constructed with reference to two “imaginary Indians”: the “Bolshevik Indian” and the “Park Ranger Indian.” The former, figured as a source of lawlessness and destruction, is erased from the terrain of the nation; the latter, represented in this case by Grey Owl, figures the “consent” of “Indians” to settler law, “naturalizes” Canadian sovereignty, and bestows upon the nation a heritage of “Indian” culture that it is otherwise felt to be lacking.

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