The work ethic as a technology of dispossession: Timothy Maton, ‘How Canadian Policy used the Protestant Work Ethic to Injure the Indigenous Peoples of the Northwest Plains Relationship to the Earth’, Journal of Multidisciplinary Research at Trent, 2, 1, 2020, pp. 199-214


Abstract: It’s only been a very short time since the occident began to think of religion as something distinct from the Commonwealth’s governing body. Likewise, to believe that Canada’s labor policy is somehow divorced from those roots, and to think in terms of a divide between political social ideas and religion would have been, until very recently, an audacious point of view. Therefore, the purpose of this essay, will be to look at how the political objectives of North Western Canada’s labor policies were derived from conceptions of work rooted in religious ideology. This essay argues that North Western Canada’s labor policies are inflected by an economy of knowledge that ideologically injures and challenges Indigenous people’s relationships to the earth using religiously defined ideas including the ubiquitous concept of the Protestant work ethic. The goal of this paper is to demonstrate how the contemporary conception of work became defined by the Apostolic Protestant work ethic expressed in various symbolic associations including the figure of the ox. This essay demonstrates why the metaphysical analogy associated with oxen is useful to weaponization of Apostolic notions of work; designed to destroy Indigenous people’s relationship to the earth. This paper draws upon historical evidence that shows that since ancient times, labor has been weaponized against earthly Indigenous lifeways. Central to this essay is how Canada’s North Western magistrate policies have weaponized the religious economy of knowledge called the Protestant work ethic.

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