Settler colonial commodification targets entire lifeworlds: Emily Bagshaw, The Commodification of Indigeneity as a Tool for Ongoing Settler Colonization in Canada, MA dissertation, Brock University, 2023


Abstract: The initial settler colonization of Canada involved the implementation of the settler colonial Doctrine of Discovery on Indigenous lands to make them ‘open’ for white settlement and ownership, along with capitalism and heteropatriarchy to assert white settler dominance over Indigenous lands, cultures, and bodies. Although it has been over 500 years since first contact between white Europeans and Indigenous peoples in Canada, the ideologies that paved the way for white settlement in Canada are continually reproduced through social institutions, such as the legal system, to maintain settler domination. This thesis explicates the connections between settler colonialism, capitalism, and heteropatriarchy within Saskatchewan and Canadian law to analyze the commodification of Indigeneity as a tool for ongoing settler colonization. Grounded in a Métis feminist theoretical framework, I investigate how and why The Heritage Property Act (1979-80) steals and commodifies Indigenous cultural artifacts for settler government profit. Through a critical literature review, case study of the above-mentioned act, and Métis dreamwork, I identify two themes: the Settler Timeline and the Commodification of Indigeneity. Importantly, this thesis recognizes that many Indigenous individual and community identities evolve through links between the past and present, which Indigenous peoples reflect on to move into a good future. As such, cultural artifacts are paramount to cultural identity and continuity within Indigenous nations and communities. The findings of this thesis reveal that the ongoing settler conceptualization of Indigenous peoples as uncivil epistemically justifies the commodification of Indigenous cultural artifacts. This thesis also suggests that, just as decolonization within the settler colonial context necessarily requires the repatriation of all lands, it also requires the repatriation of all stolen and commodified Indigenous cultural artifacts.

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