Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Professor Susan Neylan

Advisor Role


Second Advisor

Professor Alison Mountz

Advisor Role



Despite being located within a relatively close geographic area, the Anishinaabeg of the eastern Great Lakes basin had different experiences of, and responses to, attempted and actual dispossession between 1820 and 1865. This research explores these experiences and the exercise of colonial power through the dispossession of six groups: the Lake Erie Anishinaabeg, the Walpole Anishinaabeg, the “American” Anishinaabeg who migrated into Upper Canada and Canada West, the Chippewa of Lakes Huron, Couchiching, and Simcoe, the Potaganasee Ojibwa of Drummond Island, and the Manitoulin Anishinaabeg. While eight themes weave their way through the cases, every case of attempted or actual dispossession involved a unique combination of themes, which demonstrates that dispossession was complex. Distilled from these eight themes, the three primary factors in dispossession were people, proximity, and pressure, which confirms that dispossession was complicated. Every attempt at dispossession was not successful but attempts often were repeated, which suggests that, while dispossession was not inevitable, colonization was inexorable. Iterative and cyclical attempts to dispossess indicate that dispossession was a process, not an event. The originality of the work is that it analyzes the dispossessions of six Anishinaabe groups using empirical data. The primary contribution of the work is synthesizing the differences and similarities among these Anishinaabe groups’ dispossession experiences. The significance of the work is that it advances our knowledge of specific examples of dispossession and of the relationship between these local instances of dispossession and broader aspects of colonialism and colonization. The findings challenge monolithic models of colonialism, and complicate ideas about colonization through emphasizing the particularities of time and place. This work illustrates the complexity of colonialism and connects colonial theories and colonialism in practice, confirming the value of engaging multiple colonial and post-colonial theories in order to increase our comprehension of colonial dispossession and the exercise of colonial power. The case studies illustrate one or more of these theories in sometimes surprising ways. In light of the contemporary observation that we are all “treaty people,” this work is a reminder that treaty-making or treaty promises were not the significant story in dispossession, but rather it was whether promises were honoured or disregarded. The aftermath of a real or imagined treaty best describes the Indigenous-settler relationship.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season