Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Faculty of Arts
This thesis critically examines the commemorative activities of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) from its creation in 1919 to its centennial celebrations in 2019. The HSMBC provides recommendations to the federal government regarding the designation of national historic sites, people, and events as being ‘nationally significant’ through commemorative plaques erected across the country. This thesis demonstrates how the HSMBC and both amateur and professional historians involved in its work have advanced the ongoing processes of settler colonialism by supporting the intellectual displacement of Indigenous histories through commemorative practices and through the public discourses associated with these. It further argues how definitions of ‘national significance’ have been actively constructed throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries to advance the objectives of the federal government and, more generally, colonial society.
Using Ontario as a case study, this thesis articulates how intellectual trends associated with Indigenous peoples have impacted the interpretation of Indigenous histories by the federal government, showcasing how individual historians on the HSMBC influenced these interpretations based on their lived experiences. The work of the HSMBC was never passively accepted by Indigenous peoples who not only challenged the narratives that were being presented as ‘nationally significant’ but also contested the central premises of commemoration within Western society. This was reflected through examples of Indigenous peoples supporting the commemoration of cultural landscapes, reinterpreting archaeological sites to show cultural and societal continuity, asserting the significance of oral histories as a method of conveying historical information, and decentralizing the importance of specific dates to recognize cyclical patterns as being meaningful within their communities. These interventions have not only reformed the work of the HSMBC and the realities of Canada’s commemorative landscape, but have also contested the principles of settler colonialism that have actively sought to erase the histories of Indigenous peoples.
Groat, Cody, "Always a Part of the Land: Settler Colonialism, Indigenous Histories, and the Commemoration of National Historic Sites, 1919- 2019" (2024). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 2616.
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