Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Terry Copp

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


This dissertation examines the impact of the Second World War on the image of the 'Indian' prevalent in English-Canada between 1930 and 1948. Traditionally, historical studies have assumed that the war formed a watershed in Canadian social, cultural and Aboriginal history: marking the end of the 'era of irrelevance' for Aboriginal people and creating a paradigm-shift in feelings about 'racial' tolerance and human rights. This study explores the shift in English-Canadian images of the 'Indian' from 1930 to 1948, as a way of testing the prevailing interpretation of the war as a major historical pivot in Canadian cultural constructions of the 'other' and in state-Aboriginal relations. The image developed by the Indian Affairs Branch (IAB) is treated separately from that evident in the public domain. The former constructed the 'Administrative Indian' in a hostile and derogatory manner, necessary to legitimise and rationalise the IAE's goal of assimilation. The public, by contrast, had the luxury to think about the First Nations, or not, as they wished. The result was an ambivalent dual image, which trivialised Aboriginal people and issues and helped Canadians manage collective guilt for the displacement and plight of the 'Indian'. The efforts to win the war and later to win the peace created acute pressure on images of the 'Indian'. While the IAB's disciplined discourse weathered the strain almost unchanged, the same cannot be said of the public discourse, which proved adept at incorporating new images into its existing mental framework as circumstances warranted. As the country entered the post-war period, Canadians wished to do right by the Indian', in appreciation for the symbolically important contributions of Aboriginal people to the national war effort_ The resulting parliamentary committee, which sat between 1946-1948, re-enshrined assimilation as the goal of Canadian Indian policy. Adherence to this policy was still based on an underlying certainty in English-Canadian society's superiority over that of the 'Indian', but it could no longer be defended on those grounds. In post-1945 Canada, assimilation was renewed and rationalised through a new faith in interventionist government, liberal-democratic principles and the promise of scientific social engineering.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season