Ethics

Vancouver’s 2016 Colonization of the British Columbia Interior, Illustrated

Note: Since this article was written, Canadian Art has corrected its geography, and now describes its outpost, correctly, as in the Interior. That is welcome. The critique of elite privilege is still worth considering. I leave the article, in case someone runs across the print magazine and wishes to consider a different point of view. And so we begin…

~

Looks innocuous, doesn’t it. Such an exquisitely designed magazine from a liberal democracy that has long outgrown its colonial past. art

Well, looks deceive. This is a raucously colonial issue, so let’s have a look. First the big picture.

canada-relief-map

That’s the land of the beavers. The Okanagan is off to the left. Here’s the left. The Okanagan is in the red oval.bcok

Here’s another look at that, the traditional territory of the Syilx (aka Okanogan) people:

syilx

Note that the upper part of this larger oval is, well, not Okanagan. There’s a reason for that: it’s Secwepemc. To say it was Okanagan would be like saying France is Germany. People,

That would be a bad idea.

Here’s another view, this one from the Okanagan Basin Water Board. It’s about 1/10 the size of the traditional territory above. This is today’s Okanagan — to all of its 400,000 “Canadian” residents.

shim

I say “Canadian” because Canadian Art Magazine has other ideas.

okout1

What you’re looking at is the opening of an article with the viewpoint of a coastal city called Vancouver, 500 kilometres from the Okanagan. Accordingly, it is article about a house. I t shifts Vancouver aesthetics to a place some 700 kilometres from Vancouver, give or take, Heffley Louis Creek, which is under the red marker in the upper middle of the image below, as maps put it. Notice that it’s 200 kilometres of driving from the furthest extension of the Okanagan (the red oval).

oknot

200 kilometres is the distance between Canada’s eastern capital, Ottawa, and Canada’s major cultural city, french Montreal. If anyone were to suggest that Montreal culture is Ottawa culture, the province of Quebec would immediately secede from Canada. However, for some incomprehensible reason, this article can suggest, with a straight face, in a national magazine, that not only is imposing Vancouver culture on Secwepemc territory a good thing. This is ugly colonial stuff.

the lie

It is also the suggestion by default that the nearly 250-year-old pre-European treaty between the Syilx of the Okanagan and the Secwepemc to the north and west is null and void, because to this article it’s all the same high country, yet bizarrely without a connection to the Okanagan watershed, or the Columbia Watershed of which it’s a part, and with an entirely different climate and history. If you were ever tempted to think that Canada is a post-colonial country,  please stop. Colonialism and elite privilege are going strong, and this is what it looks like. Ah, but maybe the art is exquisite and new! Yes, maybe. Have a look:

hut

“Back-to-the-landers” built thousands of structures like this here 40 and 50 years ago. The only difference is that they wanted to become a part of the place. The new folks haven’t even bothered to find out where they are. I wish they’d take their art back to their own country. Otherwise, look for the alternative soon: Vancouver: the Okanagan’s newest wine-growing district. A lot of houses will have to be levelled, at 1,000,000-3,000,000 dollars each, but it can’t be helped. They’re going to be in the way, but  don’t worry:

the lie

Cute. Vancouver is delivered to the Interior to teach the Interior that it is not Vancouver? Isn’t that self-contradictory?

9 replies »

  1. This is a discouraging read early in the morning. I’m grateful that someone is raising the flag, Harold. Sadly, it’s not just restricted to the O/O … so many places are under attack. Our small rural community was able to stop several “urban” developments but it’s only a matter of time. Too many people with skewed ideas.

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  2. Thanks for the geography lesson. As with any new experience, it takes time to learn the parameters, borders, boundaries and edges of what one is trying to relate. This applies to place, but also to genre. I apologize to the Syilx and Secwepemc people for any insult this article might have caused them.

    In learning, too, we are met with different challenges. Some responses are supportive and encouraging, others are scornful and fearful.

    As for my motives, my interest in the region(s) is not towards its colonization (by Vancouverites?), but based in part on a recognition that what is going on in larger communities is often present in smaller ones. The internet has gone a long way towards making welcomed friends out of unwelcomed strangers. So too has the conversation that is contemporary art practice.

    I did not write the headline for my Canadian Art article, nor did I approve it. As for the pull quote (repeated twice), it was not spoken by me but by Kamloops Art Gallery curator Charo Neville, who spoke it in the context of something found in the larger article.

    Here is the link to that article:

    http://canadianart.ca/features/okanagan-outpost-vancouver-art-heads-east/

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    • Thanks, Michael. I have the full article here at home, and apologize for wrongly attributing the quote. I’ll try to correct that tomorrow. As for contemporary art practice, it is political, based upon cultural assumptions and lines of power. To clarify, I’m neither Syilx nor Secwepemc, but I am from their country. To clarify further, Vancouver is a dynamic Canadian city blessed with a vast hinterland, and, yes, it is one of the colonial powers here, as it draws that hinterland down and recreates it in its own image. Edmonton and Calgary are two other colonial powers in this place. Ottawa is another. It is not a source of amusement. It’s not your fault, of course. But it’s there. What was most striking about your article was how it appeared to be accepting of this colonization as if it was not even there. The big geographical snafu appeared to confirm that. I’m sure you’re a committed and positive guy, fun to be around, and I assure you, so am I, but, sadly we’ve met on this fraught ground. Might as well laugh about it, I guess. It is commonplace these days, at least in literary circles, to deny the existence of place. That’s a view from the internet. It’s not human experience. If you ever come to the Okanagan, I’ll tour you around, or buy you coffee. Thanks for the clarification. Harold

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  3. It’s been awhile since Canadian Art (online) corrected its headline (“Okanagan Outpost” is now “Interior Outpost”), yet you have not corrected your misattribution that has me, not Kamloops Art Gallery curator Charo Neville, as the author of the twice repeated pull quote, the one you apologized for and said you would “try to correct tomorrow” (June 17, 2016). Could I ask that you try a little harder, Harold, since you remain active on this platform?

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