Getting Our Land Back 8: The Role of Canada in Cascadia

I would like to talk about Cascadia, with a particular view to the role of Canada within it. Have a look.

Frenchtown, Canada

The first 7 titles in this series about leaving settler culture are listed at the end of this article. 

This is the oldest building in Washington, USA. It sits proudly and honoured in Frenchtown in the Walla Walla Valley. It is a Canadian cabin, one of the few that survived the Cayuse “War” (aka genocidal hunt) of 1848, which was, in part, a consequence of Great Britain’s gift of my country, the Columbia, to the United States in 1846.

This cliff on the Pik’dunin has been called American since 1846.

These silt bluffs at Trout Creek were called British in 1846 and have been called Canadian since 1871.

This N’kmp salmon doesn’t give a damn about all that and swims across the borders as if they weren’t there.

The men who built the Canadian cabins along the Walla Walla and Touchet rivers and their tributaries from around 1835 were French Canadian Hudson’s Bay Company men. Long before Canada existed as a nation, only a couple decades after it stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic and before my part of Canada, British Columbia, existed as a legal entity or even by name, this was Canada: a mixed First-Nations-Settler culture. This cabin represents modernism, set within the old ways. People settled here for law and order, as opposed to what is now called law and order, the genocidal, homicidal and vigilante actions of violent men who should have been in jail or hung but who were used to extend empire instead. The Canadian-Native families who settled in French Town understood the nascent state of Oregon as a place that would guarantee their security. They believed that its laws (honourable, in the main) guaranteeing equality would endure in time on a principle of indigenous honour.

Around these cabins were the settlements of the Cayuse, Palouse and Walla Walla People, many of whom were the relatives of the wives of the men who built the cabins. This French and Wawa-speaking Canada was given to the United States to prevent a geo-political conflict that would compromise Britain’s ability to fight Napoleon in Europe, and also because the Hudson’s Bay Company, caught between the Imperial Court and mercantilism, was caught in passive settlement strategies — or none. The United States simply overwhelmed it, forcing compromise..

Napoleon Today

American history will tell a different story of French Canadian traitors (Canadian businessmen selling to Canadian businessmen was seen as treason) at Fort Astoria…

Vladimir Putin in 1812

… but at the end of the day, these cabins and their social context were here first, they were Canadian, and were integrated into indigenous life. It was a cross-cultural settlement, at home in this place because the native wives of the French saw to it that relationships remained to protect their children, despite tribal friction and disagreement. That these relationships were complex and not often based on equal union is hard stuff, but in this instance not the main point. The thread I’m drawing out of the weave here is that to these women, their children mattered. Of course they did. Then came a genocidal war that put an end to that, first separating the French from the Cayuse, and then the French from White Americans, and this became the United States, at that time a racial country that historically replaced its indigenous peoples rather than marrying them and joining their kinship structures.

The Heart of the Monster, Kamiah (Nimipu’u Illahie): Claimed by the United States since 1846

That is a vital contribution Canada made to Cascadia, the great watershed on the Northwest of North America: one can give up control (as the French did) to gain it (although the control is not yours and is only held in proxy.) In the case of French Town (and the other French Canadian settlements at Colville, Nisqually, Mooksie and in the Willamette Valley, some 3,000 men and their families in all, at a time when there were only a handful of Americans in the region), the strategy did not work, but the fact that it could, even for a time, is a solid Canadian contribution to the cultural of this region. Integration is possible.

John Day Painted Hills, claimed by the United States since 1846

With that in mind, and with the understanding that the expression of the people of the land through their conquering peoples was done through two different cultures, one which accorded power to kingship, i.e. allowed that land was the body of the Queen and could only be entered within the Queen’s will, and the other which accorded power based on the inviolate right of a single individual to claim whatever he wished by force, if he could defend it by force or law, we can move forward into a third conception, free of these over-writings.

Not “Split Rock State Park” but a Smalqmx Sacred Stone and a keystone in the Smalqmx map of the Columbia

It sits on the Similkameen Divide. Here the water of the Similkameen flows into Palmer Lake part of the year and out of it at other parts of the year, on the divide between the flow’s ancient channel down the Sinlahekin to the Methow and its new one down the Similkameen Gorge to the Okanogan.

But I was speaking of Canada’s contribution to the Columbia and even the American-inspired ecosystem (and at times populist-inspired social-inclusion zone, where free-definition of the self has been transferred from the violent Genocidalists and law-and-order Methodists to contemporary inner city Self-Actuarians attempting to redefine the American colonial moment without its Canadian or native background) called Cascadia. To that effect, to the benefit of my Canadian and American neighbours, a short guide to Canadian cultural behaviour, as much a part of the Columbia and “Cascadia” now as any other, should be fun. Here are some basic Canadian principles:

  1. Courtly behaviour. The North American battlefields of The War of 1812, fought largely in New York, Ontario and Quebec, were fought mostly between Irish fighting for the USA and other Irish fighting for the King of England, to settle disputes from Ireland itself, as well as between Americans giving up a bit of freedom for cheap land and the subsidized protection of the King in Ontario and Americans holding on to expensive land and subsidizing the nascent American state with taxation and their bodies, in mismanaged, independent armies, which were, nonetheless, independent. Complex, for sure. The key point is that in Canada one gave up some independence, for practical purposes, to the King, and enjoyed the protection of his body, i.e. the land. This is a principle more in keeping with indigenous understandings than the American push to self-determination (powerful though that is.) Canada continues to operate on these principles, despite being dazzled at the moment, by the American model (so much so that its culture has become, at least superficially, a variation on the American populist model, commonly called “global human culture.”) In other words…
  2. Canada is not humanist. In Canada, government has a foundation in the land, which is different than a foundation in “humans.” In British Columbia, for example, a large stretch of Cascadia, 96% of the land belongs to “The Crown”. One has free access, but at a price of consolidation in central government and large industrial projects granted tenure through the modified royal decrees called “licenses.” Traditionally, the distinction between land-base and human-base has been a racial one here, a legacy of the American invasion of 1858, between “White” Europeans and native people of the land, in order to claim land for the former and deny it to the latter. Surely, we have had enough inspiration from the positive values of American individualism and methodism to set that racial violence aside (as American self-determinist populists are doing in “Cascadia’s” big cities today), and view the land itself as an active cultural agent. We can, in other words, replace “King” or “Queen” with the land held in his or her name, and, just as the French Canadians of the Touchet and the Walla Walla gave up some independence to their Cayuse wives and their kinship structures (which are Cayuse land), gain a more positive, inclusive, administrative centre than the European Enlightenment individual human “I”, or the Queen’s Court (aka Legislative Assembly). In other words…
  3. Canada is an Indigenous Country. This point follows from the above two points. What it means is that in Canada today we are seeing a government attempting, still, to gain control of its territory by manipulations of indigenous communities, because it doesn’t own its own land or space. This includes transforming the Canadian arts subsidy system from a European-Arts subsidy to an Indigenous-Arts subsidy, as well as purchasing, and then approving, the Trans Mountain Bitumen pipeline through Indigenous territories that do not want it, likely on an American Populist foundation that there are enough Indigenous communities across Canada that somehow their all being in Canada means that the votes (and financial backing) of the majority of communities over-ride the land of the minority. In Canada, this is the colonial Indian Act in application, in a fashion previously seen in the War of 1812 and the French-Indian wars that preceded it, in which the Iroquois maintained independence by subduing the French and English alternately, according to pay, in order to maintain the ability to subdue other indigenous peoples deep into the Ohio and Mississippi watersheds. We should not be naive. Supporting the pipeline is in the interests of the nation state, and degrees of courtly power in its imperial court, but it is not in our interests as voices of the land, and it is our interests that are the country, not as populist peoples, or human populations, but as representatives of values in the land. These perhaps…

… and these:

The Canadian model shows that the people of the Columbia can transfer power to Native American peoples without losing the land, access to it, the wealth it gives, or a place on it. The violence of our history, and its contemporary manifestations, will be set aside, the environment will once again have its rightful place and humans will once more define themselves by their ability, individually and socially, to align themselves with it and increase its productivity and health for future generations. Given the environmental challenges facing us today, we have no choice but to follow this model, unless we want cultural and environmental degradation and their accompanying loss of freedoms and the corresponding  lack of means to care for our children to come.

This is a post in a series. The first seven are here:

I have been discussing what it might look like to leave Settler culture’s uses of land and person. Today, the price of this excursion. First, the background:

Becoming the Flow

The Local and the Universal

Rivers of Place

Returning the Land

A Land of Stories

Skookum Wawa

The Price

Next: The Courtly Society of Canada, A Cascadian View, and Practical Considerations for Cascadian Independence within the Nation State Regime.


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