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Recognition on Settler Terms: The Canadian Handicrafts Guild and First Nations Craft from 1900 to 1967

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Recognition on Settler Terms: The Canadian Handicrafts Guild and First Nations Craft from 1900 to 1967

Ohri, Aditi (2017) Recognition on Settler Terms: The Canadian Handicrafts Guild and First Nations Craft from 1900 to 1967. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the relationship between the Canadian Handicrafts Guild and Onkwehonwe (Indigenous peoples) from 1900 to 1967. The body of research my analysis draws from focusses primarily on First Nations artists, especially Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) people living in Kahnawà:ke. Two separate pictures emerge when we consider historical accounts of the Guild’s relationship to Onkwehonwe artisans. Guild founders were ahead of their time in their encouragement of “Indian” arts and crafts. Nevertheless, their desire to improve the quality of “Indian crafts” through integration into a settler arts and crafts economic model was also presumptuous, naive and paternalistic.
Looking carefully at the Guild’s history from 1900 to 1967, I argue that Guild volunteers enacted a politics of recognition in response to the aggressive policy of assimilation that the Canadian government and the Department of Indian Affairs legislated through the Indian Act. Their politics of recognition encouraged Indigenous peoples’ cultural production while reinforcing a government-backed civilizing mission that marginalized Indigenous worldviews and rendered invisible the importance of land-based cultural, economic and political practices. The Guild rejected assimilation on grounds that it would do a disservice to Canada as an emerging nation in the British Dominion. Envisioning itself as a benevolent saviour easing the plight of poverty-stricken artisans, the Guild worked to integrate Indigenous people into the settler economic structure. Although Guild volunteers did take great efforts to celebrate Indigenous artwork, they did so on terms that, from Indigenous perspectives, did not help to strengthen Indigenous-led ways of life.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Art History
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Ohri, Aditi
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Art History
Date:31 August 2017
Thesis Supervisor(s):Huneault, Kristina
ID Code:982938
Deposited By: ADITI OHRI
Deposited On:17 Nov 2017 18:23
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:56
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