Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 17/10/2011 (3662 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Two University of Regina authors say colonialism and racism are dominant threads that weave through the fabric of Canada's English-language newspapers, colouring coverage of aboriginal stories from the Northwest Rebellion to the Oka crisis.
The result is prevalence of negative stereotypes that haunt race relations with aboriginal people to this day, they say.
History professor Mark Cronlund Anderson and art history associate professor Carmen Robertson surveyed 42 local, regional and national daily newspapers from 1869 to the present.
They looked at how aboriginal people were portrayed in historic events like the rebellion, which led to the 1885 hanging of Manitoba Métis leader Louis Riel, the 1974 Bended Elbow standoff in Kenora and the 1990 Oka crisis, as well as in editorials, columns and letters to the editor for the past 140 years.
The result is the book, Seeing Red: A History of Natives in Canadian Newspapers, to be launched today in Regina by its publisher, the University of Manitoba.
The findings could surprise Canadians who believe racism and colonialism are visages of a bygone era, the authors write.
"An examination of press content in Canada since the sale of Rupert's Land in 1869 through to 2009 illustrates with respect to aboriginal people that colonial imagery has thrived, even dominated, and continues to do so in mainstream English-language newspaper," the authors write.
The focus on newspapers does not mean other media are free of a pattern of racism that has profound effects on all Canadians, but most especially on Canada's 633 First Nations, the authors say.
In an email exchange, the authors told the Free Press "surprise is not the right word" to describe how they view their findings.
"Look, the country, Canada, was founded in conquest. That's not in dispute. And what seems to happen, here and in other countries colonized by Europeans, is that you can't shake the cultural effects of the initial onslaught," they said.
Seeing Red over First Nations issues
Some quotes from the book Seeing Red about historical coverage of aboriginal issues by the Winnipeg Free Press:
-- Images of aboriginal women: "Winnipeg Free Press reporter Lisa Priest penned Conspiracy of Silence to illustrate the shocking coverup by RCMP and corresponding whitewash by the press regarding... the murder of Helen Betty Osborne." The day the Osborne case went to trial, though, "The Free Press ignored it completely."
-- On the 1938 death of Grey Owl (before his outing as a white man): "The Free Press voiced an opinion that surely confounded Canada's colonial sense of order. 'He was an Indian but taught whites.' "
-- In 1885, the Manitoba Free Press endorsed the hanging of Louis Riel but laid part of the blame for the rebellion at the feet of both government and churches: "Why did half-breeds take up arms if they had no grievances? Do men usually risk their lives, their all, without cause?" the daily remarked.