23 January 2010

Scott Sheffield presentation at Univ of Fraser Valley

Dr. Scott Sheffield, Department of History, University of Fraser Valley, will be making a presentation at the University of the Fraser Valley's Abbotsford campus, Room B121, on Wednesday, 27 January 2010, at 1900 hours, titled "Mobilizing Indigeneity: Comparing Settler Societies and Indigenous Participation in the Second World War". The press release notes:
The Indigenous warrior has long captivated the imaginations of Western societies. As 'vicious savages' impeding the march of civilization of loyal allies fighting alongside imperial powers/noble settlers, the be-feathered North American Indian, fierce Maori, and elusive Aborigine have become entrenched in the popular consciousness of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. Although pre-war indigenous-settler relationships differed substantially, each Aboriginal population responded when war broke out in 1939 by declaring their support and volunteering to serve. Thousands of Aborigines, First Nations, Maori and Native Americans fought overseas, while on the home front, their families, communities and leadership offered labour, voluntary, monetary and symbolic aid to national war efforts.

Governments that had been working for decades to undermine the cultural vitality and identity of indigenous peoples would, in the exigencies of wartime, explicitly seek to utilize perceived indigenous attributes, languages, knowledge and bushcraft for the national war effort. Whether drawing on 'marital [sic?] race' concepts to support organisation of segregated indigenous units like the 28th (Maori) Battalion, formally or informally using indigenous knowledge of remote regions threatened by attack in Northern Australia or Alaska, indigeneity was enlisted for the Allied cause. Examining such processes in comparative perspective can tell us a great deal about these historical processes, both in the startling similarities across the four countries, and via their clear differences.

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