Pierre Bélanger & Kate Yoon

Canada’s Apartheid

November 27, 2018

The following is an excerpt from EXTRACTION EMPIRE: Undermining the Systems, States, and Scales of Canada’s Global Resource Empire, 2017-1217 (MIT Press: 2018), originally published as “Canada’s Apartheid: The Sanctioned Diffusion of Canadian Strategies of Indigenous Segregation, Assimilation, and Extermination.”

It is reproduced by LapsusLima with permission from the authors. 

Except where noted, all images, diagrams and maps are by the authors.

This essay investigates a twofold theory that Canada’s Indian Reserve System served, officially, as a strategy of Indigenous apartheid (preceding South African apartheid) and unofficially, as a policy of Indigenous genocide (preceding the Nazi concentration camps of World War II). Specific flows of information, historic events, and spatial evidence over the past two centuries bring significant and substantial context to a poorly researched area of Canadian history, even as they offer an emergent lens on contemporary apartheid and genocidal research related to Indigenous peoples. To this end, the essay revisits, redraws, and recontextualizes two important claims related to regimes of apartheid and strategies of extermination originating in Canada through the 1876 Indian Act: the evolution of its Indian Reserve System during the 19th century and its history of territorial Treaties originating in the 17th and 18th centuries. By bringing together different time periods —the initial colonization of the Americas, South Africa under racial segregation and subsequent apartheid, and Nazi Germany— this essay connects a long and important legacy of settler colonialism associated with internal policies of racial domination and white supremacy conveyed between settler countries including Canada and South Africa, to name few. More specifically, this work looks at how the “elimination of the Native” [1] places Canadian policies and strategies both at the centre and on the circumference of the production, exchange, and transfer of colonial knowledge globally. The contexts of this essay propose a refocusing of, and on Canada’s role (beyond its historical image as colonial proxy or its current neo-colonial portrayal as a multicultural society) in the development, diffusion, and innovation of strategies for Indigenous assimilation in the context of studies in the histories of colonization, racial segregation, and Indigenous extermination.


“The history of the Indian people for the last century has been the history of the impingement of white civilization upon the Indian: the Indian was virtually powerless to resist the white civilization; the white community of B.C. adopted a policy of apartheid. This, of course, has already been done in eastern Canada and on the Prairies, but the apartheid policy adopted in B.C. was of a particularly cruel and degrading kind. They began by taking the Indians’ land without any surrender and without their consent. Then they herded the Indian people onto Indian reserves. This was nothing more nor less than apartheid, and that is what it still is today.”

—Thomas Berger, 1 November 1966 [2]

Representation of the flows of ideas and axes of influence regarding “the Native Question” from Canada by way of, and towards, other nation-states.


Albeit poorly understood, Canada and South Africa have had close diplomatic relations, given shared experiences in the British Empire, bilateral economic interests, and shared concerns with Indigenous peoples in the process of establishing colonial settler-states. [3] In fact, there is sufficient evidence to suggest and confirm that South African government officials received direct information, influence, and inspiration from Canada and its Native reservation system in conceiving and establishing spatial methods of racial segregation. Historical connections in the transfer of technical information between Canada and South Africa have previously been explored, but the direct connection and exchange of racial policies has not been examined in close detail or to great depth. [4] Despite archival evidence on the official exchanges between the two countries, only two dated and somewhat forgotten sources —a popular article written by Ron Bourgeault [5] in 1988 and the film We Have Such Things at Home[6] released in 1997— mention Canada’s contribution to South Africa’s racial policies. [7]

The first part of this essay brings together a prolonged period of exchanges regarding race relations in Canada and South Africa from the Parliamentary Select Committee on Aboriginal Peoples in the early nineteenth century, and then looks towards the Carnegie Corporation’s funding of visits by educators and government officials, to direct government correspondence between the two countries in the early part of the twentieth century. Previous studies of the Carnegie Corporation’s (often racist and segregationist) [8] interests in the study of race relations have often focused on studies within South Africa, rather than the Visitors’ Grants. [9] What kinds of information South African visitors sought from the US and Canada, as well as the activities they engaged in and people they met, has not been examined in close detail. Through the transmission of knowledge about the spatial administration of Indigenous Peoples throughout the Indian Reserve System, the aim here is to show how ideas about Indigenous segregation, assimilation, and elimination emerged from the racial logics and racist policies that transferred across national borders and originated in Canada.

White Supremacy: Colonial Precondition to Indigenous Subjugation & Spatial Segregation in the “the Indian Question”

While the transfer of ideas about “Natives” may seem ad hoc and discontinuous, there is considerable evidence showing that governments and individuals on both sides of the Atlantic, between Great Britain and its colonies, shared models of segregation and oppression concerning them. Broadly, there is a hole of knowledge in current scholarship regarding the history of the trans-Atlantic transfer of segregation strategies, and specifically, the important position that Canada originally occupies in the evolution, past and present, of these legal, territorial, and spatial policies.

White Skin, White Masks. At its core, the colonial culture of racial superiority underlies both the production of spatial, territorial policies of segregation and erasure, as well as transfers of technical information from their early inception. In the context of settler-colonialism, it is essential to clarify the prevailing internal context of white supremacy in Canadian policies (and its bureaucrats) related to Indigenous peoples, repeatedly expressed in the words of Canada’s Prime Ministers throughout the course of the past 150 years since Confederation in 1867; an ideological foundation to corollary views and policies regarding non-white (often trans-Pacific) immigrant labour. From its beginning, Indigenous affairs (specifically lands and bodies) were always the underbelly of Canada’s national affairs, with Indian Affairs remaining “the oldest continuously operating arm of government in Canada.” [10] For example, in his last year as Superintendent General of Indian Affairs in 1887 (following his tenure as the first Prime Minister of Canada), John A. Macdonald stated:

“The introduction of a new practice of submitting Indian claims in the first instance to the Judicial Committee would operate as a complete change in the manner in which the Indian races have hitherto been dealt with, and would establish a distinction between them and the other inhabitants of Canada. This is very objectionable, as the great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the other inhabitants of the Dominion, as speedily as they are fit for the change.” [11]

Later, in a statement made in 1909 by the seventh Prime Minister of Canada, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, in response to comments by Member of Parliament (and succeeding Prime Minister) Robert L. Borden, in the House of Commons:

“Sir, in British Columbia, the problem of Asiatic immigration is the one question that interests all sections of public opinion; and all classes of the people in British Columbia, to whatever party they may belong, unite in the opinion which is expressed in the words now current in the politics of that province. ‘A white British Columbia; a white Canada,’ meaning that British Columbia should be preserved as a home of the white race. … And now I ask: what is the policy that is conducive to the best interests of Canada and of the British empire to which we belong? Sir, to put the question is to answer it: our policy is the policy which ought to impress everybody who pretends to be a Canadian or pretends to be British as the one best calculated for the weal of both Canada and the empire. But, before I go further, let me say that I find no fault with the view maintained in British Columbia that that Province should be maintained as for the white race.” [12]

Views of the white, Anglo-Saxon elite were further communicated in the context of North America by the tenth Prime Minister of Canada William Lyon Mackenzie King, including his government during a period of extensive immigration. Quoting US President Theodore Roosevelt on 1 February 1908, while Mackenzie King was then Minister of Labour: “This continent must belong to the white races.” [13]

Rather than serve as a proxy for British or American imperialism, the historic durability and bureaucratic evolution of these racist policies over the past 150 years since Canada’s Confederation suggest the ideological mobilization of white supremacy out of, and within, Canada’s colonial settler state, to paradoxically form its own unique and troubling genre of imperialism.

The transatlantic flow of ideas and the transfer of techniques associated with “Natives” during the twentieth century suggest that, contrary to popular knowledge, Canada has made a significant contribution to imperial discourses of the “Indian Problem,” later known as the “Indian Question,” as a tried and tested example of segregationist policies. As Deputy Superintendent for Canada’s Department of Indian Affairs Duncan Campbell Scott infamously stated in 1920:

“I want to get rid of the Indian problem. I do not think as a matter of fact, that the country ought to continuously protect a class of people who are able to stand alone. … Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department.” [14]

Canada’s Indian Reserve System —conceived for extermination through attrition, that is, by means of division and segregation in remote regions— emerged from a long history of previous (largely unsuccessful) policies of assimilation and enfranchisement. [15] This system, and its accompanying system of policies under the Indian Act, may have become the spatial model and administrative precedent for policies of segregation in other countries, such as South Africa, prior to the advent of apartheid in the late 1940s.

The transfer of ideas, however, turns out to be more complex and more historical. Ideologies related to “Natives” and “Aborigines” flowed between colonies of the British Empire and evolved during a period of two to three centuries, if not longer, prior to the creation of the Indian Act. To what extent ideas, ideologies, and models dealing with “the Native Question” flowed from the UK to Canada, or the UK to South Africa, or directly from Canada to South Africa, is complex and entangled; [16] yet, as this essay argues, there is sufficient historic evidence and records of international visits and meetings during intense periods of colonization between these countries to position Canada’s treatment of “Indians,” under the guise of colonially-based internal administration, as the bureaucratic test-bed for other countries. There is significant and substantial circumstantial evidence showing a triangulation of techniques by which the Canadian systems of Indian reservations, pass laws and residential schools set a distinctive example of colonial segregation and imperial subjugation. Furthermore, these techniques could be upscaled, downscaled, or transferred to other countries and states. [17]

The model of Indian Reserves in Canada was well known across other British Settlements (including South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, Sierra Leone, etc.) from the early 19th century onwards (with roots in the mid-to-late 18th century) as it was repeatedly cited in the imperial blue books. Mentioned in several reports from 1837 onwards, the case of the River Credit Mission (or the Credit River Reserve, as it was later called) was of specific interest and repeatedly mentioned in subsequent reports, including the first Report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Aboriginal Tribes [in] British Settlements[18] as well as in the 1839 Report on the Indians of Upper Canada[19] and the 1843 Tracts Relative to the Aborigines from 1838 to 1842[20]

More specifically, the 1838 Report, Information Respecting the Aborigines in the British Colonies by the Aborigines’ Protection Society was illustrative of Indian Reserve policy:

“It appears that, in reference to the North American Indians in Upper Canada and the adjoining territories, a process is now going forward, very similar to that which has, for a long course of years, been pursued by the United States towards the Indians on their frontier. The Indians are induced by persuasion to abandon, almost for nothing, their richest and most valuable tracts of land, (including their settlements, and the plots which have been brought under culture through the instructions of the different missionaries) and to fall back upon districts incapable of supporting them for any long time by the chace [sic], and greatly inferior to their old settlements for the purposes of civilized life. The obvious motive with the executive government of Canada, for adopting this line of policy towards the Indians, is to please the white settlers around them, who complain that the Indians have all the best land in the country, and evidently wish to turn them out and take possession of it for themselves. It appears that in the course of one year only (1836), the governor of Upper Canada [Sir Francis Bond Head] induced the Chippeway, Ottaway, Sauger, and Huron tribes to abandon very extensive and valuable tracts of land almost without any equivalent.” [21]

As an evolving and often cited model, the River Credit Mission that had reportedly emerged from Treaties 22 and 23 of 1820 is significant in its reiteration of the reports. At least five reasons likely substantiate the River Credit Mission’s relevance for the British Crown and its colonies as a model Indian Reserve of specific interest:

(A) labor: the obsolescence of military employment of Indians for wartime use resulting from the end of the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion (and especially, that of the War of 1812 fought against the United States);

(B) agricultural production: the removal of Indians from large tracts of fertile land to smaller, more controlled and enclosed tracts;

(C) Christianization: the lauded effects of Christian missions on Indians;

(D) metropolitanization: the proximate removal of Indians from emerging cities and villages (Credit River Mission was 16 miles from Toronto) as its intended civilizing effect;

(E) economization: the emergence of annuity payments as opposed to costly lump sum payments for Indian land as early as 1818.

According to historian John F. Leslie at the Treaties and Historical Research Centre, Research Branch, Corporate Policy, of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (Canada), these five observations align with objectives from proposals made as early as 1808 by Major John Norton, proposing:

“an Indian civilization programme comprising agricultural settlement, religious conversion, individual Indian land titles, and incentives to encourage local Indian enterprises. [22] In August 1808, Major John Norton, who succeeded Joseph Brant as Chief of the Six Nations, wrote to the Rev. John Owen, Secretary of the British and Foreign Bible Society, proposing an Indian civilization programme comprising agricultural settlement, religious conversion, individual Indian land titles, and incentives to encourage local Indian enterprises. Norton’s scheme was never implemented; however, the basic thrust of his programme was later copied by Lieutenant Governor Maitland for his experimental Indian settlement at the Credit River in 1821. Of particular interest here is that an early plan for Indian civilization, managed by Crown officials, was broached by General John Bradstreet in [as early as] 1764 as an economical way to maintain the allegiance of the Indians of the Northern District.” [23]

As mentioned in the 1844 Bagot Report on Indian Reserves (which followed the earlier 1828 Darling Report on Indian Reserves for the British Crown), the Credit River Reserve was originally referred to as “the 1828 Maitland Experiment,” conferred by Superintendent General of Indian Affairs Peregrine Maitland for the Mississaugas of the Credit River. Furthermore, the administration of these objectives also aligns with the rapid change of jurisdiction of Indian Affairs from military to civilian responsibility in the late 1820s, with the creation of first Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, presided by Major General Henry Charles Darling (1828–1830) and then Colonel James Givins (1830-1837). As one of the oldest and oft-cited examples, the case of the Credit River Reserve remains significant, beyond being merely suggestive, in terms of its legibility for the State (Canada), the Crown (UK) and its dissemination across the colonies (including South Africa, Australia, and others) since, according to Lead Historian for the City of Mississauga Meaghan FitzGibbon, “the Credit Mission was later used as the model for modern-day Reserves [throughout Canada].” [24]

As Ron Bourgeault has argued, one of the main roots of the problematization of Indians was the changing role of labour that they represented. [25] After periods of war against American invasions, namely following the War of 1812, an important turning point took place vis-à-vis changing relations between Indians and Whites, as settlement of land and centralization of power took place, and took off, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In his 1988 article “Canada [and its] Indians: The South African Connection,” Ron Bourgeault investigates the historical connection between South Africa and Canada’s treatment of their respective Indigenous peoples. He states that “by the turn of the twentieth century Canada was probably the only advancing capitalist state that had an elaborate system of administration and territorial segregation of an internally colonized Indigenous population, a possible exception being the United States.” [26] Bourgeault goes on to suggest that there was a diffusion of strategies across countries—bluntly put, that “South Africa came to Canada … to study [how] Indian people were controlled.” [27] The connection regarding how to deal with the “Native question” or “backwards peoples” may have spanned centuries and many other countries, including multiple countries in former British colonies, as well as the United States.

Canada’s involvement in this transfer of ideas, specifically in relationship to the use of “Native reserves,” can be traced through several centuries of imperial administration and colonization. Three major phases characterize this exchange. The first is the diffusion of ideas mediated by the British Empire and its colonial offices during the 18th and 19th centuries. The second is corporate philanthropy from the US funding numerous visits and reports regarding “inferior races” throughout former British colonies during the early 20th century. The third consists of cases of direct Canada-South Africa diplomacy and partnerships during the early-to-mid 20th century.

A. “The Native Problem” and the Colonial Diffusion of Native Policy from the British Empire to South Africa and Canada

The roots of British colonial Native policy date back to the nineteenth century, if not earlier. As early as 1837, the British Parliament appointed a Parliamentary Select Committee on Aboriginal Tribes. A Christian missionary organization called the “Aborigines Protection Society” was involved in the development of the Parliamentary Committee, and its first report in 1837 “established [the Society] as the protector of those, who have no power to protect themselves.” [28] ”The [S]ociety’s concern,” according to historian Ronald Rainger:

 “was philanthropic, directed to the welfare of non-European peoples. Nevertheless, the Aborigines’ Protection Society was the first organisation in England whose concerns even touched on anthropology, and an analysis of that society offers some insight into the nature of anthropology and the nature of organised institutions in early nineteenth-century England.” [29]

The 1837 report by the Society lays out detailed accounts of the various “tribes” in British-controlled territories, in the interest of finding what “measures ought to be adopted.” [30] While the report further acknowledges the atrocities that committed against the “Native inhabitants,” the alternative strategies to civilizing missions it proposed were to Christianize those “barbarous regions.” [31]

Moreover, in a rather contradictory manner of bureaucratic double-speak, the report decries the inhumane subjugation of “Aboriginal tribes,” but seems to also easily defend it. For example, on the removal of the entire Indigenous population from Van Diemen’s Land following the Tasmanian War of 1832 between the British colonists and the Australian aborigines, the report states that a “no better expedient could be devised than the catching and expatriating of the whole of the native population.” [32] The report covered all territories of the expanding British Empire, from North America, through the Pacific islands, to South Africa, cataloguing and classifying the behaviours of different groups—some as “civilized,” others as still “savage.” [33]

Records show the British Empire’s continued involvement in Native policy, especially as related to the administration of “Natives,” in sometimes very specific ways. The notorious Pass Laws of South Africa, originating in 1800 and, in place in different permutations, until 1994, which restricted the movement of South African blacks in different regions, was overseen and approved by the British government. The Colonial Office in Cape Colony (South Africa) communicated to London in 1884 that a special session of the legislature had been summoned “to consider an amended Native Pass Law.” [34] The recipient responds that “Her Majesty’s Government learn with satisfaction that President intends to submit amended Pass Law. You might suggest the words Resident Commissioner or other British Officials authorized to issue passes.” [35] Although pass laws have existed in South Africa since at least the early 19th century, these correspondences confirm that they were distinctly colonial legacies to control the movement of non-Europeans, whether these be slaves, farm labour, or mine workers. Interestingly enough, parallel research shows how Canada developed its own system of passes, imposed on Indians to limit their movement in and out of reservations or treaty areas, starting within a year of these correspondences with South Africa in 1885. In spite of its prominence across colonial states of Britain, Canada’s own illegal pass system and its history have been obscured by the sanctioned destruction of official documents. [36]

B. “The Native Question” and the Economic Diffusion of Indian Policy from Canada to South Africa through the Carnegie Corporation of New York

After the turn of the 20th century, intellectual leadership and policy innovation relating to the international conversation about the “Native Question” was partially transferred to corporate hands under the guise of social philanthropy. Established in 1911 by Andrew Carnegie, the Carnegie Corporation of New York held a separate fund of $10 million allocated to the British dominions (Canada, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand) and funded travellers’ grants for educators from these countries to visit the United States. [37] Most likely following the growth of infrastructure and the expansion potential of these countries that was first of interest to the growth of the Carnegie Steel Company (later to become the US Steel Corporation, the world’s largest supplier for railroads and bridges), the Carnegie Corporation sponsored many studies on education, poverty, and social policy in South Africa. [38]

In Waste of a White Skin: The Carnegie Corporation and the Racial Logic of White Vulnerability, UC Irvine professor Tiffany Willoughby-Herard writes that the Carnegie Corporation produced studies that reinforced “segregationist philanthropy and scientific racism,” [39] and that, “in addition to the long-standing Dominions and Colonies Fund, the CCNY supported numerous segregationist philanthropic projects.” [40] She writes that:

“It is little wonder, then, that Pan-Africanists regarding this era understood it as the ‘transfer overseas of American patterns of social organization … [and] extensions of the Corporation’s domestic grant-making’—dissemination of widespread Jim Crow and racial colonialism.” [41]

Among the Carnegie-funded studies, one of the most notorious was the “Poor White Study” from 1928—a study of poverty initiated among Whites in South Africa. Francis Wilson, a South African labour economist who conducted the second Inquiry into Poverty (this time including blacks, but much later, in 1989) claimed that this selective attention to the poor white population led to the logic of apartheid:

“So Carnegie had funded what became a major commission with, I think, five or six commissioners, an economist, a sociologist, a writer, who, in the end, traveled around the country in two Model-T Fords, traveled all over South Africa … and had done an extremely interesting survey of poverty, given the limitation of being for whites only, that had produced five volumes and so on.

But one of the things that had happened with that, is that it had been hijacked by the National Party in its rise to power. Hendrik F. Verwoerd, who became Prime Minister in South Africa in the 1960s—the 1950s, really—had a big conference in Stellenbosch, and said that the Carnegie Inquiry had become a very powerful instrument in the battle against poverty.

Now, this had both a good side and a bad side. The good side was the sort of rise of social welfare, a social welfare department was set up in the government, and real attempts to deal with poverty. At the same time—and this became apparent quite quickly, as we analyzed it—the Carnegie study had been part of the intellectual source, if you like, of the movement towards apartheid, because what emerged was that an anti-poverty program could also take the form of excluding other poor.” [42]

That the report supported pro-white stances was not a coincidence, either. Rather, it was written in a way that was specifically “pro-Afrikaner, with the morals of the Dutch Reformed Church and in the fashionably scientific language of eugenics … it is also significant that ‘most of the contributors to the Carnegie report … landed up in the nationalistic or ultra-right camp.’” [43]

Besides the research that was conducted in South Africa, the Carnegie Corporation also funded tours of the US and Canada for white South African officials and educators. In The Ambiguous Champion: Canada and South Africa in the Trudeau and Mulroney Years, Linda Freeman suggests the Carnegie-sponsored trips could have led to the design of apartheid, based on Canada’s system of Indian Reserves. [44] The evidence recounted below is not entirely conclusive, but it does show that Native policy on both sides of the Atlantic was part of a sustained conversation facilitated by corporate philanthropic interests and bilateral economic relations, especially in between settler economies.[45]

Oswin Boys Bull, a South African educator, toured the US and Canada extensively in 1934, with stops at major US and Canadian cities, as well as Tuskegee, Alabama; Brantford, Ontario (to meet the Principals of the Industrial College and the Mohawk Institute); and Ottawa, Ontario (to meet the Deputy Ministers for Immigration, Indian Affairs and Labour). [46] His papers are now located in the Carnegie Corporation of New York Archives at Columbia University. In his report, he summarized that:

“The objectives of my study in North America, as stated in my application for a ‘Carnegie Visitor’s Grant.’ were as follows:

To study,

(i) The special problems surrounding Technical Education among backwards peoples …

(ii) The somewhat baffling problem of how trained Native craftsmen are to be enabled to establish and support themselves in a somewhat primitive community …” [47]

Bull observes the “more backward groups of the population, and [tries] to estimate the extent to which [technical education] was really enabling them to win a fair position in an industrial society.” [48] As part of his grand civilizing mission, he categorizes the “Retarded Groups” into the “Poor Whites, the Indians, and the Negroes.” [49] He asks, “(a) Is the Black Man really capable of mastering the trades of the modern world? (b) If he can, is he to be allowed to do so?—or (c) Is he to be limited by some sort of Colour Bar”? [50] and concludes that:

“The hindrance most commonly complained of is the very general lack of any initiative—that weakness so often found amongst retarded peoples whose modes of life for ages have been defined and circumscribed by custom and tradition. It is felt by those responsible for the progress of the Indians that the stimulus of the guidance of the White Man will be needed for a long time to come.” [51]

Bull’s report foreshadows the many studies relating to how Native populations could be used for the workforce of settler industrial society. Sheila van der Horst, in a Carnegie-commissioned paper in 1955, decries apartheid for the limits it would pose on access to labour or, in her words:

“This argument has great political appeal, but it ignores the economic integration which has already taken place and the interdependence of white and black in every branch of production.” [52]

A few years later in 1949, Peter Cook, of the South African Native Affairs Department, received a $5,000 Carnegie Corporation grant “to study Negro education and administration” in the US for the South African government’s Native Education Commission. Correspondences show that a representative of the Carnegie Corporation encouraged sharing knowledge, given that “the Commissions dealing with Native education are very greatly handicapped by the lack of accurate information.” [53] Records also show correspondences in 1954 with political scientist and anthropologist Elizabeth Millicent (Sally) Chilver of the Colonial Office and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, [54] regarding a visit to the US “to discuss CC [Carnegie Corporation] policies in BDC [British Dominions and Colonies] areas.” [55]

In 1954, Frederick van Wyk received a grant to “study race relations in the United States and inter-cultural relations in Canada.” [56] A newspaper article notes that he will study “the extent of Negro integration in the US, and the Negro employment problems in the stores, services, professions, trade and industry.” [57] However, these conversations were not exclusively limited to academic institutions. Records for Carnegie-sponsored visits also exist in the Canadian government’s archives, as Canadian officials were informed about these visits. Correspondences between the Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs and the Department of Indian Affairs discuss F.J. van Wyk’s visit, suggesting that he met the Director of the Canadian Citizenship Branch, as well as the Director of Indian Affairs. A note in the Department of External Affairs lays out the purpose of his visit (which can also be found in the Carnegie Corporation’s funding files):

“He is interested in all aspects of racial relationships and [that] while in Canada, he hopes to observe French-speaking–English-speaking relationships and his plans to spend a portion of his Canadian stay in Quebec are designed for that purpose. He is equally interested, however, in knowing something of the administration of our native populations, especially the steps which are being taken to integrate them into the Canadian economic and social structure…” [58]

Many of these Carnegie-sponsored trips, including those of Oswin Boys Bull and Peter Cook, involved meetings with a central figure in the exchange of knowledge between Canada and South Africa through the US: Professor of Education Charles Templeton Loram, at Yale University. Prior to his appointment at Yale, C.T. Loram served in various government positions in education, including Chief Inspector of Native Education in Natal and Superintendent of Education in South Africa. [59] In the words of historian John Whitson Cell, Loram was a “humane paternalist” who supported Afrikaner nationalist politicians and segregationist programs. [60] Although his main ‘area of expertise’ was in the assimilationist education of South African blacks, his interests spanned other parts of the world, namely Indigenous peoples in North America. His publications include “The Education of Indigenous Peoples,” “The Education of Backwards Peoples, a Suggested Program,” and “The Navajo Indian Problem.” [61]

Most importantly, in 1939, a Toronto-Yale University joint conference, also sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation and entitled “The North American Indian Today,” was held to discuss issues of Native education. C.T. Loram, then Chair of the Department of Race Relations at Yale University, published the outcomes of the conference in a book of the same title in 1943. In the aftermath of the exhaustive 1928 Meriam Report The Problem of Indian Administration, [62] which focused exclusively on 26 states within the US, the main objective of comparing the administration of Indian affairs between the United States and Canada at the 1934 Conference was to clarify and understand the relative ‘success’ of the Canadian example:

“If things are going so well with the Indians in Canada, the members of the Conference from the United States will wish to learn why and how they are succeeding.” [63]

Of several key distinctions made by Loram’s contribution to the Conference in his own paper titled “Church and State in Indian Education in the United States and Canada,” an important parallel is drawn between the long history of Christianity in the education of Indigenous peoples in the civilizing missions of Canadian and African colonies, as a fundamental difference with the United States:

“The Christian churches were in the field of education long before the government. In Canada, as in most parts of the British Empire, the church is still the chief agent for education of the indigenous [sic] peoples. […] this is the situation in some of the African colonies and is very much the situation in the Indian schools in Canada.” [64]

From the range of conference presenters and attendees, the problematization of Indian Affairs, edified as “The Indian Problem,” was largely seen within the purview of settler colonial-state policy and its government-centric administration. Not surprisingly, less than fifteen pages of the 361-page proceedings were allocated to the representation of Indigenous ways of life, let alone the differentiation of the wide ranging pluralism of Indigenous cultures throughout North America. [65] Not coincidentally either, all the published papers were from white (practically all male) scholars, scientists, administrators, and government representatives, making the location of the 1934 Conference at the Royal Ontario Museum an important repository holding significant collections of Indigenous artifacts from across Canada in the growing metropolis of Toronto, an apt, if not core, site for the subject of centralized, settler-colonial administration. From the theme to its location, the general sentiment of the 1934 Conference—reflecting many of the subsequent Carnegie Corporation-sponsored reports—underscored and reinforced acculturation (i.e. assimilation) as inevitable. [66] A review of the 1939 Conference publication in 1944 summarizes this as follows:

“Valuable as it would be to review a number of the authoritatively presented topics, exigencies of space compel one to search out the basic theme that constitutes the common denominator of them all. What do the vast majority, if not all, of these missionaries, anthropologists, and government officials envisage as the ultimate goal toward which the Indian should travel? ‘Save the pure romanticist, no one really believes that Indian culture can ultimately prevail on the American continent. The only question is the rate at which it should be…superseded…’ As Dr. Loram wrote, the basic problem is one of ‘acculturation,’ involving the assimilation of the way of life of the Indian to that of the white man, while preserving his essential rights as a human being. This assimilation is conceived as being not only desirable but quite possible since, as was observed by Dr. T.R.L. MacInnes, of the Canadian Indian Affairs Branch, ‘the mental endowment of Indians is not inferior to that of other races.’ … Nevertheless, while recognizing the equal capacity for advancement of Indian and European, anthropologist and government officials are agreed as to the difficulty of changing ‘the characteristics and habits fixed for generations.’” [67]

This reflects the widespread view in academic circles at the time, and shows that Canadian residential schools (representatives of which were also present at the 1939 conference) were used as a model of methods of acculturation. In the introduction to the volume, Loram advocates for the need to exchange knowledge regarding Native peoples between Canada and the U.S., noting differences between both countries:

“Perhaps because of our restlessness, our willingness to experiment, our besetting sin in so often mistaking change for progress, our systems of education, all in the United States, officials as well as the general public, have ‘views’ on the Indian question which we are allowed and even encouraged to make public. In Canada, so it seems to me, the British traditions of reticence, of letting well alone, of hushing up ‘scandals,’ of trusting officials, are stronger, so that there is apparently not so much interest on the part of the public in the so-called Indian Question.” [68]

As to what exactly the Carnegie Corporation’s interests in South Africa —“possessed of an abundance of natural resources”— were, it is more than plausible that railway expansion related to mineral (and later, to strategic wartime minerals) extraction fueled the need for cheap black labour. Coupled to the interests in the administration of Native Reserves, this went hand-in-glove with the struggles of the white minority of Afrikaners population following the brutal Boer War between 1899 and 1902.

“The discovery of diamonds and gold had transformed the economy, catapulting [South Africa] into the modern, industrial era. […] the Union of South Africa, then a self-governing colony of Great Britain, would have seemed to be the setting for immense promise and possibilities for all its citizens.” [69]

This affirms the comparative difference outlined by Ron Bourgeault at the beginning of this essay, with Canada’s untethering of Indian labour. Interestingly and, once again, not casually, 30 years before the Carnegie Steel Company (now U.S. Steel) had tremendous interest in the development of railway infrastructure, especially in that of the Cape-Cairo railway, as touted by imperialist entrepreneur Cecil Rhodes during British expansionism. The discovery of diamonds and gold in South Africa in the late 19th century led to a massive increase of economic interest following major mining-resource extraction projects. A July 1900 edition of American Manufacturer and Iron World reports that:

“The Carnegie Steel Company has booked a 4,000-ton steel rail contract for the Cape government railways, the first South African order for railway supplies received in this country since the outbreak of hostilities in that part of the world.” [70]

The critical, transatlantic relation between Cecil Rhodes’ extractive expansionism into the diamond mining industry through the De Beers Mining Company in South Africa, and infrastructural development through the global reach of Andrew Carnegie merits consideration here. An early understanding in the flow of spatial forms of segregation in South Africa was legitimated by South Africa’s Diamond Trade Act of 1882, as can be gleaned from the industrial prototypes of black labour compounds for diamond mine workers conceived by De Beers from 1885 onwards; through a model reportedly based on colonial slave labour compounds across the Atlantic:

“The convergent architectural signatures which stretched from Brazilian slave barracks to South African labor [sic] compounds [including prisons] and ultimately to concentration camps, demonstrate how easily systems of confinement and criminalization incorporate and transfigure landscapes. The penal pedigree of the compound space, in its extra-legislative capacity to order and punish by race, was an architectural product of a ‘state of exception’ in which the security of commodity flow came to usurp extant political and legal infrastructures, and ultimately came to inform the broader move toward containment of Africans. … It was through the compounds, the prisons, labor depots and camps that [Cecil] Rhodes and other mining capitalists ‘came to define the black worker not as a legitimate part of an economic structure or of a growing city but as a presumptive criminal.’” [71]

Contingent on the global supremacy of Anglo-Saxon domination, Carnegie lauded the might of British colonialism extending “across one-fourth of the earth’s whole surface.” In the late 19th century, he stated:

“The English-speaking race is the ‘boss’ race of the world. It can acquire, can colonize, can rule. It establishes law and administers justice everywhere it settles, where before there was neither the one nor the other.” [72]

Furthermore, in deference to military warfare, Carnegie’s earlier, slightly more pacifist view of the imperial, civilizing power through colonization remained highly positivistic:

“If colonization can follow occupation it is a different matter—the interference is temporary, and Australians, Canadians, Americans soon come forth and govern themselves, the native-born soon grow patriotic, and work out their own destiny. In such bases England’s share is her glory, a glory of which no other nation partakes, for she alone is the grand old mother of nations, God bless her!” [73]

From the early advocacy work of the British and Foreign Aborigines’ Protection Society in the mid-19th century to the late mid-20th century research of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the role of philanthropy cannot be understated as both a form of colonial humanitarianism and emergent transimperialism:

“the circulation of information between Britain and its colonies had to be vastly extended from the early nineteenth century as colonization proceeded in new swathes of Asia, Australasia, North America and southern Africa, and as anti-slavery mutated into a more general colonial philanthropy. New organizations had to be created at the ‘centre’ of empire to cope with the flow of reports and letters from philanthropic correspondents—largely nonconformist missionaries spread across this more globally extensive terrain, … including The Aborigines Protection Society [in 1837] and the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society and British India Society [both in 1839], as hubs of the newly extended philanthropic webs. Such bodies served as metropolitan ‘centres of calculation’ in which data obtained at the peripheries of empire was assimilated. … Thus was a vast and disparate array of fragmentary knowledge and impression moulded into a colonial philanthropic discourse that embraced the entire imperial expanse. Not only did this discourse challenge other visions of empire; it was also in part responsible for, and in part dependent on, rival channels of transimperial communication.”

Colonial philantrophy thus not only impacted the movements of information between the diminishing imperial centre and its peripheral colonies, it helped to shape the formation of a new constellation of economic centres where emerging imperial policies evolved from the centrifugal power of former colonies, between themselves. [74]

C. “The Indian Question” and the Political Diffusion of Indian Reserve Policy from Canada to South Africa

In the Canadian government’s Indian Affairs Central Registry Files (RG10, Volume 8588, 1/1-10-4), a file regarding liaison activities with the Union of South Africa concerning Native Affairs shows that the Canadian government received reports from South Africa regarding the Department of Native Affairs, including one on the “Resettlement of Natives.” In this file, there are also correspondences about visits of South African officials to Canada. One of the most high-profile visits is that by the South African Ambassador to Canada, W. Dirkse van Schalkwyk, in 1962. According to formal government correspondence:

“His Excellency has expressed a deep interest in the Indian population and we have already assured him of our willingness to be of service and assistance should he wish to visit reserves…” [75]

In a follow-up letter to the Director of the Indian Affairs Branch, Department of Citizenship & Immigration, W.P.B. Pugh, Superintendent of Stony/Sarcee Indian Agency, wrote:

“I drove [Dirkse van Schalkwyk] out to the Morley Indian Residential School where he toured the school with Mr. R.F. Campbell, principal, seeing the classrooms, dormitory, and general lay-out of the school. We only met one or two Indians for which I was disappointed. There was to have been a barbecue at the school at 3:00p.m., but in good old fashion Indian timing when we left at 4:00p.m., it was still not under way.

On the return trip to Calgary, I drove him through the Sarcee Indian Reserve from one end to the other, showing him leases, community pasture and new homes, but time did not permit us to visit any of the homes.” [76]

The Assistant Regional Supervisor of Manitoba wrote to Ottawa that:

“… during the trip, His Excellency showed keen interest, and asked innumerable questions concerning the origins, status and customs of the Indian people on these Reserves; their form of band Government, and the social problems prevalent amongst them; and the relationship of our administration to them. I believe his questions were all answered adequately, and it was most interesting to hear his observations on the native people of South Africa and the seeming points of resemblance and dis-similarity between them and our people.” [77]

Dirkse van Schalkwyk was reported as being “most anxious to have a quick look at one of the Indian reserves in the Region,” visiting Fort Alexander Reserve, Brokenhead Reserve, Duck Lake Agency, Beardy’s Reserve, and the Ermineskin Reserve. [78] It is unclear where specifically Dirkse van Schalkwyk’s interest in reserves stemmed from, but the year in which these events took place might give us a better understanding. 1962 was during the height of apartheid—the year in which domestic and international protests escalated, and Nelson Mandela was arrested for conspiracy to overthrow the state. Amidst this turmoil in South Africa was the ever-pressing political discussion of the “Native Question,” and it seems that Canada suggested potential solutions in its light.

Furthermore, in a conversation from February 16, 2018, with former South African Ambassador to Canada (1985-1988) Glenn Babb, he iterated South Africa’s longstanding awareness of Canada’s territorial segregation with Indian Reserves, ever since the inception of Canada’s 1876 Indian Act and well into the mid-20th century. “The Canadian Example” of Indian Reserves, as Babb referred to it, “has been an important model for South Africa’s creation of ‘Homelands,’” the racially-based reserves proposed in the 1955 Tomlinson Report, especially with the growing Native (black) population immigrating southward and moving into urban areas. Acknowledging that “Native Reserves” (Homelands) and the system of apartheid failed to secure what was essentially the control, livelihood, and security of the Afrikaners (whites), the administration of over 300 Indian Reserves in Canada across such a vast and remote area were of particular importance. In the context of growing urbanization, the Canadian Example was seen from the South African perspective as the assimilation of a rapidly growing, population of over 1 million Indigenous people living off-reserve, in Canadian cities and towns. [79]

The Canadian National Archives currently house a surprising abundance of information regarding liaison activities with other countries to exchange knowledge about the “Native Question.” As John Leslie, historian of the Indian Act, said in a personal phone call on July 6, 2016, Resource Group 10 (Indian Affairs) is the biggest collection in Library and Archives Canada because the influence of Indians, then as is now, pervaded every sector of the economy and the culture of the country: “for a marginalized peoples, they’re everywhere.”

Racism of Indian Reserves and Romance of Resource Conservation

Finally, a fourth and perhaps more speculative understanding of the evolution of the treatment and administration of “Natives” emerges from the etymology and transfer of the word “reserves,” “reservations,” and “reserved lands” that originated, as noted in the Proclamation of 1763, under the mandate of reserving and setting aside lands exclusively for Natives in Canada by order of the King George III. The spatial process of reservation of land, and later that of “Natives,” can be said to have developed from the original process of reservation applied to forests and other natural resources in earlier centuries. One of the most notable examples, and perhaps one of the more structural cases of this, is the utilization of forest reserves emerging out of the ground-breaking Forest Charter of 1217, a component of the 1215 Magna Carta, which allocated civil rights and individual freedoms on territories that once belonged exclusively to King and Monarchy. The progression and evolution of the idea of reserving “forests,” reserving “resources,” reserving “land,” or reserving “peoples,” [80] can also be said to be a natural progression of a spatially and legally enforceable technique of enclosure used in monarchic and military regimes, easily transferred under the ideology of preservation and conservation to specially-designated peoples and Natives of territories invaded and colonized thereafter, over the course of several centuries.

From Indigenous reservation to resource conservation, Canadian policies of Indigenous control and containment in the creation of Indian Reserves in Canada from the early to mid-19th century are inseparable from policies of Indian removal and exclusion in the creation of Canada’s National Parks in the late 19th century. Established between 1885 and 1887 as the prototype for Canada’s National Park System, the removal and exclusion of Indians in the Rocky Mountains Park (renamed Banff National Park after the passage of the National Parks Act in 1930) was necessary, if not contingent, on these dual policies.

As first Superintendent of Rocky Mountains Park, George Stewart stated to the Minister of the Interior, Thomas White, on February 1st 1888 (following the Rocky Mountains Park Act on 23 June 1887):

“It is of great importance that if possible the Indians should be excluded from the Park. Their destruction of the game and depredations among the ornamental trees make their too frequent visits to the Park a matter of great concern.” [81]

Furthermore, with westward land settlement across the prairies, the Treaty of 1877 laid legislative groundwork —prior to the creation of the Rocky Mountains Park— for the creation of the three largest Indian reserves in Canada: Stoney 142-143-144, Blood 148, and Siksika 146. In order to maintain and enforce the exclusion of Indians and access to game in the wide expanse of the Rocky Mountains Park, “the removal and exclusion of trespassers”—modelled on the Yellowstone Park Act of 1872—was therefore an important clause in it; nor was it accidental that the inception of the dual administration of Indian Affairs and nascent National Parks, under the banner of resource conservation and management, was made possible by the Department of Interior and the 1876 Indian Act—a consolidation of colonial Indian legislation by the first presiding Prime Minister of Canada, John A Macdonald. As historian Mark David Spence astutely observes, “the dual ‘island’ system of nature preserves and Indian reservations” emerging in North America, including the examples of Yellowstone National Park in 1872 (US) and Rocky Mountains Park in 1887 (Canada), influenced a series of successive national parks and reserves in other British colonies, including the Royal National Park in 1879 (Australia), and Sabi Game Reserve in 1892 (South Africa), to name a few. Resource conservation and romanticization of wilderness thus served as masks for Indian removal, exclusion, and erasure:

“The idealization of uninhabited landscapes and the establishment of the first national parks also reflect important developments in in late nineteenth century Indian policy. Much as the conquest of the West reshaped ideas about wilderness, it also led to the creation of an extensive reservation system. Ultimately, these isolated patches of land came to represent the final refuge of the [North] American Indian, and by the late 1860s and early 1870s, [settlers] regarded reservations, rather than ‘wilderness,’ as the appropriate place for all Indians to live.” [82]

In Canada today, the strategies of territorial dispossession that span Indian Reserves, National Parks and Metropolitan Areas lie along a tight, integrated axis of racial segregation, resource conservation, racial segregation, and Indigenous erasure that are cloaked in policies of nationalization of nature preservation and wilderness fantasy and open space zoning; policies that remain historically continuous and relatively unchallenged. Reduced to quantifiable resources, the process of displacing and concentrating Indigenous peoples, whether “Indians” in Canada or “Natives” or South Africa, was (and is) essentially commensurate with a process of dehumanization. [83]


Much recent scholarship has speculated on the potential connections between American settler colonialism (with surprisingly little or no mention of the Canadian context) and the Holocaust. [84] American notions of geopolitics and racial entitlement to land crossed the Atlantic and gained devoted supporters in Germany, but the exact effects of this connection are debated. Some, such as Jens-Uwe Guettel, remain sceptical that American influences in Germany lasted until the Third Reich, claiming that the National Socialists, unlike Wilhelmine imperialists, rejected American liberalism and individualism. [85] On the other hand, others—such as Carroll Kakel—explicitly characterize Nazi eastward expansion as colonial and inspired by the American precedent. Kakel draws attention to the “mass political violence” of the Holocaust “whose patterns, logics, and pathologies can be located in the Early American project.” [86]

The second portion of this essay seeks to draw attention to not only specific strategies —the “patterns, logics, and pathologies” [87]— but also the broader colonial imagination and notions of geography that inspired Germans, and specifically German leaders, throughout the early part of the 20th century to the National Socialist movement. Such images were often inaccurate and internally inconsistent, but the prevalence of references to American tropes nonetheless shows that the American precedent was a source of influence and potential inspiration for Hitler and other Nazi leaders of his time. [88]

This relationship exposes, in Patrick Wolfe’s words, the “logic of elimination” as it relates to the Native —first in America, later in Germany— and the troubling relationship between settler colonialism and genocide. [89] By putting a broader focus on the deep-seated cultural stereotypes and images that were nonetheless powerful and constantly referenced during Hitler’s regime, this essay exposes the American influences on Nazi Germany geopolitical ideologies.

Canada may have been a source and precedent of colonial inspiration and Indigenous segregation to not only South Africa, but also to other colonial regimes of subjugation and extermination. Rooted in ideologies of racial segregation are not only relations of labour, but also racial distinctions made possible by who lies and lives outside and inside boundaries of dominant state powers or expanding colonial territories. Inherent to this distinction is the creation and significance of the frontier as Frederick Jackson Turner argued in 1893, “the existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward, explain American [history and] development.” More popularly known as the “Wild West,” Turner’s frontier thesis was contingent on the mythic representation and cultural representation of what was Indigenous lands as free, open, and uninhabited. [90]

While the diffusion of ideas likely occurred in several key directions —southward to South Africa and to the United States, for example, as explained in the first two sections of this note— one that calls for attention in particular flows eastward to Europe, and especially towards Germany. While models of colonial administration travelled westward from London and Great Britain, to Canada and the United States, prolonged periods of peacetime emerged after the War of 1812 made room for the development of a hyper-colonialism for Canada’s policies of, first, the extermination of Indigenous peoples; and later, their assimilation and integration. Focused on the management of the so-called “Indian Problem,” Indian policy —as represented in the Indian Act of 1876 spearheaded by Sir John A. Macdonald in Canada, and the Indian Removal Act of 1830 under Andrew Jackson in the US— was setting precedent for domestic (read, internal) forms of dispossession and displacement for other countries and other ideologues. [91] One of the least recognized, but possibly most problematic appropriations of Indian policy towards wartime ends of state control and cultural extermination can be found in the models, means, and measures adopted by Adolf Hitler before and during the rise of National Socialism.

Through his great interest in tales of ‘Cowboys and Indians’ from North America’s ‘Wild West,’ there is considerable, albeit fragmented, evidence that points to Hitler’s North American influences and, at times, ‘inspirations;’ namely, in his writings and speeches. Well before the advent of World War II, there are three distinctive yet intertwined dimensions to the intellectual environment that can be said to have influenced Hitler simultaneously as a boy, a soldier, and a ruler —that is, contextually, ideologically, practically—. First, there is his reference to the romanticized Indian and his demise in the novels of Karl May, of whom Hitler was a devoted reader; second, there is Hitler’s frequent use of Indian analogies and metaphors to propagate his own take on “Manifest Destiny”; third and last, there is the historical evidence that points to geopolitical thought transferred from Frederick Jackson Turner to Hitler over the course of several decades.

These references to America in relation to the conquest of land and the extermination of Indians indicate that Hitler (as well as many others in his time) explicitly saw the European settlement of the North American continent as a successful colonial model to be applied to Germany’s own territorial exploits.

Buffalo Bill and his Wild West cast in Venice, Italy, April 1890 @ William F. Cody Archive.

A. Karl May’s Wild West Stories and the Exoticization of the Dying “Red Indian”

The ahistorical perception of pioneering advances on the frontier of the American West —which included the westward advance of Canada— was popularized by the tales, fables, and fictions most blatantly perpetuated by William Frederick Cody (1846–1917) of Iowa, the American showman and self-professed scout-cum-hunter-cum-Indian fighter, otherwise known as Buffalo Bill. Thanks to a traveling circus-like show, mythologized images of the ‘Wild West’ not only travelled across America but also became popular in Europe towards the end of the 19th century. Buffalo Bill became a household name as he toured Europe with his Indian War-themed Wild West show, so much so, that his extensive travels across the Atlantic accounted for “almost a third of [his] performative lifespan.” [92] The reception of Wild West stories varied country by country across the continent, but it was largely attended on two successive tours. One particular country —Germany— was especially receptive to them. In the words of Julia Stetler in her doctoral dissertation, “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in Germany: A Transnational History,” German audiences showed an “astoundingly positive response” to Buffalo Bill and similar acts. [93] This, along with the novels of the likes of James Fennimore Cooper and Karl May, served as the backdrop for a large-scale, pan-European misrepresentation of North American history that seemingly justified racially-based ideologies of territorial conquest, ethic superiority, and Indigenous subjugation.

Karl May’s (1842–1912) bestselling Wild West novels involving the noble adventures of Winnetou, chief of the Apaches, and his companion Old Shatterhand, left a lasting mark on European culture broadly, and on German popular culture, particularly. May remains one of the most widely read writers in German history, with distribution estimates at over 100 million copies worldwide, including translations into 28 different languages; and his works have inspired a romanticized image of the American West in German audiences that persists to this day. [94] Interestingly, he did not visit America until after his works about the American West had become popular, and his writings reflect an understanding of America that was far from reality. As Heribert Feilitzsch writes in “Karl May: The ‘Wild West’ as seen in Germany,” he did, however, appeal to:

“several typical German characteristics: A romantic view of nature, ‘Fernweh,’ the longing for distant places and ‘Schulmeisterei,’ the tendency to dogmatize out of a perceived feeling of general German superiority … The novels constitute a mixture of stereotypes, chauvinist plots and exotic reality.” [95]

Feilitzsch characterizes May’s popularity as a response to rapid industrialization and Germany’s insecurity relative to other strong empires. The fetishization of the “Other” —the dying Indians, in this case— in readily consumable romantic stories, expressed a longing for a fabricated, exoticized “past.” [96] Hitler, who exploited these very tendencies in German popular culture during his rise to power, recognized that industrialization triggered a romantic impulse in Germany and encouraged the consumption of Indian stories. In his own words, and referencing Karl May, he said that:

“The industrialization of a country invariably provokes an opposite reaction and gives rise to a recrudescence of a certain measure of romanticism, which not infrequently finds expression in a mania for the collection of bibelots and somewhat trashy objets d’art[97] … The only romance which stirs the heart of the North American is that of the Redskin; but it is curious to note that the writer who has produced the most vivid Redskin romances is a German.” [98]

Adolf Hitler, who grew up during Karl May’s literary heyday, was certainly inspired by these novels from an early age himself. Probably not unlike many of his contemporaries, his very notions of world geography were inspired by such highly inaccurate narratives. Hitler was thus quoted as saying:

“I’ve just been reading a very fine article on Karl May. I found it delightful. It would be nice if his work were republished. I owe him my first notions of geography, and the fact that he opened my eyes on the world. I used to read him by candlelight, or by moonlight with the help of a huge magnifying glass. The first thing I read of that kind was The Last of the Mohicans. But Fritz Seidl told me at once: ‘Fenimore Cooper is nothing; you must read Karl May.’ The first book of his I read was The Ride Through the Desert. And I went on to devour at once the other books by the same author. The immediate result was a falling off in my school reports.” [99]

Cover of Winnetou, Karl May’s best-selling Wild West novel, first published in 1893 @ Karl May Bücher.

It seems that Hitler’s appreciation and consumption of Karl May’s novels inspired in him, and in many Germans, more than just a faulty or distorted knowledge of geography and history, a fantastic image of the West, and a derogatory —if not delusional— representation of Indians. For one, Hitler romanticized the violence and conquest portrayed in the novels. Kurt Ludecke, a member of the Nazi Party who eventually published a memoir (I Knew Hitler), noted that “[Hitler] was delighted to hear that as a boy I had devoured Karl May’s stories about the Indians, Old Shatterhand and Winnetou, and said that he could still read them and get a thrill out of them.” [100] Similarly, Albert Speer, Hitler’s chief architect, remembered that:

“Hitler would lean on Karl May as proof for everything imaginable, in particular for the idea that it was not necessary to know the desert in order to direct troops in the African theatre of war; that a people could be wholly foreign to you, as foreign as the Bedouins or the American Indians were to Karl May, and yet with some imagination and empathy you could nevertheless know more about them, their soul, their customs and circumstances, than some anthropologists or geographers who had studied them in the field. Karl May attested to Hitler that it wasn’t necessary to travel in order to know the world.

Any account of Hitler as a commander of troops should not omit references to Karl May. Hitler was wont to say that he had always been deeply impressed by the tactical finesse and circumspection that Karl May conferred upon his character Winnetou … And he would add that during his reading hours at night, when faced by seemingly hopeless situations, he would still reach for those stories, that they gave him courage like works of philosophy for others or the Bible for elderly people.” [101]

Not only do Karl May’s books glorify war and conquest, but they are also amenable to a reading that emphasizes the superiority of Germanness and white Christianity. While some have portrayed May’s writings in a more sympathetic light, emphasizing his pacifism, Christian values, and overall “positive” view of Indigenous peoples, [102] others, such as Klaus Mann, have suggested that “the Third Reich is Karl May’s ultimate triumph, the ghastly realization of his dreams.” [103] In fact, Winnetou —the first installation of the series that follows the adventures of German émigré Charlie (meaning Karl) and the Apache “noble savage” Winnetou— in its very first sentence deplores the fate of the Indian: “Alas, the red race is dying!” It is “a destiny inexorable.” [104] Perhaps more striking is the German nationalism that underlies the plot, as shown in the laziness and weakness of the German protagonist’s fellow American plotters. His first ally, one of the rare men who are morally and physically strong, turns out to be a “German immigrant just like [Charlie].” [105] Rather than give a “truthful” account of the American West, May’s hyperbolic writings seem to praise the bravery and strength of their thoroughly German protagonist. Moreover, they justify extermination through the pseudo-Darwinian logic that the death of the “red race” is inevitable.

Hitler gained more from Karl May’s books than a rough sense of geography and “winner and loser.” It seems he even interpreted the books literally and sought direct tactical inspiration: some historians have suggested that Hitler handed out May’s books to his generals as recommended reading. Klaus Fischer, author of Hitler and America, reports that “in 1944, despite the shortage of paper, he ordered 300,000 copies of May’s books to be printed and distributed among the troops as exemplary military field literature.” [106] [107] The wildly inaccurate images of the Indian that pervaded German popular culture thus became part of a more sinister narrative used in Hitler’s own version of Manifest Destiny.

B. Conquest and Settlement: Indians as a Metaphor for Hitler’s Own “Frontier”

Hitler’s almost childlike obsession with Wild West novels aside, he frequently used the imagery and analogy of Indian conquest to his very own “frontiers” of territorial expansion. Speaking of fighting the Russians, he said that “the struggle we are waging there against the Partisans resembles very much the struggle in North America against the Red Indians. Victory will go to the strong, and strength is on our side.” [108] This underscores the pseudo-Darwinian logic behind the statement that the death of the “red race” is a “destiny inexorable” —far from benign or sympathetic, such a worldview justifies the frontier battles that Hitler fought himself, in particular in his efforts to expand to eastern Europe by force. The American precedent confirmed for Hitler that the strong did indeed win out, at whatever cost necessary. Further extending this analogy, Hitler has been quoted as saying that the “Volga must be our Mississippi.” [109]

Not only was German victory inevitable (at the cost of others’ lives and land), but it was also retroactively justifiable because the masses would soon forget. Elaborating on his plan to settle and populate the “immense spaces of the Eastern Front,” and to carefully consider the question of the “Natives,” [110] Hitler again makes an analogy to the American West:

“In this business I shall go straight ahead, cold-bloodedly. What they may think about me, at this juncture, is to me a matter of complete indifference. I don’t see why a German who eats a piece of bread should torment himself with the idea that the soil that produces this bread has been won by the sword. When we eat wheat from Canada, we don’t think about the despoiled Indians.” [111]

Here it becomes explicit that Hitler referred to Canada as a model for “frontier expansion” through extermination, and that he knew that historical judgment favoured the side of the victor thanks to collective amnesia. More importantly, on the other side of the “conquest” narrative is that of exploitation (of both people and land) and of gaining access to the bounty of the “free land” that has been made available through it. “There is only one task,” he said in October 1941, “to set about the Germanization of the land by bringing in Germans and to regard the Indigenous inhabitants as Indians.” [112] In fact, the reference to “wheat from Canada,” coinciding with the largest land survey in Canada’s Western Prairies, was far from accidental, as Hitler had the understanding that the land thus cleared would yield material wealth, through agriculture and mining, to Germany. Hitler had a clear, albeit colonial, understanding of settlement, as he expressed in Mein Kampf:

“We ought to remember that during the first period of American colonization numerous Aryans earned their daily livelihood as trappers and hunters, etc., … The moment, however, that they grew more numerous and were able to accumulate larger resources, they cleared the land and drove out the aborigines, at the same time establishing settlements which rapidly increased all over the country.” [113]

There was prevalent knowledge of the material riches in North America, and more specifically Canada, at the time. At the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, prisoners were forced to give up their belongings in an area called “Kanada,” so named for the famed riches of the country. [114] The prevalent conceptions of North America, and specifically of Canada, as a place with abundant resources and riches (distinctly acquired through dispossession, displacement, and extermination) were thus reflected in German culture in some of the darkest ways possible.

Hitler repeated the myth of the frontier through his frequent references to America’s vast territory, in which he expressed insecurity vis-à-vis other great empires due to Germany’s relative lack of land. He believed —not unlike many scholars of his day— that the strength and spirit of a nation came from its territory. In Mein Kampf, Hitler commented that “the gigantic American State Colossus, with its enormous wealth of virgin soil, is more difficult to attack than the wedged-in German Reich.” [115] In Chapter 14 of Mein Kampf, “Eastern Orientation or Eastern Policy”—also translated as “Germany’s Policy in Eastern Europe”—Hitler continues to assert that Germany cannot lay claim to “world power” status due to its meager territory:

“The German nation entered this battle [World War I] as an alleged world power. I say alleged here, because in reality it was not. Had the German nation in the year 1914 had a different relation between territorial area and population, Germany would really have been a world power, and regardless of all other factors the War could have been happily terminated.

… Germany is no world power today. … In an epoch when the earth is gradually being divided among States, some of which encompass almost whole continents, one cannot speak of a structure as world power the political mother country of which is limited to the ridiculous area of barely five hundred thousand square kilometers.” [116]

He goes on to compare Germany unfavourably to other countries, namely the United States of America, which by virtue of their vast territories qualify as real world powers:

“Looked at purely territorially, the area of the German Reich compared with that of the so-called world powers altogether vanishes. … We must also consider as giant States first of all the American Union, then Russia and China.” [117]

Hitler claims that German colonial policy was inferior to that of the French or British because it did not “[enlarge] the area of settlement of the German race … [the other powerful states] not only far outstrip the strength of our German population, but … have the greatest support of their position of political power above all in their area.” [118] Not only did he think that the vast spaces of this territory were a source of imperial strength, but in the case of America, he also thought it was a source of national spirit; those spaces being (in the public mind) empty and unoccupied. In a speech he gave in June 1943, he said that:

“One thing the Americans have, and which we lack, is the sense of the vast open spaces. Hence the particular characteristics of our own form of nostalgia. There comes a time when this desire for expansion can no longer be contained and must burst into action. It is an irrefutable fact that the Dutch, for example, who occupied the most densely populated proportions of the German lands, were driven, centuries ago, by this irresistible desire for expansion to seek ever wider conquest abroad.

What, I wonder, would happen to us, if we had not at least the illusion of vast spaces at our disposal? For me, one of the charms of the Spessart is that one can drive there for hours on end and never meet a soul. Our autobahnen give me the same feeling; even in the more thickly populated areas they reproduce the atmosphere of the open spaces.” [119]

This “desire for expansion” —both physical and supposedly spiritual— for more space justified, in Hitler’s own words, “wider conquest abroad.” [120] Here is Hitler’s own “Manifest Destiny,” wherein he acknowledged that, whatever legal and political justification can be given to it, in the end, colonization was a project and product of asserting white supremacy. As early as 1932, he said that:

“Just in the same way Cortez or Pizarro annexed Central America and the northern states of South America, not on the basis of any right, but from the absolute inborn feeling of the superiority [Herrengefühl] of the white race. The settlement of the North American continent is just as little the consequence of any superior right in any democratic or international sense; it was the consequence of a consciousness of right which was rooted solely in the conviction of the superiority and therefore of the right of the white race.” [121]

Although Hitler’s racist notions of who was “entitled” to a certain land culminated in an extreme project of territorial expansion and racial extermination, his concepts of race and land actually date to much earlier—and then considered “scientific”—theories of land and national strength; namely, to Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier thesis, in which state and frontier intermingled.

C. The Historical Origins of Frontier-Thinking: German Expansion and “Manifest Destiny” from Frederick Jackson Turner to Adolf Hitler

Hitler’s admiration for America’s open spaces, combined with an understanding of how they were won (Karl May’s factual inaccuracies notwithstanding) culminated in a doctrine of entitlement to land based on racial superiority. Given that he used American expansion as an analogy and model for his own project, it is unsurprising that even his geopolitical ideologies were influenced by American notions of the frontier. Hitler’s expansionism was motivated by the then-popular concept of “Lebensraum” —directly translating as “living space”— the pseudo-Darwinian idea that stronger nations were like growing biological species in need of expanding their territory. [122] This concept embodied the circular logic that white people were meant to occupy a given space because they were succeeding in doing so. German geographer Friedrich Ratzel was the first to suggest this term, notably in his essay “Der Lebensraum.” [123] Ratzel was influenced by his knowledge of America, American history, and most importantly, of the writings of Frederick Jackson Turner, among them “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” written in 1893. As Jens-Uwe Guettel writes in “From the Frontier to German South-West Africa: German Colonialism, Indians, and American Westward Expansion”:

“German colonialists were impressed by American expansionism and envied the United States for the easily available (‘empty’) lands in ‘the West.’ In fact, Friedrich Ratzel was so impressed that he changed his career after visiting the United States as a journalist in 1874–1875. … In his first book, a travelogue entitled Sketches of Urban and Cultural Life in North America (1876), his fascination with both the question of race control and the immense space available for the westward expansion of the United States was already clearly apparent, and America featured prominently in most of his subsequent publications.” [124]

Ratzel also openly expressed praise for Frederick Jackson Turner’s “frontier thesis,” agreeing that the “frontier” was what produced “Americanness.” [125] In his work Politische Geographie, where Ratzel expresses a detailed interest in and knowledge of America, including the political, cultural, and economic union achieved by the westward expanding railway, [126] he also directly references the concept of the frontier, saying that Frederick Jackson Turner “contrasted the lively border of the American western expansion … with the European border which lies between densely populated countries.” [127] In a book exclusively about the United States, Ratzel argued that:

“In the United States … the greatness of space has counteracted decay … the will and the power to colonize that enlivens so many individuals have time and again enlarged the national economic sphere.” [128]

David Thomas Murphy, writer of The Heroic Earth: Geopolitical Thought in Weimar Germany, 1918–1933, attributes these influences to a broader transnational conversation that engaged the likes of Americans Frederick Jackson Turner, Alfred Mahan, British geographer Halford Mackinder, and Friedrich Ratzel in Germany. [129] Norman Rich, professor emeritus at Brown University, has gone so far as to claim that the “United States policy of westward expansion, in the course of which the white men ruthlessly thrust aside the ‘inferior’ Indigenous population, served as the model for Hitler’s entire concept of Lebensraum.” [130]

These ideas were later transferred to Hitler via Haushofer, a disciple of Ratzel who taught Hitler’s private secretary Rudolf Hess and, later, Hitler himself. [131] The relationship between Haushofer and Hitler is chronicled in detail in the book The Demon of Geopolitics: How Karl Haushofer “Educated” Hitler and Hess, by Holger H. Herwig. Hitler uses the term “Lebensraum” in many of his speeches, and three times alone in Mein Kampf, as a justification for Germany’s territorial expansion. During his speech at the Dusseldorf Industry Club on January 27, 1932, he said that:

“We have a number of nations which through their inborn outstanding worth have fashioned for themselves a mode of life that stands in no relation to the life-space (Lebensraum) they inhabit in their densely populated settlements. We have the so-called white race which, since the collapse of ancient civilization, in the course of some thousand years has created for itself a privileged position in the world.” [132]

Territorial Displacement and Sites of Segregation. Upper: 1836 map of US lands west of Arkansas and Missouri assigned to relocated Indians from Southeastern US under the Indian Removal Act @ Library of Congress Map Division). Lower: 1941 map of Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in the context of Krakow, Poland during World War II under Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Regime @ Auschwitz Museum. 


But as noted, North American influences in German geopolitical thought date back much earlier than Hitler’s notion of Lebensraum. In “From the Frontier to German South-West Africa: German Colonialism, Indians, and American Westward Expansion,” Guettel argues that prior to looking to the “East” (i.e. Eastern Europe), Germany applied ideas from America’s expansion to the colonization of German South West Africa. He writes that “colonial administrators actively researched the history of the American frontier and American Indian policies in order to learn how best to ‘handle’ the colony’s peoples.” He continues:

“the United States as a ‘model empire’ was especially attractive for Germans with liberal and progressive conviction. The westward advancement of the American frontier went hand in hand with a variety of policies towards Native Americans, including measures of expulsion and extinction.” [133]

Turner’s formulation of the “frontier hypothesis” in 1893 was also inseparable from Canada’s westward expansion. In 1928, historian Walter Sage acknowledged:

 “The story of the Canadian frontier is closely interwoven with that of the westward movement in the United States. For over thirty years Prof. Frederick Jackson Turner and his disciplines have been pointing out the significance of the frontier in United States history, but they have only casually alluded to the development of the Canadian frontier. Nor have Canadian historians, as yet, given much prominence of the westward movement in Canada. They have paid little attention to the obvious parallels which may be drawn between the history of the [frontier in] United States and that of Canada.” [134]

In “Eastern Europe and the Notion of the ‘Frontier’ in Germany to 1945,” Alan E. Steinweis says that the “frontier hypothesis” origins of German expansionism are largely ignored in traditional scholarship regarding Nazi Germany. [135] But contrary to this lack of contemporary scholarly interest, many geopolitical theorists —including Friedrich Ratzel, Rudolf Kjellen, Halford John Mackinder, and Karl Haushofer— thought up schemes; first, to expand in Africa; then, to expand to Eastern Europe. “Implicit in these schemes was the understanding that the settlement of the frontier would revitalize German society, and serve as a safety valve for a society that has become too densely populated and too urbanized.” [136] Thus the imagined “vast spaces” of America (and of Canada by association) had been inspiring a longing for “living space” in Germany long before Hitler.

While this connection is not new, it proposes an ongoing easterly flow of ideas from North America in general, and Canada, specifically. Robert L. Nelson’s concluding comments in his portrayal of a short official visit of German agrarian economist Max Sering to the Prairies in 1870, offers an important observation on the subjugation and targeting of Indians as a subtext to the inner colonization of Canada, set against the universal history of genocide:

“I am not arguing that Canadians were Nazis. I am however more than comfortable in … habits of thought and practice that provided many of the precursors to one of the most murderous colonizations of the twentieth century, from 1939 to 1944.” [137]

Last but not least, these complex connections in overt or subdued colonial techniques —from the dispossession of land through displacement methods (including the Long Walk of the Navajo and the Death Marches during the Holocaust), to segregation in designated areas under inhumane conditions intended for extermination— suggest a more involved but less understood historical linkage of, and spatial relationships for, the scientific management and bureaucratic administration of extermination policies that were embedded in the planned forms and exclusionary geographies of Indian reservations, and the engineered architectures and designed structures of Nazi concentration camps. In his biography of Hitler, historian John Toland wrote that “Hitler’s concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owned much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United States history.” [138] While the direct relationship between the planning and design of concentration camps in relationship to Indian reservations is less known and has been less studied, it is possible that the architects of the political regimes of Nazi Germany took direct spatial and territorial “inspiration” from their designs. [139]

As Thomas Kühne explains, it is in “differentiation, not generalization [that is] required … when it comes to inquiring into the roots and reasons of Nazi violence.” [140] What differentiates the Canadian example of race-bound segregation of Indigenous peoples (and nations) is its form of domestic inner-colonialism, as opposed to outer-colonialism. Both akin to goals of empire-building through accumulation of power with resources (spatial, environmental, human labour) demonstrate:

“variants of colonialisms and imperialisms. Useful here would be the distinction between ‘colony’ as an individual place and ‘empire’ as the assemblage of many of them, or calling the activities (and sufferings) at the peripheries ‘colonialism’ and those at the metropoles ‘imperialism.’” [141]

These inner-colonialisms are clearly evident in the infrastructural insecurity and substandard conditions of First Nations Reserves across Canada today, seen through the negligent lack of govenment funding for water, food, health and housing infrastructures to name only a few of the Crown’s actions that violate human rights. [142]

Examining the complex origins of Hitler’s expansionism shows that, while a singular cause cannot be attributed to Nazi Germany’s ideologies of racial superiority, entitlement to land and desire for natural resources and wealth, the case of the colonization of North America in a conflation now understood as Canada’s and the United States’ frontierism, at least served as an example and a point of reference in a shift of universal history that situates genocide in the unique and unprecedented context of Germany and the Holocaust. From the largely fictionalized accounts of the North American West by Karl May, which evoked pity for the dying Indian (insofar as he was civilized and Christianized), to the expressed envy of America’s vast territory and material riches, such perceptions of North America pervaded popular culture and influenced Hitler directly and indirectly. Such influences may since have been largely forgotten, and are potentially barely relevant, but the imprint of “frontier” ideologies remains. By depoliticizing Indigenous land and the Indigenous subject, these views underlie state-sanctioned corporate expansionist policies, [143] race-based sciences, [144] and extraction projects worldwide, [145] the legacy of which rests in our hands today.

In conclusion, this brief record of policies and scholarship regarding the transnational diffusion of ideas of racial superiority and white supremacy in territorial expansion, spatial strategies of segregation, and ideologies of extermination helps uncover the broad impact of North America  generally —and Canada in particular— within the reality of settler colonialism. This essay will hopefully serve to support future research and studies that expose the legacy of racist territorial policies and state-sanctioned strategies of spatial segregation that reposition Canada’s role as both precedent, recipient, and progenitor of genocide culture. Coupled with the restitution of land as a fundamental basis for Indigenous self-determination and sovereignty, this process is only possible if the extractivist state of Canada acknowledges, understands, and internalizes the atrocities at its foundation and their perpetuation today.


The authors would like to thank John Leslie, Ron Bourgeault, Thomas Berger, Nina-Marie Lister, Ghazal Jafari, Tiffany Dang, and Dirk Moses for their helpful comments during the research process and to Hernán Bianchi Benguria for the preparation of this article. Support for this research was made possible, in part, by the Summer Research Fellowship Program at the Center for the Environment and the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University.

[1] See Patrick Wolfe, “Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native,” Journal of Genocide Research 8, no. 4 (December 2006): 387–409.

[2] Thomas Berger, “The B.C. Indian land question and the rights of the Indian people” Speech to the Ninth Annual Convention of the Nishga Tribal Council, Port Edwards, B.C. (I November 1966), 3, in Daniel Raunet’s Without Surrender, Without Consent: A History of the Nishga Land Claims (Toronto: Douglas & Mclntyre, 1984), 167.

[3] According to the High Commission of Canada in South Africa, “Official diplomatic relations between Canada and South Africa date back to 1939” following the period of self-governance attained at the end of 1931, with “Canadian investments [today that] largely focus on the mineral and mining sector.” See Canada – South Africa Relations: Diplomatic Relations and Official Representation (June 2015, accessed 2 February 2018), http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/southafrica-afriquedusud/bilateral_relations_bilaterales/canada_south-africa-afrique-du-sud.aspx?lang=eng

[4] See Joan G. Fairweather, “Is this Apartheid? Aboriginal Reserves and Self-Government in Canada 1960–1982” (MA diss., University of Ottawa, 1993); and Linda Freeman, The Ambiguous Champion: Canada and South Africa in the Trudeau and Mulroney Years (Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press, 1997), who argued that “despite growing repression in South Africa in the 1950s, bilateral relations between the two countries continued to be very warm.” (16).

[5] Ron Bourgeault, “Canada [and its] Indians: The South African Connection,” Canadian Dimension 21, no. 8 (January 1988): 6–10. In the Canadian context of a growing movement against South African apartheid, Bourgeault’s research also served as a basis for a series of articles in the Summer 1986 issue of Currents – Readings in Race Relations 3, no.4, notably Tim Rees’ editorial “Apartheid in Canada and South Africa” (1) and Michèle DuCharme’s “The Canadian Origins of South Africa Apartheid,” (2–4). While the connections made between Canada and South Africa have remained subject to much debate and dissemination, with surprisingly little scrutiny since the fall of apartheid in the early 1990s, shared terminologies of apartheid, assimilation, and of segregation across colonies, bear critical significance from a historic, bureaucratic, and linguistic perspective. For a greater explanation, see Maria-Carolina Cambre, “Terminologies of Control: Tracing the Canadian-South African Connection in a Word,” Politikon Vol.34 Issue 1 (2007): 19 – 34.

[6] We Have Such Things at Home, directed by James Cullingham (1997; Toronto, ON: Tamarack Productions, 2014), http://www.tamarackproductions.com/we-have-such-things-at-home/.

[7] Referencing Bourgeault’s work, Canadian political economist and activist John S. Saul further outlines the conflicts, complexities, and contradictions between Canada and South Africa during apartheid and anti-apartheid protests in Canada. See “Two Fronts of Anti-Apartheid Struggle: South Africa and Canada,” Transformation: Critical Perspectives on Southern Africa 74 (2010): 135–151. See also, “South African Ambassador to visit Peguis Indian Reserve,” CBC Digital Archives, March 9, 1987, featuring a conversation between then Chief Louis Stevenson (Peguis Indian Reserve) and Yusuf Saloojee (African National Congress, Canadian Representative in Toronto) by the invitation of then South African Ambassador to Canada, Glenn Babb, to view the state of Indian reserves; see Karen MacGregor, “Apartheid envoy reviled in Canada,” Globe and Mail, August 30, 2003. In response to sharp criticisms of his controversial tour, see Babb’s rebuttal, “International Rhetoric and Diplomatic Discourse: A South African / Canadian Indigenous Encounter,” African Yearbook of Rhetoric 3, no.3 (2012): 7–20. From a diplomatic perspective, it is useful to note that while Babb’s controversial tour of reserves in Canada (which included subsequent others) contradicts his stated professional ethos that “discretion is the better part of diplomacy” expressed in his 1974 monograph Training for the Diplomatic Service (Johannesburg, SA: The South African Institute of International Affairs, 1974): 2, Babb’s actions corroborate his administrative interests and responsibilities for systems of spatial incarceration and territorial segregation, namely expressed in a study that Babb directed and authored for the Department of Foreign Affairs of South Africa, Prison Administration in South Africa, Cape Town (Pretoria: Government Printer, 1969).

[8] See Tiffany Willoughby-Herard, Waste of a White Skin: The Carnegie Corporation and the Racial Logic of White Vulnerability (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2015).

[9] See Edward-John Bottomley, “The Poor Volk,” in Poor White (Cape Town: Tafelberg, 2012), under subheading “Redeeming the Poor.”

[10] See David Nicholson, “Indian Government in Federal Policy: An Insider’s Views” in Leroy Little Bear, Menno Boldt, and J. Anthony Long (eds.), Pathways to Self-Determination: Canadian Indians and the Canadian State (Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press, 1984): 59. For an illustration of the evolution of Indian Affairs since the early 18th century, see “The Development of Administration for Indian Affairs” in James Frideres Native Peoples in Canada: Contemporary Conflicts, Third Edition (Scarborough, ON: Prentice-Hall, 1988): 31-34 (fig 2.1). For another explanation Canada’s racist, assimilationist policies as well as internal critique of the bureaucratic contradictions and confusions of Canada’s Indian Affairs, see “Indian Affairs & Northern Development,” in Place/Culture/Representation edited by James Duncan and David Ley (London, UK: Routledge, 1993): 187-204 by former Director of Economic Programmes in Canada’s Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (IAND) and geographer Paul Kariya. Explaining “that the social and economic definition of Indians [by the DIAND] has been a cultural abstraction,” Kariya argues “the unique and readily identifiable Indian reserve landscape in Canada exists as a constant reminder of this continued abstraction.” (188) Using Foucauldian language usually reserved for “mental health institutions, prisons, and similar places of complete social control,” Kariya underscores the significance of understanding the “strong categorization” of “Indian Affairs bureaucracies” as “total institutions,” citing sociologist James Frideres, author of Native People in Canada: Contemporary Conflicts, Second Edition (Scarborough, ON: Prentice-Hall, 1983), who refers to the Department of Indian Affairs (DIA) as “a ‘total’ institution in that it has a monopoly on the delivery of services to a captive clientele. Its organization is characterized by specialization, hierarchy, and regimentation, while its clients are uneducated [about its operations], unspecialized, and varied. By limiting the choices available to its Native clients, the IIAP [Indian and Inuit Affairs Program] shapes and standardizes Native behavior at minimal cost and risk to itself.” (227) For a commentary and review on Frideres’ views, see Harold Cardinal’s “Reviewed Work: Canada’s Indians: Contemporary Conflicts by J. S. Frideres” The Canadian Journal of Sociology / Cahiers Canadiens de Sociologie Vol. 1 No. 1 (Spring 1975): 128-130.

[11] See John A. Macdonald, “Memorandum, 3 January 1887” (Sessional Papers 20b) in Canada Parliament, Sessional Papers: First Session of the Sixth Parliament of the Dominion of Canada, Vol. 16 (Ottawa, ON: Maclean, Roger & Co, 1887), 20b-4.

[12] See Canada Parliament House of Commons, Official Report of the Debates of the House of Commons of the Dominion of Canada: First Session, Eleventh Parliament Vol. LXXXIX, January 2–March 4 (Ottawa, ON: C.H. Parmelee, 1909), 35.

[13] See Public Archives of Canada, William Lyons Mackenzie King Papers –16 January 1934– Diaries Vol. I: International Relations: Mission to Great Britain, U.S., and Japan (1908) including interviews with President Roosevelt at the White House and Sir Edward Grey at the British Foreign Office, PAC MG 26 J13 Microfiche 93 (Ottawa, ON: Public Archives of Canada, 1944), 24.

[14] Public Archives of Canada (PAC), RG10, vol. 6810, file 470-2-3, vol. 7: Evidence of Duncan Campbell Scott to the Special Committee of the House of Commons examining the Indian Act amendments of 1920, pp. 55 (L-3) and 63 (N-3) respectively; see Memorandum for the Special Committee of the House of Commons re. Bill 14 (An Act to amend the Indian Act) from the Secretary, Six Nations Council, March 30, 1920, as quoted in Kahn-Tineta Miller, George Lerchs, and Robert G. Moore, “The Impact of Immigration and WWI: 1906–1927,” chap. 7 in The Historical Development of the Indian Act, 2nd ed. John Leslie and Ron Maguire (Ottawa, ON: Treaties and Historical Research Centre, P.R.E. Group, Indian and Northern Affairs, 1978), 114, 176n57, http://www.kitselas.com/images/uploads/docs/The_Historical_Development_of_the_Indian_Act_Aug_1978.pdf.

[15] For the history of Indian reserves, see Richard Bartlett [esp. chap. 1 in] Indian Reserves and Aboriginal Lands in Canada: A Homeland (Saskatoon, SK: University of Saskatchewan, Native Law Centre, 1990). For a more general discussion of land rights and Indigenous peoples see Wolfe, “Elimination of the Native.” See also Miller, Lerchs, and Moore, Historical Development of the Indian Act.

[16] For South African uses of the pejorative term the “Native question,” see for instance Howard Pim, The Native Question in South Africa: A Paper Read before the Society on the 19th March, 1903 (Johannesburg: Argus Printing, 1903); and Alice Werner, “The Native Question in South Africa,” Journal of the African Society 4, no. 16 (1905): 441–54. 

[17] Bourgeault, “Canada [and its] Indians,” 7.

[18] (London, UK: William Ball, Aldine Chambers, Paternoster Row, and Hatchard, 1837), 63.

[19] 1839 Report on the Indians of Upper Canada by a sub-committee of the British and Foreign Aborigines’ Protection Society (London, UK: W. Ball & Arnold, 1839), 5, 10–11, 27–32, and 42.

[20] Tracts Relative to the Aborigines from 1838 to 1842 (London, UK: Edward Marsh, 1843), 3, 19–20, and 35–36.

[21] Aborigines’ Protection Society, 1838 Report, Information Respecting the Aborigines in the British Colonies (London: Darton & Harvey, 1838), ix.

[22] (PAC, RG10, Vol. 27, J. Norton to J. Owen, 10 August 1808).

[23] See “John Bradstreet to Charles Gould, Attorney General, 1764” (Box 128/450, John Bradstreet Papers. Tredegar Park Muniments, National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth). See also, W.E. Godfrey, Pursuit of Profit and Preferment in Colonial North America: John Bradstreet’s Quest (Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1982), in John Leslie, “Commissions of Inquiry into Indian affairs in the Canadas, 1828–1858: Evolving a corporate memory for the Indian department” (1985), 6n2, in Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, “Commissions of Inquiry into Indian Affairs in the Canadas, 1828–1858.” (Ottawa, ON: IAND, 1985).

[24] See Meaghan FitzGibbon, “The Mississaugas Part 3: Reserve?” https://www.heritagemississauga.com/page/Mississaugas-Part-3. For additional information on earlier legacies of the reserve system in Canada (New France), see also George F. G. Stanley, “The First Indian ‘Reserves’ in Canada” Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique française 4, no.2 (September 1950): 178–210.

[25] Bourgeault, “Canada [and its] Indians,” 7.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Aborigines Protection Society, Report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Aboriginal Tribes (British Settlements) (London, UK: William Ball, Aldine Chambers, Paternoster Row and Hatchard & Son, 1837), x.

[29] Ronald Rainger, “Philanthropy and Science in the 1830’s: The British and Foreign Aborigines’ Protection Society” Man 15, no. 4 (December 1980): 702. 

[30] Ibid., 1.

[31] Ibid., 3–4.

[32] Ibid., 14.

[33] Ibid., 4–59.

[34] Parliamentary Papers, Accounts and Papers: 1884–1885, Forty-six volumes, contents of the twelfth volume, Vol. 56, “South Africa further correspondence respecting the Cape Colony and Adjacent Territories (in continuation of [C.-3855] February 1884) presented to both Houses of Parliament in Command of Her Majesty, December 1884,” [C.-4263] (London, UK: Eyre and Spottiswood, 1884), 1.

[35] Ibid.

[36] The Pass System: Life under Segregation in Canada, directed by Alex Williams (Toronto, ON: Canada Council for the Arts, 2015), 50 min.

[37] Maxine K. Rochester, “The Carnegie Corporation and South Africa: Non-European Library Services,” Libraries & Culture 34, no. 1 (Winter 1999): 28.

[38] See Rochester, “Carnegie Corporation South Africa”; and Willoughby-Herard, chap. 1 in Waste of a White Skin.

[39] Willoughby-Herard, Waste of a White Skin, 2.

[40] See William Watkins, The White Architects of Black Education: Ideology and Power in America, 1865–1954 (New York, NY: Teachers College Press, 2001); Paul Rich, White Power and the Liberal Conscience: Racial Segregation and South African Liberalism (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1984); and Edward Berman, The Ideology of Philanthropy: The Influence of the Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller Foundations on American Foreign Policy (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1983), as referenced in Willoughby-Herard, Waste of a White Skin, 24.

[41] Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, The Politics of Knowledge: The Carnegie Corporation, Philanthropy, and Public Policy (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 11, as quoted in Willoughby-Herard, Waste of a White Skin, 3.

[42] Francis Wilson, interview by Mary Marshall Clark, Carnegie Corporation Oral History Project: Interview Catalogue (New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2006) transcript, Session #2, Cape Town, South Africa, August 3, 1999, 118–19, http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/digital/collections/oral_hist/carnegie/pdfs/francis-wilson.pdf.

[43] Bottomley, “The Poor Volk,” under subheading “Redeeming the Poor,” par. 6.

[44] Freeman, The Ambiguous Champion, 16.

[45] Political relations between Canada and Great Britain are inseparable from economic relations across ex-colonies. It is not insignificant that the UK began to trade at a deficit with Canada in the 1930s after a period of rising economic trade at the turn of the 20th century. As Canadian Member of Parliament John Charlton observed, “[w]ith this broadening of relations, and drawing closer of the ties that bind Canada to the Mother Country, has naturally come a marked development of Imperialistic feeling. Here, then, are two reasons for the growth of Imperialistic sentiment? The shriveling of our export trade to the United States, and the enormous expansion of our export trade to Great Britain. To these two reasons another one of much potency has been added. Nearly three years ago [in 1898], England entered upon a struggle in South Africa for the maintenance of her Empire upon that continent. While Canada had small direct interest in the question, so far as her trade with South Africa was concerned, she felt instinctively that the British Empire was passing through a crisis, that the loss of British possessions in South Africa would mean loss of prestige and indefinite disaster. [Canada] felt the necessity of preserving the great market which absorbed four fifths of her farm products; and, acting upon instinct rather than upon deliberate calculation, she reached forth a hand to aid the Mother Land. She sent her sons to the battle-field. She contributed large sums of money. In due time, her soldiers in the field displayed a degree of gallantry which received recognition from the Imperial authorities, and from the military critics of the world at large. Over this agreeable page in her history, the country naturally went wild with delight, and the tide of Imperialism rose rapid and strong, a movement which was unfortunately accompanied by an increase in the spirit of militarism.” See John Charlton, “British Preferential Trade and Imperial Defence,” The North American Review Vol. 175 No. 549 (August 1902): 169-170. For a more concise understanding of change in economic trade relations leading up to the formation of the Commonwealth of Nations (after the Statute of Westminster in 1912) and the 1932 Imperial Economic Conference in Ottawa as a response to the failing gold standard and colonial demands for preferential colonial tariffs and soon to be formed Bank of Canada in 1935, see Francine McKenzie, “Trade, Dominance, Dependence and the end of the Settlement Era in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, 1920-1973” in Settler Economies in World History (Leiden, NL: Brill, 2013): 463-489.

[46] Oswin Boys Bull, Training Africans for Trades: A Report on a Visit to North America under the Auspices of the Carnegie Corporation Visitors’ Grants Committee (Pretoria: The Carnegie Visitors’ Grants Committee, 1935), 9.

[47] Ibid., 5.

[48] Ibid., 19.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid., 10.

[51] Ibid., 26.

[52] Carnegie Collections: Columbia University Library, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Carnegie Corporation of New York Records, 1872–2000, Series III: Grants [hereafter cited as Carnegie Collections].

[53] Ibid.

[54] “British sociology [involving community studies, race relations research, and ethnography]—was established as an academic discipline between 1945 and 1965,” of which Sally Chilver was embedded, “just as the British Empire was gearing up for a new phase of developmental colonialism backed by the social and other sciences. Many parts of the emerging sociological discipline became entangled with colonialism.” See George Steinmetz “A Child of the Empire: British Sociology and Colonialism, 1940s–1960s,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 49, no. 4 (2013): 353–78.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Library and Archives Canada, Vol. 8588, File 1/1-10-4 (1949–1962), MS, RG10 (Indian Affairs Central Registry Files) [hereafter cited as Indian Affairs Record Group 10], Ottawa, ON: December 13, 1956.

[59] “Guide to the Charles Templeman Loram Papers MS10,” Yale University Library Manuscripts and Archives, New Haven, CT: September 1969, revised May 1998, http://drs.library.yale.edu/HLTransformer/HLTransServlet?stylename=yul.ead2002.xhtml.xsl&pid=mssa:ms.0010&clear-stylesheet-cache=yes, [hereafter cited as Charles Templeman Loram Papers].

[60] John Whitson Cell, The Highest Stage of White Supremacy: The Origins of Segregation in South Africa and the American South (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 221.

[61] Charles Templeman Loram Papers.

[62] The 1928 Meriam Report, by Dr. Hubert Work (Secretary of the Interior) was completed with the Institute for Government Research (precursor to the Brookings Institution) and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation (founded a few years after the Carnegie Corporation of New York and Carnegie Foundation). A notable albeit singular entry on the Canadian example in the 1928 Report establishes an important difference in the relative power of Canada’s Superintendent General of Indian Affairs (as regulator and enforcer, judge and jury) compared to those of the United States (as mere officer): “In fact, if the superintendent [in America] wishes to be particularly severe on a particular Indian, the usual means of attaining his desire is to turn the individual over to the state or United States courts for attention. The practice in Canada should be cited where the superintendent acts as a magistrate, hearing and disposing of the cases that come before him.” See Chapter XIII, “Legal Aspects of the Indian Problem” in Lewis Meriam, et al. The Problem of Indian Administration: Report of a Survey Made at the Request of Honorable Hubert Work, Secretary of the Interior, and Submitted to Him, February 21, 1928 (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1928): 773.

[63] C.T. Loram and T. F. McIlwraith, ed., The North American Indian Today: University of Toronto – Yale University Seminar Conference; Toronto, September 4–16, 1939 (Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press, 1943), 5.

[64] Loram, 295-296.

[65] An exception can be made in the paper (most likely the most provocative at the 1934 Conference) presented by Commissioner for the Bureau of of Indian Affairs (1933-1945), longtime social reformer, sociologist, and Native American advocate John Collier. See his “Policies and Problems in the United States” in Loram, 140-151.

[66] Loram, 5.

[67] A.G. Bailey, review of The North American Indian Today, by C.T. Loram and T.F. McIlwraith, The Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science 10, no. 1 (February 1944): 110.

[68] Loram, 4–5.

[69] Maria Golden (Carnegie Corporation of New York), “Carnegie Corporation in South Africa: A Difficult Past Leads to a Commitment to Change” Carnegie Results Newsletter (Winter 2004): 1. As Golden states, “The Corporation’s work in South Africa through the mid-20th century had the effect of earning Carnegie Corporation enormous credibility with the white minority South African government, but the relationship was purchased at the expense of the black majority” (2). 

[70] “Pittsburgh and Vicinity,” Steel and Iron [National Iron and Steel Publishing Company] 67, July 5, 1900, 31.

[71] See Lindsay Weiss, “Exceptional Space: Concentration Camps and Labor Compounds in Late Nineteenth-Century South Africa,” in Archaeologies of Internment, ed. Adrian Myers and Gabriel Moshenska, One World Archaeology (New York, NY: Springer, 2011), 26. See also the often cited report on Brazilian mine worker operations and conditions by geologist and mine inspector Thomas C. Kitto (well known by the British mining community including Cecil Rhodes), Report on Diamond Mines of Griqualand West, Kimberley, 1879, located in the Smalberger Papers at the University of Cape Town. See also, Robert V. Turrell, Capital and Labour on the Kimberley Diamond Fields 1871–1890 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

[72] Andrew Carnegie, “The Venezuelan Question,” North American Review (February 1896) 129–30.

[73] Andrew Carnegie, Round the World (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s & Sons, 1884), 294.

[74] David Lambert and Alan Lester,  “Geographies of Colonial Philanthropy,” Progress in Human Geography 28, no.3 (2004): 326.

[75] Indian Affairs Record Group 10.

[76] Ibid.

[77] Ibid.

[78] Ibid.

[79] Conversation by authors with Glenn Babb, 16 February 2017. To elaborate on the different forms of segregation that interested South Africa during apartheid, sociologist and anthropologist from the Belgian Congo Pierre Van Den Berghe observed in the late 1960s that Homelands were being conceived as variations of territorial and urban segregation: “[m]eso-segregation is considerably costlier but on it rests the political control of the highly explosive urban areas. From the viewpoint of the maintenance of white supremacy meso-segregation is thus essential. Only through the compartmentalization of racial groups into streamlined ghettoes can the dominant White minority hope to combat open insurgency. On the other hand the implementation of meso-segregation with the entire repressive machinery of reference books influx control job reservation population registration and group areas is directly responsible for the overwhelming majority of acts of protest and revolt against apartheid. Thus the ghettoization of urban life brings with it the growing hypertrophy of the police and military apparatus. Not only is the militarization of an ever-growing proportion of the white population expensive but its effectiveness is limited by at least two factors. First the open and unrestrained use of military violence given the climate of world opinion threatens the government with outside intervention. Second as the whites monopolize all key positions in government industry transport communications etc. and as many whites hold such key positions the simultaneous mobilization of the albinocracy on any sizeable scale would bring about considerable disruption of civilian activities not to mention the problem of the protection of dependents.” Pierre L. Van Den Berghe, “Racial Segregation in South Africa: Degrees and Kinds,” Cahiers d’Études Africaines Vol. 6, No. 23 (1966): 418.

[80] For a discussion of the historical development of Indian reserves, see Bartlett, Indian Reserves and Aboriginal Lands.

[81] See George A. Stewart, “Report of the Superintendent of Rocky Mountains Park” (1st February, 1888), Part VI in Canada Department of the Interior, Annual Report of the Department of the Interior for the Year 1887 (Ottawa, ON: Queen’s Printer, 1889), 10.

[82] See Mark David Spence, Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1999), 4. On the deep-rooted entrenchment of this systemic axis, see Frank Tough’s Research Note, “Conservation and the Indian: Clifford Sifton’s Commission of Conservation, 1910–1919,” Native Studies Review 8, no.1 (1992): 61–73; and Robert Jago’s incisive profile, “Canada’s National Parks are Colonial Crime Scenes: Many Canadians See wilderness as a right of citizenship. But the concept of Canada as a wilderness is unrecognizable to me and to other Indigenous people” in The Walrus (June 30, 2017), https://thewalrus.ca/canadas-national-parks-are-colonial-crime-scenes/. See also Ross Wakefield, “Muir’s Early Indian Views: Another Look at My First Summer in the Sierra,” The John Muir Newsletter Vol.5, no. 1 (Winter 1994-95: 3-6. 

[83] The persistent and collective process of othering between colonies is significant, especially where the exclusion and segregation of Indigenous peoples (othered as Natives, Indians, Aborigines) was shared and disseminated universally (as it still is, arguably) as both legitimizing and motivating factors in the removal of Indigenous peoples. When coupled with subhuman qualifiers carrying the element of threat (savages, red skins), these categorizations served the underlying and required aspect of legitimizing the dehumanization of Indigenous peoples, further motivating their distancing, removal, and destruction. The model of Indian Reserves, conceived and legislated in the Royal Proclamation of 1763, can thus be understood as the inception of a dispositif in genocidal dehumanization. As Rowan Savage argues in his formulation of genocidal dehumanization, “an Other whose presence is considered undesirable may be constructed in various different ways, considered so for various reasons. These reasons form a narrative of dehumanization that may, or may not, contain the element of threat. When it contains this element, dehumanization is a motivational factor and a legitimizing factor in genocide; this form of dehumanization is sometimes present in genocide.” See Rowan Savage, “Modern Genocidal Dehumanization: A New Model,” Patterns of Prejudice 47, no.2 (2013): 159.

[84] See David Blackbourn, The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany (New York, NY: Norton, 2006); Mark Mazower, Hitler’s Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe (New York, NY: Penguin, 2008); Jens-Uwe Guettel, German Expansionism, Imperial Liberalism and the United States: 1776–1945 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012); and Carroll P. Kakel III, The American West and the Nazi East: A Comparative and Interpretive Perspective (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

[85] Guettel, German Expansionism, Imperial Liberalism

[86] Kakel, American West Nazi East, 3.

[87] Ibid. See also Kakel, American West Nazi East, 219n12, where the author explains: “For the purposes of this book, the term ‘patterns’ refers to recurring empirical patterns of events in both the ‘American West’ and the ‘Nazi East’; the term ‘logics’ refers to ways of thinking, beliefs, and attitudes (conscious and unconscious) held by political elites and ‘ordinary’ citizens, in both historical contexts, that influenced behaviour and decisions; and the term ‘pathologies’ refers to values and patterns of behaviour displayed by political elites and ‘ordinary’ citizens in both historical contexts.”

[88] Whether the Holocaust represents an exception to, or extension of, German and European colonialism as part of German territorial expansionism or not, remains highly debated and beyond the scope of this essay. Nevertheless, in her article “Colonial Violence and Holocaust Studies,” historian of genocide and colonial violence Michelle Gordon makes this important clarification and analysis in the case of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany:

“Enquiries into the brutal actions of colonial powers such as Britain challenge the debates regarding the extent to which we can identify a specific line of German continuity from the colonies of the Kaiserreich to the Holocaust, or as [Benjamin] Madley states, ‘From Africa to Auschwitz.’ In-depth studies of European colonial violence have further significance for the apparent emergence of a new colonial Sonderweg and the extent to which German colonial violence can be understood as ‘exceptional.’ In response to this development, it is the contention of this article that a consideration of European colonialism is essential; Birthe Kundrus also emphasizes an approach which would ‘relativize the significance of German colonialism and stress the European dimension of imperialism.’ Hence, Kundrus acknowledges the relevance of colonialism for our understanding of Nazi warfare and occupation in the East and also points out that ‘the imperial world of the 1930s, especially the British Empire, was a kind of “sounding board” for National Socialism.’ In contrast, both Geoff Eley and [Jens-Uwe] Guettel have emphasized a ‘break’ between traditional European colonialism and the Nazi Empire and have argued that Nazi leaders ultimately rejected nineteenth-century ‘liberal-capitalist’ colonialism. With regards to a focus on the German variant, Thomas Kühne has also pointed out that for Hitler, ‘German overseas colonialism was a past mistake that the Third Reich was not to repeat.’ Guettel has further argued that imperialism for the Nazis was ‘expansionism as a polar opposite to the German colonialist activities.’ While we may question the extent to which Hitler was inspired by German colonialism specifically, it is nevertheless the case that the Holocaust occurred within the traditions of European colonialism.” See Michelle Gordon, “Colonial Violence and Holocaust Studies” Holocaust Studies Vol.21, No.4 (2015): 282.

Differences in the episteme of human genocide are therefore important, especially in the overlooked case of settler colonialism in Canada, one that has been poorly studied through the lens of colonial violence and genocide studies until recently. In a special issue dedicated to “Canada & Colonial Genocide” of Journal of Genocide Research Vol.17 No.4 (2015), Matthew Wildcat succinctly captured this recent transformation in his essay “Fearing Social and Cultural Death: Genocide and Elimination in Settler Colonial Canada—an Indigenous Perspective:” ‘ “With the close of the of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the term genocide has come to occupy a prominent position with Canadian mainstream public dialogue, at least for the time being. For instance, the front page headline of the Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest daily newspaper, ran the following headline as the main story on their front page the day before the release of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on June 2nd, 2015: ‘Cultural Genocide’ cited as the goal of residential schools.’ ” (392) Furthermore, the comparative yet overlooked perspective on settler colonialism’s relation to cultural genocide in Canada challenges the universal history and westward development of empire building practices informed by European powers, that has historically focused on the United States (see for example Frank Shumacher’s “Embedded Empire: The United States and Colonialism” in Journal of Modern European History Vol.14 No.2 [2016]: 202-224) and its practices of territorial expansion and economic domination in the 20th century; a perspective that has blindsided the relevance and significance of Canada, especially but not exclusively in relation to its global extractivist practices and internal administration of Indigenous territories and bodies; policies and practices that are akin to empire building in their own right. Furthermore, as historian of genocide A. Dirk Moses explains, in his analysis of the absence of Indigenous representation in the design of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (completed in 2014 in Winnipeg MB), there is a rhetorical and epistemological problem that contradicts the “self-congratulatory human rights project” that Canada has come to represent: “As a [self-]proclaimed ‘human rights leader,’ it is impossible for the state to admit a genocidal foundation. This is a genocide whose name dare not be spoken in the museum; it is a ‘conceptual blockage’ and will remain concealed, impervious to the progressive narrative of Holocaust consciousness that participates in rather than challenges the enduring savagery/barbarism/civilization categories.” See A. Dirk Moses, “Does the Holocaust Reveal or Conceal Other Genocides? The Canadian Museum for Human Rights and Grievable Suffering” in Hidden Genocides: Power, Knowledge, Memory edited by Alexander Laban Hinton, Thomas La Pointe, and Douglas Irvin-Erickson (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 2014): 25. Thus, in light of these historical blockages and rhetorical hindrances, the historical continuity and discontinuity in the distribution of ideological notions, administrative methods, and bureaucratic policies of cultural genocide in Canada—official or not, archived or not, systemic or not, continuous or not—represent critical if not essential areas of historical inquiry to the contexts of genocide studies whose pretexts and subtexts warrant further investigation and much more research as to their origins, extents, changes, and effects.

[89] For the centrality of race and culture in the understanding of genocide, see A. Dirk Moses, “Raphael Lemkin, Culture, and the Concept of Genocide,” chap. 1 in The Oxford Handbook on Genocide Studies, ed. Donald Bloxham and A. Dirk Moses (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2010), 19–41. See also Wolfe, “Elimination of the Native,” 387.

[90] Frederick Jackson Turner, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History” (paper read at the meeting of the American Historical Association during the World Columbian Exposition, Chicago, IL, July 12, 1893).

[91] See Jill St. Germain, Indian Treaty-Making Policy in the United States and Canada, 1867–1877, (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2001). See also James Daschuk, Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation and the Loss of Aboriginal Life (Regina, SK: University of Regina Press, 2013); and Wayne Dougherty and Dennis Madill, Indian Government under Indian Act Legislation, 1868–1951 (Ottawa, ON: Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Treaties and Historical Research Centre, 1980).

[92] Julia Simone Stetler, “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in Germany: A Transnational History” (PhD Diss., U of Nevada, Las Vegas, 2012), 2.

[93] Ibid., iii.

[94] Heribert Freiherr von Feilitzsch, “Karl May: The ‘Wild West’ as Seen in Germany,” Journal of Popular Culture 27, no. 3 (Winter 1993): 173.

[95] Ibid.

[96] Ibid., 180.

[97] Adolf Hitler, Hitler’s Table Talk 1941–1944: His Private Conversations, ed. Hugh R. Trevor-Roper (New York, NY: Enigma Books, [1953] 2008), 535.

[98] Ibid., 536.

[99] Ibid., 240.

[100] Kurt Georg Wilhelm Ludecke, I Knew Hitler: The Story of a Nazi Who Escaped the Blood Purge (New York, NY: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1937), 524.

[101] Albert Speer, Spandau: The Secret Diaries (New Haven, CT: Phoenix Press, 2000), 347.

[102] See Jennifer Michaels, “Fantasies of Native Americans: Karl May’s continuing impact on the German imagination,” European Journal of American Culture 31, no. 3 (2012): 205–18.

[103] Klaus Mann, “Karl May: Hitler’s Literary Mentor,” The Kenyon Review 2, no. 4 (Autumn 1940): 400.

[104] Karl May and David Koblick, Winnetou (Pullman, WA: Washington State University Press, 1999), 1.

[105] Ibid., 23.

[106] Klaus P. Fischer, Hitler & America (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), 21.

[107] See also Hans Severus Ziegler, Adolf Hitler aus dem Erleben dargestellt (Göttingen: K. W. Schütz, 1964), 72; Robert G.L. Waite, The Psychopathic God Adolf Hitler (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1977), 11–12; and Timothy W. Ryback, Hitler’s Private Library (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008), 179–80.

[108] Hitler, Hitler’s Table Talk, 469 [emphasis added].

[109] Blackbourn, The Conquest of Nature, 293.

[110] Hitler, Hitler’s Table Talk, 54.

[111] Ibid., 55.

[112] Adolf Hitler, monologue on October 17, 1941 in Monologe im Führerhauptquartier 1941–1944: Die Aufzeichnungen Heinrich Heims, ed. Werner Jochmann (Hamburg: Albrecht Knaus, 1980), 91, as quoted in Blackbourn, The Conquest of Nature, 286.

[113] Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, trans. Ralph Manheim (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1943), 419.

[114] Laurence Rees, “Auschwitz 1940–1945: Corruption” in Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State, series televised by PBS, 2004–2005, http://www.pbs.org/auschwitz/40-45/corruption/.

[115] Hitler, Mein Kampf, 929.

[116] Ibid., 936.

[117] Ibid., 937.

[118] Ibid., 938.

[119] Hitler, Hitler’s Table Talk, 536.

[120] Ibid.

[121] Adolf Hitler, “Adolf Hitler addressed the Industry Club in Düsseldorf, January 27, 1932,” in Roderick Stackelberg and Sally A. Winkle (eds.), The Nazi Germany Sourcebook: An Anthology of Texts (Abingdon, UK: 2002), 106–7.

[122] See Jeremy Noakes, “Hitler and ‘Lebensraum’ in the East,” BBC, last modified March 30, 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/hitler_lebensraum_01.shtml; and Woodruff D. Smith, The Ideological Origins of Nazi Imperialism (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1986).

[123] See Friederich Ratzel, Der Lebensraum: eine biogeographische Studie (Tübingen: H. Laupp, 1901).

[124] Jens-Uwe Guettel, “From the Frontier to German South-West Africa: German Colonialism, Indians, and American Westward Expansion,” Modern Intellectual History 7, no. 3 (2010): 535.

[125] Alan Steinweis, “Eastern Europe and the Notion of the ‘Frontier’ in Germany to 1945,” Yearbook of European Studies 13 (1999): 66, as quoted in Kakel, American West Nazi East, 21.

[126] Friedrich Ratzel, Politische Geographie (München: R. Oldenbourg, 1897), 417.

[127] Ratzel, Politische Geographie, 612.

[128] Ibid., 95, as quoted in Guettel, “German South-West Africa,” 536.

[129] David Thomas Murphy, The Heroic Earth: Geopolitical Thought in Weimar Germany, 1918–1933 (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1997), 2.

[130] Norman Rich, “Hitler’s Foreign Policy,” in The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered: The A.J.P. Taylor Debate After Twenty-Five Years, ed. Gordon Martel (Boston, MA: Allen & Unwin, 1986), 136, as quoted in Kakel, American West Nazi East, 1.

[131] Kakel, American West Nazi East, 32.

[132] Hitler, “Industry Club in Düsseldorf,” 106.

[133] Guettel, “German South-West Africa,” 523.

[134] Walter N. Sage, “Some Aspects of the Frontier in Canadian History” Report of the Annual Meeting Vol. No.1 (1928): 62. Witnessed by the history of gendered erasure (and sexual violence, explained below), another important parallel that can be drawn from Turner’s racist views in the frontier hypothesis, is its sexism. Absent of any gender differentiation for that matter, Turner’s patriarchal formulation of the frontier hypothesis, characterized by westward, American expansionism, was both contingent on the overt production of wilderness and covert erasure of women. Historian William Cronon observes: “Turner’s formulation of frontier ‘types’ in terms of the third person (male) singular—the Indian, the trader, the rancher, the farmer—was one of the ways he unconsciously shied away from examining more closely the pluralism and conflicts of frontier regions. But they were also the way in which society as a whole could become a kind of character in his story, much as different species had functioned for Darwin as emblems of the larger evolutionary struggle for existence.”[134] Considerable parallels can be thus drawn in the masculine and colonial representation of the space of the frontier and wilderness (akin to Manifest Destiny), as can be read in John Gast’s painting and representation of American Progress in 1892. Furthermore, beyond land cessions both in Canada and in the United States, the erasure of Indigenous women and girls has resulted in an accumulation of not only racist, sexist strategies (assimilation and enfranchisement programs, land-family separations, religious proscriptions, proselytization, legal and linguistic suppression, electoral inequalities, child removals, sterilizations, to name a few) but its attention has overshadowed deeper foundations for gendered violence (rape, abduction, murder) towards Indigenous women and girls as both precursor to, and outcome of, colonization across settler-colonial states. Alarmingly present today, gendered violence in Canada (and entirely applicable to the United States) is now the subject of The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls as profiled in the 2017 Interim Report, “Women And Girls are Sacred (Ottawa, ON: Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2017). For an analysis and review of how the “specific logic of sexualisation accompanied, permeated and coloured the colonial project of racialising the ‘native’” in the context of South Africa, see Azille Coetzee and Louise du Toit “Facing the Sexual Demon of Colonial Power: Decolonising Sexual Violence in South Africa” European Journal of Women’s Studies (September 2017): 1. In the context of no systematic study of rape in settler states of the 19th century, Pamela Scully has drawn from the important structural conditions in the long histories and violent consequences of patriarchy and masculinity of South Africa: “[w]e still have much to learn both about black women’s experiences of rape and the ways in which colonialism involved complicated linkages between representations of sexuality and of race. We need to unite the previously disparate historiographic concerns with rape as a metaphor, or as an index of social tensions, with a study that takes rape seriously as an act of violence by men against women. We must give attention to the ways in which multiple narratives about the meaning of rape in colonial societies helped to solidify and, at the same time, to complicate the meanings of and relationships between race, sexuality, class, and honor.” See Pamela Scully, “Rape, Race, and Colonial Culture: The Sexual Politics of Identity in the Nineteenth-Century Cape Colony, South Africa” The American Historical Review, Vol. 100, No. 2 (April 1995), 337.

[135] Steinweis, “Notion of the ‘Frontier’ in Germany,” 57.

[136] Ibid., 64–65.

[137] Robert L. Nelson, “German on the Prairies: Max Sering and Settler Colonialism in Canada,” Settler Colonial Studies 5, no. 1 (2015), 15. See also Robert L. Nelson, “From Manitoba to the Memel: Max Sering, Inner Colonization and the German East,” Social History 35, no. 4 (2010): 439–57.

[138] John Toland, Adolf Hitler (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976), 702.

[139] This intercontinental comparison parallels Carroll P. Kakel’s argument in The American West and the Nazi East.

[140] Thomas Kühne, “Colonialism and the Holocaust: Continuities, Causations, and Complexities,” Journal of Genocide Research 15, no. 3 (2013): 346.

[141] Ibid., 346–47.

[142] United Nations Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on The Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Addendum: “The Situation of Indigenous Peoples in Canada,” 4 July, 2014, http://www.refworld.org/docid/53eb3b774.html 

[143] See Alain Denault and William Sacher, Imperial Canada Inc.: Legal Haven of Choice for the World’s Mining Industries (Vancouver, BC: Talonbooks, 2012). 

[144] See Ian Mosby, “Administering Colonial Science: Nutrition Research and Human Biomedical Experimentation in Aboriginal Communities and Residential Schools, 1942-1952” Histoire Sociale/Social History, XLVI, No. 91 (Mai/May 2013): 615-642.

[145] See “Extraction Empire: Undermining the Systems, States, and Scales of Canada’s Global Resource Empire” edited by Pierre Bélanger (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2018). 

Pierre Bélanger, PhD, is a landscape architect and urban planner. With a focus on opening systems of knowledge on territory, ecology, and power (OPSYS), he is author and editor of several books and publications, including Extraction Empire (2018), Landscape as Infrastructure (2017), Ecologies of Power (with Alexander Arroyo, 2016), “Wet Matter” (Harvard Design Magazine, with Jennifer Sigler, F2014–W2015), Risk Ecologies (co-produced with Miho Mazereeuw, 2015), and Going Live: from States to Systems (2015). As a practicing designer, he is also a recipient of the Professional Prix de Rome in Architecture awarded by the Canada Council for the Arts, Special Advisor to the US Army Corps of Engineers, and Curator for the “Extraction” Exhibition for the Canadian National Pavilion at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale.

Kate Yoon is an activist researcher, author, organizer, and Clarendon Scholar at the University of Oxford pursuing doctoral studies in political theory profiling legacies of settler colonialism, slavery, and racialised immigration policies in Canada. As a graduate from Harvard College in social studies, she was Research Fellow and Canada Program Associate at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. As recipient of Harvard’s Thomas T. Hoopes Thesis Prize, her undergraduate research focused on an anti-colonial reading of Immanuel Kant and cosmopolitanism.

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