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Entries in canada (3)

Thursday
Jun052014

Selkirk Settlement maps

“Plan of land bought by the Earl of Selkirk from Peguis and other Indians. 18th July 1817.” Source: Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN no. 4149347. Click on this image to enlarge it.

“Selkirk Treaty – Indian Chart of Red River,” undated. Library and Archives Canada, note reads “Land involved: The Red River north of Red Lake River and South of Lake Winnipeg and the Assiniboyne River from Fort Douglas to ‘Musk rat or Rivière des Champignon [sic]‘ … No date (but probably accompanies treaty of 1817/07/18)

Two maps, the lower one probably sketched by Peter Fidler, witnessed, signed and attached to the deed of the sale of land along the Red River to the Earl of Selkirk in 1817 for the Red River Settlement.  It is signed by five chiefs who made their marks as their clan totems. 

Curiously, if one reads the potted history of the Red River Settlement, this negotiation is not mentioned: Selkirk purchased a controlling interest in the Hudson's Bay Company which already claimed the territory, and then granted it/himself a large (116,000 square miles) tract of land, Assiniboia, both to establish a colony of Scottish sheep farmers displaced by the Highland Clearances who arrived in 1812, and to quash the North West Company's interests in the West.  The Pemmican War ensued, Métis were involved, the North West Company burned down the colony's fort, arrests were made and eventually the North West Company merged with the Hudson's Bay Company.  The seeds of the Red River Rebellion fifty years later were sown here.

So where does this 'sale of land' occur in the official history?  Or was this simply a politeness, not really a sale, but acknowledgement that a negotiation had taken place.  

I first saw this map in Derek Hayes' Historical Atlas of Canada and just thought it the most alive map I had ever seen: the English names on the rivers indicate that north is at the top of the page, the Enlightenment convention where the viewer is located in the place of the sun, Sun Kings all of us.  However, the aboriginal chiefs were on the other side of the table, looking at the map from the north, their territory.  Both parties reveal their relationship to land: one is in it, one is looking at it.  The chiefs were spatially placed in a supplicatory position in terms of Selkirk's agents; the agents revealed their commodification of the land through both the power of The Map, and their objective view of it. 

Monday
May122014

once strong, but now weak, systems

This video, Andy Merrifield outlining the basis for his book The New Urban Question, came by way of Rodrigo Barros, a Chilean architect currently training as a construction logistician for Médecins Sans Frontiers.  Barros did a brilliant piece for On Site review 31: mapping | photography on the 'rightness' of maps that centre on the United States and allow South America to drift off the global view.  His is the view from the South.
 
This particular view, after forty years of intense geopolitical theorising from Latin America, is his lens, and so he picks up on a certain theoretical vocabulary found in Merrifield's brief outline of just how Manuel Castells' explanation of urban social movements has been superseded by a new form of divisive capitalism.  

When states can no longer afford the social services they subsidised in the full flush of postwar capitalist development, their disinvestment in such things as health care and housing pushed such services into the private sector.  This gave rise to urban social movements which struggled to hold governments to their role as keepers of some sort of public faith.  Merrifield feels that the turn to mass privatisation in the 1980s and 90s obliviated urban social movements and that a new paradigm must be developed that returns public space to the public, public health to the public, public housing to the public, the public service to the public.  

Just yesterday there was an interview on CBC with the head of Canada Post whose former position was as the head of Pitney Bowes. There we are. Pitney Bowes is an American private mail and data service for businesses.  Under the Pitney Bowes model, Canadian mail is no longer a public service, it is a corporate business, thus the end of home delivery, the shocking price of stamps and the full support of our current neo-conservative Thatcher/Reaganite form of government. This gives me particular grief.  We are a non-profit publisher with a publications mail contract with Canada Post which gives us a discount on mailing On Site review, except for international mailings which tend never to arrive.  Or if they do arrive it has taken six months to get to, say, Denmark. In contrast, Valery Didion's Criticat is sent from France at a book rate, €2.95, which gets here in a week.  In return I send On Site back to them at publications rate which may or may not get there several months later, or I spend $18 to send it letter mail which gets there in a week.  

Somehow Canada as a wide, dispersed country only sees urban social movements of any consequence in Toronto and Montréal, especially Montréal, infrequently and now rarely, Toronto.  In the rest of the country there isn't the critical mass to act collectively from say, Alberta to Manitoba, so sparse is the population. CBC used to be the glue that held us together, its recent cuts have been lethal.  It is all one with the sacking of scientists, the gutting of census collection and analysis, the cutting free of wounded Canadian Forces from their pensions, cutbacks to universities: the private sector is supposed to be picking up the slack, but it isn't.  And the time is past, according to Merrifield, for Castells' urban social movements to have any influence at all.  In this country, we missed that phase altogether.  

Tuesday
May142013

Chris Hadfield: ISS

So relieved the landing went well.  One always worries.