Sonny Assu | Interdisciplinary Artist | sonnyassu.com

The Happiest Future


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Selective History, 2012

 

 

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it - George Santayana (1905) Reason in Common Sense, volume 1 of The Life of Reason

 

The Happiest Future has been inspired by World War I – II / Communist era propaganda dissemination, and based on the oppressive language that has been, and continues to be used by the Canadian government, its officials, its departments, and its bills of law. The language used, which has never been produced as visual propaganda, has nonetheless created a historical stereotype, a sense of bigotry and ignorance that continues to be held against the First People in Canada.

 

This work theorizes how propaganda could have been used as a tool used to influence Canadians on the “Indian Problem”.

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, that is the whole object of this Bill. - Duncan Campbell Scott, minster of Indian and Northern Affairs (1913-1932) on the Indian Act. 

During the World Wars, both allies and enemy forces used propaganda as a tool to rally the troops and to have citizens support the war effort. The propaganda itself was not limited in form, but the most iconic representations were the posters used to communicate an often hateful, bigoted message of unity and conformity. The messages varied, but the outcome was always the same: support the war effort.

 

The message for Canadians was to support colonialism and the Indian Act, which is an oppressive bill of segregation that is still law in Canada today.

The happiest future for the Indian race is absorption into the general population... this is the object and policy of our government. - Duncan Campbell Scott.

Canadians have a stereotypical view of themselves. We perceive ourselves as a utopian, just, and  tolerant society. We perceive ourselves to be free of discrimination, free of hate, and accepting of others. However, we rarely uphold that stereotype when it comes to the people who we continue to oppress. 

 

It’s a simple matter of education. Canadians need to take the time to learn the true hidden history of Canada.  We can no longer satisfy ourselves with the education that we received during our formative years: The First People in past tense. 

 

This has led to an understanding that there is no modern "Indian Problem".  What is evident, however, is it seems we have is a “selective history” problem. Which seems to suit our government just fine. To ignore the problem allows Canada to continue its exploitation of the First People and their resources, while we remain ignorant of our dark past. 

“We also have no history of colonialism. So we have all of the things that many people admire about the great powers but none of the things that threaten or bother them”  - Prime Minister Stephen Harper, 2009.

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