In 1849 white-Aboriginal relationships were considered evil by the British Empire. 1 This type of racial intolerance was commonly directed at the settler colonies where white settler men without “proper” white women might look to the indigenous peoples for relationships. Even more intolerant than accusing the relationship of being evil, if the relationship produced a child, a mixed-race child would be considered even lower on the British class system than the Aboriginals. 2 This type of racial intolerance is what breeds inequality and racism in the future.
Some specific examples of how the Aboriginal people were mistreated are explained in On the Edge of Empire chapter 6 “Fair Ones of a Purer Caste”: Bringing White Women to British Colombia. The chapter explains how the British Empire replaced Aboriginal women with white women to prevent Aboriginal reproduction, the British Empire replaced Aboriginal workers with immigrant labour to take away Aboriginals’ livelihood and the British Empire created and propagated falsehoods that besmirched and degraded Aboriginals and the Aboriginal way of life.
These actions which many consider to be “in the past” are what continue to influence the mistreatment of Aboriginal Canadians today. In On the Edge of Empire, Adele Perry makes it obvious that the white elites in British Colombia and England saw the interracial relationships between white men and Aboriginal women to be a problem that needed to be fixed. They decide the necessary course of action was to bring boat loads of white women to British Colombia to distract the men from Aboriginal women and straighten out this wayward settler society.
These boat loads of women would be taken from England where they felt there was a “surplus” of unmarried women;5 this is an example of how women were objectified. This migrations goal was not only straighten out men and stop them from drinking, gambling and other “back-woods” activities, they were there to replace Aboriginal servants and workers. So, not only did the white elites not tolerate interracial relationships they also openly objectified women as merely a fix for a situation. 6 Perry says this about what the elites thought women could do for the colony:
They would give up the gambling table, the bar-room, the dance house, the Aboriginal home, and their mixed race families for identities and behaviours benefiting and outpost of British civilization. “7 This is one of the images the British Empire gives its subject of the Aboriginal peoples. They associate them with such behaviour as gambling and drinking and of course, these behaviours are not tolerated by the Empire. This association is what lead the British to become racist towards Aboriginals and consider them less than human.
Not only does the Empire try to separate its subjects from relationships with Aboriginals they will not even allow Aboriginals to work for white settlers. The Empire attempted to civilize the Aboriginals by allowing “Indian labour and native or half-breed servants,” but decided the Aboriginal work force to be unusable deeming them “too obtuse, dirty, and untidy to be of much use. ” The British then replaced Aboriginal labour with Chinese Immigrant labour by the 1870s. 8 This essentially took away all hope for Aboriginal people to find jobs within the new society forced upon them.
The Aboriginals were forced to become subjects of the British Empire they wanted to Christianize them while at the same time refused to let them work. This paradox is what led many Aboriginals to grow up without education or a way for them to provide for themselves. This “historical” situation is what eventually led to the stereotype of Aboriginal Canadians being uneducated and dirty savages. Some of these stereotypes stem from how the British Empire treated and saw the Aboriginal people. The Empire came to the Aboriginal lands to conquer them and as a way to do that they dehumanized them.
They created the falsehood that the Aboriginals were dirty, savage, and wild who should be Christianized and civilized. 9 This dehumanization made it easier for the British subjects to mistreat Aboriginals and rule them. This quote is a popular thought of British elites: You first make any true relation between the Aboriginal people and the settlers an impossibility, – I know, from letter I have myself seen, that the great hindrance to Christianizing the natives of that country arises from abominations which from this cause have spring up in the colony. If a British subject truly believes that Aboriginal-white relationships create problems in the colony then they would no doubt try to abolish such actions. It is the British Empires’ elites who create the rumours and stereotypes to separate the Aboriginals from whites. This separation has led to the segregation and racial insensitivities many Canadians still feel today. While many Canadians today see the mistreatment of Aboriginals as a thing of the past but it is truly is an issue that still affects all of us.
The Aboriginals who live today still feel the effects of what was done to them hundreds of years ago and many Canadians refuse to acknowledge this. In On the Edge of Empire, Adele Perry documents some examples of how the British Empire mistreated Aboriginals as well as its own subjects. The Empire chose to send boats full of white women to replace Aboriginals as well as replaced Aboriginal workers with immigrant labour. Yet worst of all and most disheartening is how the British Empire chose to subject the Aboriginals to such dehumanizing and intolerant behaviour which led to continued mistreatment in centuries to come.