J.R. Miller, |
Lethal Legacy: Current Native Controversies in Canada
(McClelland & Stewart, 2004)
The back cover of Lethal Legacy: Current Native Controversies in Canada begins: "The disastrous confrontations at Oka and Ipperwash are an infamous part of recent history. Other incidents occur regularly: roadblocks on major highways; standoffs over fishing rights on both coasts; festering disputes over the legality of cigarette sales and issues of native sovereignty."
That introduces only a few of the contemporary issues native populations, yet the general public has no idea why the natives are upset. This book examines why these issues have become issues in the first place. J.R. Miller maintains that the biggest problem with dealing with the issues is that the government and people have ignored the history leading up to the crisis and have chosen to concentrate only on the crisis. This causes problems that could otherwise be avoided. (Smart man.)
Miller divided the book into six sections. The first five sections each deal with one large aspect of the native and non-native relationships. The final section, "Making Our Way Forward," offers Miller's suggestions for how to improve this relationship and resolve the problems and avert further crisis.
The sections are: "Designer Labels: Shaping Aboriginal Identity," "According to Our Ancient Customs: Self-Government," "A Strong Promise: Treaties," "All This Region Belonged to Him: Claims" and "Left Hanging in the Middle: Assimilation." These titles reveal the topic that is discussed within each section.
Miller takes us all the way back to the time before contact with whites and looks at how the natives' situation evolved over the years and each of the incidents that affected their population. He looks at those First Nations that were recognized by the government differently from those that were denied and shows how the various legislation and incidents affected each and their responses. Often those responses were radically different. Currently, those differences in historical treatment and labeling are still producing dissention within the native population.
Miller has done an outstanding job of compiling all of this information into a single cohesive volume. The writing is thoroughly enjoyable, often reflecting the author's own cynicism and sarcasm through subtlety or outright statement. He has an "in-your-face" writing style that only magnifies his points and logic, while leaving the reader perfectly clear on the issues and why Miller feels as he does. Even if you do not agree with him, you cannot deny his logic in any of his cases. He writes with precision and clarity. By the time you finish this book, you will completely understand why the natives of Canada are upset.
I thoroughly enjoyed Letha Legacy: Current Native Controversies in Canada and believe it to be one of the most readable histories of the legislation pertaining to the natives in Canada. The rest of the book is also great, but I especially like the way he discusses the legislation. The author maintains a high energy level throughout his writings that propels you forward and keeps you immersed in his words.
J.R. Miller, FRSC, is a history professor and the Canada Research Chair in Native-Newcomer relations at the University of Saskatchewan. He is the author of Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens: A History of Indian-White Relations in Canada and
Shingwaul's Vision: A History of Native Residential Schools. He was the editor of Sweet Promises: A Reader in Indian-White Relations in Canada.
book review by
Alicia Karen Elkins
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