Water’s Children: Symbiogenetic Destruction through Canadian Residential Schools and the Fate of Lake Winnipeg
1University of Manitoba, Canada; 2University of Manitoba, Canada
This presentation re-examines the genocidal impact of residential schools by centering the relationship between Indigenous nations and water. Drawing on Survivor testimonies of their childhood and relations to water before residential schools, we outline how “symbiogenetic” relations between Anishinaabe peoples, their language, identity, and Lake Winnipeg were disrupted through the Canadian assimilative project. Symbiogenesis is the process whereby complex systems are produced through inter-species relations. In the context of genocide studies, we suggest the “groups” that genocide studies seeks to protect are symbiogenetic associations sustained through relations between the human and other-than-human worlds. Childhood is a particularly important time for development of such relations, especially within Indigenous nations; however, residential schools operated to sever and recalibrate these relations, compelling Indigenous children to reimagine their relations with water through the lens of settler capitalism, culminating in the present toxification of Lake Winnipeg. We argue that this process needs to be understood not solely as ecocidal or genocidal, but as one of a shared, symbiogenetic destruction of human/other-than-human relations, resulting in a form of social/natural death.
Paratext in National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Archives
University of Manitoba, Canada
My paper will be a subsection of my master's thesis research set to be conducted under the supervision of Dr. Adam Muller and Dr. Kjell Anderson.
My project will consider to what extent Canada is continuing to reinforce genocidal ideologies in the paratext in Indian Residential School (IRS) archival documents. Paratext can perpetuate specific biases. Scholars have shown that paratext is often the site of racial supremacy. A few words of paratext have the power to transform the entire meaning of text toward provoking racial hatred or justifying past acts of atrocity. Currently, there is a dearth of scholarship applying these theories of paratext to archival records of Canadian IRS. My project will apply theories of paratextual racial supremacy to IRS archives at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR).
My thesis project will explore the following questions: (1) To what extent can literary paratext theory be applied to the NCTR archives to understand the truth preserved in the records beyond the paratext framing each document? (2) How does the NCTR archives preserve the ideologies in paratext that led to Canada’s residential schools and perpetuate the genocide of Indigenous peoples in Canada? (3) Does presenting the paratext uncritically violate Canada’s domestic and international human rights commitments?
My paper will be a case study examining one or several connected instances of paratext supporting the ideological mission of IRS. I will conduct a qualitative analysis of all publicly available IRS documents associated with Manitoban IRS to select one such case study. The paper will draw from peer-reviewed and elder approved historical accounts of IRS to ensure the accuracy of the project.
Digitization and Records of Settler Colonial Genocide: The Role of Access, Privacy and Data Sovereignty
University of British Columbia, Canada
Settler Colonial Genocide in Canada has carried on systematically through church, government and corporate structures for over five-hundred years. It takes many different forms and occupies a number of inter-related systems through social, political and economic structures and ideologies. The records of settler colonial genocide exist across Canada in many forms and tell stories of discrete, time-bound events as well as ongoing long-term systems of removal. In Canada, there is deserved and focused attention especially, on the records of systematic violence like the Indian residential schools, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and the child welfare system.
Digital records of past and contemporary atrocities are seen by many as a way to prevent or reduce atrocities in the future. This paper will examine how methods for digital archiving, access to digital content management systems and control over record collection has transformed the post-reconciliation era in Canada and how many Survivors and communities still struggle to preserve and promote truth in response to ongoing denialism and hatred promoted on digital and social media realms. Records of settler colonial genocide, Survivor statements of truth and community movements towards justice or reconciliation are also being replicated and built in growing digital archives. What has also emerged with the ‘digital turn’ have been questions of access and privacy and how Survivors as well as First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities in Canada have control over their own records of genocide. Moreover, how do the ‘right to know’, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and a right to data sovereignty over digital records restore control for the narratives of genocide inside Indigenous communities?
Gendered Ecologies in the Cambodian Genocide: An Ecofeminist Framework of Symbiogenetic Destruction
University of Manitoba, Canada
This paper explores the intersection between ecologies, genocide and gender relations. I draw on critical genocide and ecofeminist perspectives that challenge the anthro/andropocentrism common to genocide studies to initiate development of a conceptual framework that contends with gendered “symbiogenesis” in genocide. Symbiogenesis is the process through which humans and their natural worlds engage in co-constitutive relations that shape the group’s cultural identity. In this sense, the severing of social/ecological relations, defined here as symbiogenetic destruction, can constitute cultural genocide in and of itself or can contribute to, or intensify experiences in, broader genocidal processes. In this paper, I refer to gendered symbiogenetic destruction to argue that gender relations are often a core element of the group’s collective identity that are also intertwined with the natural world. These gendered ecological relations can add to women’s power, but can also be interrupted in a manner that intensifies their experiences of targeted violence in genocide. Gendered symbiogenetic relations may also maintain unequal social relations and structural violence. I illustrate gendered symbiogenetic relations and destruction through a discussion of Cambodian women’s experiences in genocide and in relation with rice fields and rice production. I argue that an ecofeminist understanding of symbiogenesis can provide the necessary framework to engage with gendered ecologies as a complex, multi-layered and embodied phenomenon of social/natural death in genocide. Such an analysis is useful in connecting gendered violence with institutional and structural power both between the victim and perpetrator groups as well as within the targeted group. In other words, an approach that both contributes to the understanding and prevention of genocide and engages in emancipatory praxis to disrupt unequal gender relations that extend beyond the conflict and into “peacetime”.