Accepted Paper:

Petitions and treaties: settler impossibilities in the Abenaki-Maliseet borderlands  


Christopher Roy (Temple University)

Paper short abstract:

I contrast the logics of petition and treaty, informed by episodes in the history of the Abenaki and Maliseet peoples in the settler colony of Lower Canada. I consider how the logic of petitioning continues to frame the possibilities for indigenous-settler negotiation.

Paper long abstract:

This paper contrasts the logics of petition and treaty in order to consider the ways in which possibilities for First Nations self-determination are structured and foreclosed by the Canadian settler state. I also consider the fate of two historic First Nations communities, each of whom petitioned the government of Lower Canada for reserved lands: the Abenaki of Sartigan, along the Chaudière River, in 1809; and a group of Maliseet and Abenaki at Rawdon, north of Montreal, in 1842. That neither of these petitions was successful is indicative of imaginative impossibilities that were consolidated in Lower Canada in the early 19th century and that continue to exist today. Treaties were never an option, indigenous authority was believed to have been eclipsed by the settler state, and rights to land were restricted to Indian villages.

Petitions (and their contemporary equivalent, proposals) may be an important means of seeking assistance, but the logic of petition is also one of subjection. This paper argues that attention to petitioning alongside treaty-making is necessary to understand the naturalization of the indigenous-settler landscape of southern Quebec today and helps to explain the possibilities and impossibilities of settler-First Nations relations in the future.

Panel LL-NAS04
Living together with the land: reaching and honouring treaties with Indigenous Peoples