Chapter

Indigenous Labor in Mid-Nineteenth-Century British North America

Andrew Parnaby

in Workers Across the Americas

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199731633
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894420 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199731633.003.0011
Indigenous Labor in Mid-Nineteenth-Century British North America

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Aboriginal people in North America, like indigenous peoples elsewhere, have been engaged in paid work for centuries. Yet despite a long, diverse history, this dimension of aboriginal life has been understudied by historians of North America, at least when compared with the voluminous important work exploring “traditional” native cultures; the impact of settlement, trade, disease, technology, warfare, and Christianity on indigenous life; and the coercive nature of colonial Indian policies. This chapter—a comparative examination of the Mi'kmaq of Cape Breton and the Squamish of British Columbia in mid-19th-century British North America—addresses this scholarly silence. To this end, it considers how Mi'kmaq and Squamish families pursued agriculture and wage labor, mobilized traditional skills toward different economic objectives, and maintained, at least to some extent, customary rounds of seasonal resource procurement. Mid-19th-century Cape Breton and British Columbia were contested places, as the forces of immigration, capitalism, and state formation reconfigured customary patterns of indigenous life and labour in significant and divergent ways. The chapter is about those changing material contexts, their similarities and differences, and how indigenous peoples on the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts sought to understand them, negotiate their pressures and possibilities, and blunt their negative effects.

Keywords: indigenous people; wage labor; North America; Mi’kmaq; Squamish

Chapter.  12677 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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