Duncan Campbell Scott

Written for and performed at Conversation@Noon: After the TRC as part of Lit Fest, October 14th 2016.

Duncan Campbell Scott
Confederation Poet
Believed this land was terra nullius
Empty land

Duncan Campbell Scott, who exclaimed in “Fragment of an Ode to Canada,”
“And Thou, O Power, that ’stablishest the Nation,
Give wisdom in the midst of our elation;
Who are so free that we forget we are—
That freedom brings the deepest obligation:
Grant us this presage for a guiding star,
To lead the van of Peace, not with a craven spirit,
But with the consciousness that we inherit
What built the Empire out of blood and fire,
And can smite, too, in passion and with ire.”

Duncan Campbell Scott
Who conveniently forgot
About the Royal Proclamation
Issued by King George III
On the 7th of October
“We do further strictly enjoin and require all Persons whatever who have either wilfully or inadvertently seated themselves upon any Lands…which, not having been ceded to or purchased by Us, are still reserved to the said Indians as aforesaid, forthwith to remove themselves from such Settlements.”
This document
The Indian Magna Carta
Proves that the Crown
Did not recognize these lands as terra nullius
Duncan Campbell Scott
Civil servant
Personal friend of Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald
The Founding father of Canada
Biological racist and
Signed executioner of Louis Riel

Duncan Campbell Scott, who wrote in “The Half-Breed Girl,”
“She is free of the trap and the paddle,
The portage and the trail,
But something behind her savage life
Shines like a fragile veil.”

Duncan Campbell Scott
Who furthered the strategy of Sir JAM
The one designed to assimilate the ones
That were not like us
Where the Indians were a problem
Where the Metis were a problem
The strategy that made Riel an animal: “He shall die though every dog in Quebec [will] bark in his favour.”
This discourse
The Indian Problem
A thorn in the government’s side
In need of a final solution

Duncan Campbell Scott
Treaty Commissioner
Negotiator of Treaty Number 9
Paved the way for (re)settlement and “development”
Mislead First Nations leaders
Trick or treaty

Duncan Campbell Scott, who thought in “Indian Place-Names,”
“The race has waned and left but tales of ghosts,
That hover in the world like fading smoke
About the lodges: gone are the dusky folk
That once were cunning with the thong and snare
And mighty with the paddle and the bow”

Duncan Campbell Scott
Who fittingly overlooked
How the Crown managed and marketed
Indian Lands
As decreed, for one,
In the Indian Act of 1876:
“All Indian lands, being reserves or portions of reserves surrendered or to be surrendered by the Crown…shall be managed, leased and sold as the Governor in Council may direct”
This forced relocation to reserves
Negatively impacted spiritual practices
And kinship relations
In favour of Euro-Canadian settlement

Duncan Campbell Scott
Deputy superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs
Government bureaucrat
Proponent of the ‘white way’
Biological racist

Duncan Campbell Scott, who declared in “Onondaga Madonna,”
“She stands full-throated and with careless pose,
This woman of a weird and waning race,
The tragic savage lurking in her face,
Where all her pagan passion burns and glows;
Her blood is mingled with her ancient foes,
And thrills with war and wildness in her veins.”

Duncan Campbell Scott
Who like other men of his era
Thought women were property
Of their Husbands
But for Indian women
It was legislated in 1880:
“Any Indian woman marrying any other than an Indian or non-treaty Indian shall cease to be an Indian in any respect.”
This (en)forced status
Prohibited the sexual autonomy and choice
Of Indigenous women
In favour of the needs of white men.

Duncan Campbell Scott,
Responsible for overseeing the Indian residential system
Made residential schools mandatory
Children stolen from their parents
Children who endured abuse
Children who never came home

Duncan Campbell Scott, who said,
“I want to get rid of the Indian problem. I do not think as a matter of fact, that the country ought to continuously protect a class of people who are able to stand alone… Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department.”

Duncan Campbell Scott
Who increased the number of children
Attending residential schools
Knowing the fatality rate of 25-50%
As reported by Dr. Peter Bryce
Writes beautifully of death:
“And now I leave the dead with you, O night;
You wear the semblance of their fathomless state,
For you we long when the day’s fire is great,
And when stern life is cruellest in his might,
Of death we dream.”
This bereavement was not for
The 150,000 children taken
The 6,000 or more who died
The parents who never knew what happened
Or for the ones lucky to survive.

Duncan Campbell Scott
Arbiter of cisheteropatriarchal fuckery
Whose words painted Indigeneity
As savage
As a dying race
As objects for men to consume
As a problem to be solved

Duncan Campbell Scott
Remembered in literary circles
For his love of nation and prose
Sleeps peacefully at Beechwood
Under an inferno of saffron and scarlet leaves
Licking at their forked branches
Soon they will fall back to earth
An acrid blanket on his grave.

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