The Burden of History

Colonialism and the Frontier Myth in a Rural Canadian Community

Table of contents


1 Culture and Colonialism in Rural British Columbia

2 The Burden of History

3 The Landscape of Public History: Pioneers, Progress, and the Myth of the Frontier

4 Mobilizing History: Regional Identities, Pioneer Traditions, and the Frontier Myth in Political Discourse

5 Indians, Whites, and Common-Sense Racism

6 Encountering Histories: The Land Claims Public Forum

7 Re-creating the Wild West: Negotiating Indianness in the Williams Lake Stampede

8 The Frontier Complex: Conclusions and Comments

Notes; References; Index


This book is an ethnography of the cultural politics of
Native/non-Native relations in a small interior BC city — Williams
Lake — at the height of land claims conflicts and tensions. Furniss
analyses contemporary colonial relations in settler societies, arguing
that ‘ordinary’ rural Euro- Canadians exercise power in
maintaining the subordination of aboriginal people through ‘common
sense’ assumptions and assertions about history, society, and
identity, and that these cultural activities are forces in an ongoing,
contemporary system of colonial domination. She traces the main
features of the regional Euro-Canadian culture and shows how this
cultural complex is thematically integrated through the idea of the
frontier. Key facets of this frontier complex are expressed in diverse
settings: casual conversations among Euro-Canadians; popular histories;
museum displays; political discourse; public debates about aboriginal
land claims; and ritual celebrations of the city’s heritage.


Provides a deep examination of Aboriginal and Euro-Canadian relations in the city of Williams Lake, British Columbia. I recommend this book to those concerned with British Columbia, the culture of the frontier in North America, or the relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples.

- Matthew Engel

This book, a study of cultural politics in Williams Lake, British Columbia, is an admirable exponent of this reinvention of ethnography . .. the book is a refreshing portrait of diversity both within and between the aboriginal and nonaboriginal communities, and the variety of views represented shows the complexity of the issues within their proper historical and cultural contexts.

- David Mardiros