Coll Thrush

Professor

Relevant Degree Programs

 

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2019)
Dark Mimesis : a cultural history of the scalping paradigm (2018)

This thesis examines the history of scalp bounties, i.e., the payment of money or trade goods in wartime to volunteers, militias, and mercenaries, for the scalps of indigenous North Americans in the British North American colonies and the post-Revolutionary United States, from the mid-1630s to the end of the 19th century. Out of a general Euro-American colonial backdrop of military alliances with indigenous peoples against indigenous third parties and rival European colonies, and the offering of bounties for captives and proofs of death to indigenous and European volunteers, British colonists parted ways with other Europeans by grafting a specific request for scalps, per eastern North American practice, with a broader policy of ethnic cleansing against indigenous peoples, and the outsourcing of this work to frontier populations with a vested interest in seizing indigenous land and resources. Synthesizing and surveying primary and secondary sources, I argue that Euro-American scalp bounties and the pursuit of those bounties, popularly known as scalp-hunting, were informed by 16th-century designations of indigenous Americans as illegitimate combatants, cross-cultural misreadings of indigenous warfare as a primordial or dysfunctional version of Europeans’, and a broader context of genocidal intent towards indigenous peoples collectively. Imagining themselves as the potential victims of Indian uprisings, Anglo-Americans invoked scalping to metonymize nightmare images of indigenous warriors as merciless and cruel; in turn, scalping was invoked to justify vigilante killings, pre-emptive violence, slave trading, and scorched earth campaigns of extirpation. Whites scalping Indians, on the other hand, was imagined as historically inevitable, and portrayed in art and culture as exemplifying their inheritance and supersession of indigenous lands, resources, and ‘American’ identity. I argue that scalp bounties among Anglo-Americans, and their justification as historically inevitable, is best understood as mimetic re-enactment of the dehumanizing stereotypes which rendered indigenous peoples as illegitimate combatants and the negative mirror image of Euro-American settlers. I refer to this bundle of ideas, truisms, stock images and narratives as “the scalping paradigm.”

View record

The eloquence of things: indigeneity and the 1925 Pontifical Missionary Exposition (2018)

No abstract available.

Nakona wasnonya yuhabi/Assiniboine knowledge keepers : Indigenous archiving from the 19th into the 21st centuries (2014)

This dissertation investigates the ways that Assiniboine peoples have kept bodies of cultural knowledge alive for their people from the reservation period in the U.S. and Canada in the late nineteenth century to the present. I intend to contribute to the archival turn with what I would call a nascent theory of Indigenous archiving. By focusing on Assiniboine people, I describe five Indigenous methods of keeping knowledge alive for their communities, including oral tradition, ceremony, sacred sites and territoriality, written texts, and artwork, as distinct from the Western methodologies of archiving. I contrast Assiniboine perspectives of archiving with what settler society collected and said about Assiniboine culture and history, and then explicate the differences between these settler and Indigenous points of view. This historical investigation of archiving Assiniboine knowledge illustrates relationships that range from animosity to reciprocity between Assiniboine and settlers regarding what it means to archive Assiniboine knowledge. This dissertation examines archives as bodies of cultural knowledge, archiving as an action of preservation, and Assiniboine cultural practitioners as archivists or what I call keepers of cultural knowledge. Throughout this dissertation I examine Assiniboine archiving as a set of interrelated processes. I suggest that the Assiniboine have employed a constellation of Indigenous archival processes that, in particular instances, worked in synchronicity in sustaining a degree of Assiniboine cultural identities, cosmologies, and a sense of peoplehood that has both undergone change and experienced continuity over time. I show that this constellation of archival processes mitigated previous damage caused by the ways of collecting by settlers, including those methods used in the disciplines of Anthropology and History, the universities that house them, and colonial museums and national archives. I demonstrate that these ways of archiving show the potential for Indigenous peoples to work with settler archives to support their own cultural preservation and to decolonize settler efforts through reciprocal relations (repatriation, managing or working with exhibitions), such as tribally managed archives and museums. This dissertation is based on extensive archival research and oral interviews with Assiniboine people on reserves in Montana, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.

View record

Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Looking to Vancouver's elders : the 1960s and 1970s food counterculture story and how it informs the contemporary incarnation of Vancouver's food sustainability movement: an interdisciplinary qualitative study (2017)

This interdisciplinary research is grounded in the Land and Foods Systems Faculty. It combines the Disciplines of Food Systems Research with that of History to investigate the intersection of the 1960s and 1970s Vancouver counterculture movement with food activism. This qualitative research is based on the belief that we must understand history to plan the future. The dominant food system is unsustainable. Thus, sustainability research is imperative regarding that steps that must be taken to move our dominant food system to one that does not compromise the long-term survival of our species or countless others. This research is a modified oral history of Vancouver’s 1960s and 1970s food counterculture movement. It contributes to the explanation of the events in Vancouver food activism in the 1960s and 1970s and communicates the advice, perspectives and experiences of activists from that time with respect to Vancouver’s food sustainability challenges today. This research specifically asks elders in Vancouver’s food activist community to help guide a current and new generation of food activists in that same city.

View record

Pest panic in the American West : the San Jose scale as change agent in American agriculture, 1880-1900 (2017)

The San Jose scale – a miniature, armoured, sap-sucking insect which preys promiscuously on all manner of deciduous fruit trees - became one of a host of accidentally-introduced bugs to plague American agriculture in the late nineteenth century, particularly in the West. However, despite its significant repercussions and contemporary prominence, scholars have relegated the scale to passing asides in studies of invasive species, American agriculture, and economic entomology. As such, it has little modern-day popular notoriety nor has it engendered the scholarly attention devoted to other contemporary pests like the boll weevil or gypsy moth. Yet the San Jose scale was a formidable change agent in Western agriculture, and also nationally. Its ravages stimulated the development and expansion of agricultural bureaucracies more than any other single insect, while also sparking numerous quarantine and inspection laws at both the state and national level. Meanwhile, the fecundity and tenacity of the scale forced technological innovation, driving entomologists, inspectors, and agriculturalists to pursue chemical solutions. Thus the scale played a key role in making pesticides hegemonic in American agriculture beginning in the 1890s, and also in the growth of government characteristic of the era.That said, the efforts of officialdom to promote pesticides against the scale ran into opposition throughout the West. I explore this backlash to illuminate both the early history of systemic pesticide use as well as its discontents, subjects which remain understudied. Moreover, the turmoil the scale caused - costing Western farmers millions of dollars in ruined produce, dead trees, and the expense of spraying their orchards – and the apocalyptic, fear-mongering language in which contemporaries discussed it, offers a lens into contemporary mores about nature, suggesting that nineteenth-century Americans understood nature as vulnerable, not endlessly bountiful. Finally, the scale’s depredations pushed some to question the promise of the West as the “Garden of the World,” and the system of industrial capitalism which opened up far-flung markets but also introduced exotic insects. In all this, the rhetoric about the scale serves as a vivid reminder of what Ann Stoler has called the “epistemic anxieties” at the heart of colonial enterprises.

View record

Colonial encounters, narrative production, and the possibilities of the personal : exploring historical memory and meaning in central North Dakota, 1911-1955 (2013)

In the winter of 1804-1805, the men of the United States Corps of Discovery or Lewis and Clark Expedition resided with the Mandan and Hidatsa Indians at their villages in present-day North Dakota. The hospitality the expedition received from these Indigenous residents in the form of material aid and the guide Sacagawea helped establish their critical role in what would become one of America's premier foundation myths by the early twentieth century. This thesis argues that both the Three Affiliated Tribes (the modern Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara nation) and the Euro-American settler residents of Mercer County, North Dakota deployed the narratives of hospitality in the Lewis and Clark story to further their own community interests in the early twentieth century. For the settlers this meant progress and a prosperous settler future while for the Three Tribes it meant stopping progress, in the form of Garrison Dam. The first section explores the long history of colonial interaction between the Three Affiliated Tribes and numerous non-Indigenous visitors to their homeland on the upper Missouri River. These personal encounters with the Lewis and Clark Expedition and later settlers resulted in both positive and negative experiences for the Indigenous residents. The second section analyzes booster rhetoric, published histories, and a Lewis and Clark themed historical pageant produced by leading citizens of the settler community in Mercer County, North Dakota. It demonstrates how a colonialist discourse of progress, Manifest Destiny, and a vanishing Indian race rendered Indigenous people as historic helpers in the establishment of a colonial state (despite their acknowledged contemporary presence). The third section shows how representatives of the Three Affiliated Tribes deployed their own narrative of hospitable colonial encounters during U.S. Senate hearings to try and block the construction of the Garrison Dam that threatened to flood out their reservation. In the end, this thesis argues that despite a tradition of hospitality and respect expressed in historical narratives, a stronger colonialist discourse determined both the main message of the settler narratives and the decision to construct Garrison Dam.

View record

The Indian Shaker Church: colonialism, belief and resistance (2013)

No abstract available.

What the whale was : orca cultural histories in British Columbia since 1964 (2011)

My thesis argues that indigenous historical narratives demonstrate an understanding of the killer whale subjectivity that settler society is only beginning to comprehend. Set in the late 20th century, a period when human relationships with killer whales were undergoing a fast-paced reconfiguration, my research explores the spaces of orca-human encounter in regards to three killer whales: Moby Doll, the world’s first orca held in captivity; Skana, the first orca showcased at the Vancouver Aquarium; and Luna, the orphaned orca of Nootka Sound. Each example speaks to the common process by which humans project culturally-specific narratives and beliefs onto the lives of the whales. In the case of Moby Doll, I argue that the dominant discourse regarding the whale conformed to a strict gender script that functioned to silence other narratives and realities of Moby’s captivity. In my following chapter, I look at how the close relationship between Paul Spong and Skana inspired the scientist to abandon his most fundamental assumptions about orcas in favor of new affordances for orca subjectivity. Furthermore, I argue that the scientific research of John Lilly, a scientist who had a similar conversion experience with dolphins, inspired whole new literatures and imaginations of intelligent dolphins in New Age culture. Finally, I return to the recent story of the orphaned whale Luna to explore how these changing understandings of killer whales accompany an emergent recognition of the validity of indigenous ways of relating to both animals and the past. I argue that the conflict that arose between the Department of Fisheries and the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation over the relocation of Luna is an instance of the informal negotiation of differing conceptions between settler and indigenous society over what is natural, what is right, what is history and what is the killer whale.

View record

“We do not talk about our history here” : the Department of Indian Affairs, Musqueam-settler relations, and memory in a Vancouver neighbourhood (2010)

The Musqueam Indian Reserve is one of the few in North America located within the boundaries of a major city. Although historical narratives have long silenced the experiences of urban Aboriginal people, this case study draws attention to the many contexts in which Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people interacted across legal boundaries that supposedly kept reserve space and urban space separate. This thesis argues that the Department of Indian Affairs was the principal actor in both facilitating and constraining Musqueam and non-Musqueam relations in early-twentieth-century Vancouver though its control of land, resources, and the consumer economy. Furthermore, this thesis argues that the policies and practices of the state were so pervasive that they have come to dominate any memory of those relations today. Using an extensive collection of oral histories recently carried out for a local community history project in Vancouver, this study explores the processes through which the history of Musqueam and non-Musqueam interactions have been both remembered and erased. In doing so, this thesis makes clear the relationship of social history to social memory, and contributes to recent scholarly work in documenting how Aboriginal histories are necessarily urban histories.

View record

 

Membership Status

Member of G+PS
View explanation of statuses

Program Affiliations

Department(s)

 

If this is your researcher profile you can log in to the Faculty & Staff portal to update your details and provide recruitment preferences.