A View from Critical Genocide Studies
Alexander Laban Hinton
On the second day of the conference from which this volume emerged, Tamara
Starblanket intervened in a panel to reprimand certain conference partici-
pants who, she suggested, were effectively denying that the destruction of the
Indigenous peoples of North America was a genocide. “I’m not going away,”
she promised. “I’m going to sit here and listen to the very end.”
At the start of the conference, Starblanket herself had presented an essay
entitled “Genocide: Indigenous Nations and the State of Canada.” An Indig-
enous scholar and graduate student in the College of Law at the University
of Saskatchewan, Starblanket focused her presentation on two key aspects
of colonial genocide: land and language. Citing Raphael Lemkin’s work on
genocide and territorial occupation, Starblanket noted that the genocide of
Indigenous peoples was all about territorial expansion and the occupation
of Indigenous lands.
She also stated that this process of deterritorialization had been masked by
language that was deployed to minimize and conceal the effects of genocide.
Even the use of a term like cultural genocide acted in this manner, misdirecting
us, for example, from what had happened in the residential schools. The word
colonization, she stated, suggests consumption, domination, and eradication.
While pointing out that the term genocide didn’t exist before the European
invasion, she suggested that it was important insofar as it provided a tool
to be used. She also informed the audience that she was the last surviving
member of her family.
Starblanket’s remarks appeared in part to be directed at another Indige-
nous participant, Joseph Gone, a clinician and psychology professor at the
University of Michigan as well as a member of the Gros Ventre Tribal Nation.
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