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Getting Ready for Congress 2013 May 21st, 2013

I’m currently writing a paper for presentation at the upcoming Humanties and Social Sciences Federation of Canada Congress, which will be held in late May and early June at the University of Victoria.  I’ll be speaking on a panel that will explore the topic of extinction as it was understood during the British Romantic period.  Although I’ll discuss some contemporary responses to the extinction of animal species, my primary focus will be on perceived threats to human societies, in particular to Indigenous people in nineteenth-century North America.  Contemplating his people’s apparent decline as a result of disease, alcoholism, ecological disruption, and colonial displacement, the Ojibwe author George Copway (or Standing Firm) exclaimed in his 1846 autobiography “The thought of perishing! how insufferable! O how intolerable!”  Other contemporary Aboriginal writers, including Ojibwe chiefs Peter Jones (Sacred Feathers) and Joseph Sawyer (Sloping Sky), invoked the idea of the “Vanishing Indian” to criticize the immoral, grasping ways of much colonial society.  In my paper I’ll attempt to shed some light on the perspectives of these writer-activists and their efforts to empower themselves and their people.

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