British Journal of Canadian Studies

The Sioux Hegira in Canada 1876–81: The Layering and Framing of Aboriginal Identity

British Journal of Canadian Studies (2006), 19, (1), 47–60.

Abstract

Approximately 4,000 Teton Sioux Indians fled north into Canada throughout the period 1876–81, following the US Army's efforts to finally destroy the cultures of the Plains Aboriginal peoples. Led primarily by the great Sitting Bull, many of these Sioux refugees claimed to be 'British Indians' and demanded the right to settle permanently in Manitoba. It fell to the newly formed Northwest Mounted Police to attempt to force the Sioux back across the border, the Canadian government ignoring their pleas to settle and instituting a harsh starvation policy to rid Canada of these unwanted guests. This article examines the Sioux hegira from the perspective of identity, considering white-ascribed Aboriginal identity labels that served to reinforce the idea of where the Sioux actually belonged, and the organic Sioux identity which the refugees altered to achieve their aims of cultural survival and settlement in Canada. Why did the Sioux alter their identity, and did this strategy lead to success or failure?

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Author details

Felton, Mark