The Role of Colonial Artists in the Dispossession and Displacement of the Maliseet, 1790s-1850s

This essay addresses the role of colonial artists in the dispossession and displacement of Maliseet people in
New Brunswick from the 1790s to the early 1850s. It explains that the process of dispossession began in the
1760s when authorities in Nova Scotia granted away over a million and a half acres of Maliseet homeland on the
St. John River. Since most of those lands were not actually settled at the time, the Maliseets were not greatly displaced
until after the close of the American Revolution, when nearly 15,000 Loyalists invaded and settled on the
river, forcing Maliseets off lands that included ancient village sites. Massive lumbering in their hunting territories
and new pressures on fish and game brought severe poverty, disease, and suffering to the Maliseets. While
early colonial artists did at least provide documentation on Maliseet presence, the artwork tended to present
them as relatively well off and as picturesque curiosities. Petitions and other written records from the era tell a
starkly different story. This essay suggests that artistic misrepresentations of reality may have contributed not
only to ongoing dispossession and displacement, but also to the near-extinction of the Maliseet population in
New Brunswick by the mid-1800s.




Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d'études canadiennes University of Toronto Press

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