Dr. Craig Fortier uses Humber River to explore role of memorialization in maintaining settler/colonial narrative in Canada. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Craig FortierDr. Craig Fortier, a professor in Renison’s Social Development Studies department, recently published “The Humber is a Haunting: Settler Deathscapes, Indigenous Spectres, and the Memorialisation of a Canadian Heritage River” in the peer-reviewed journal, Antipode. The article, published in the August 2021 issue, examines the ways in which the Humber River in Toronto has been memorialized and used to solidify “Canadian” cultural identity, while ignoring its Indigenous history.

As Fortier describes, Humber River’s history is tied to the “genesis” of Toronto, when colonization erased Indigenous peoples from the burgeoning metropolitan landscape. The river’s history is presented as a marker of progress rather than of dispossession, and in the process settler culture has received absolution for damage to Indigenous peoples and cultures.

The commemorative plaques placed along the river trail draw Fortier’s attention, and he explores the ways in which the history of the river and its surroundings have been carefully crafted by a colonial hand. In one instance, the 1500s-1600s are presented as “ancient history,” effectively erasing thousands of years of Indigenous history. Also along the trail, however, are markers created by Indigenous communities to maintain their presence. These statements take on many forms, including graffiti, flashmobs, and rounddances, among others.

Fortier appropriately links the commemoration plaques, and their defacement by Indigenous graffiti, with the recent toppling of statues. Toppling and defacing statues of historical figures, including John. A. MacDonald and Egerton Ryerson, does not erase history but is rather an act of “unforgetting.” In this context, unforgetting is the refusal to accept the settler narrative that has erased so much of Indigenous history.

Fortier declines to give the piece a conclusion, instead choosing reflection and leaving the door open for engagement. What is made clear throughout the article, is that there is an intention to the way history is presented. We can, and should, look at our own history in a critical way, to embark upon our own path of unforgetting.

To read the full article, visit https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/anti.12766. The full article is available to Renison and Waterloo community members using their WATIAM username and password.

  1. 2021 (25)
    1. September (1)
    2. August (1)
    3. July (3)
    4. June (8)
    5. May (6)
    6. April (2)
    7. March (2)
    8. February (2)
  2. 2020 (31)
    1. December (1)
    2. November (3)
    3. October (3)
    4. September (3)
    5. August (6)
    6. June (5)
    7. May (1)
    8. April (1)
    9. March (1)
    10. February (2)
    11. January (5)
  3. 2019 (29)
    1. December (4)
    2. November (5)
    3. October (2)
    4. September (1)
    5. August (1)
    6. June (1)
    7. May (2)
    8. April (6)
    9. March (5)
    10. February (1)
    11. January (1)
  4. 2018 (25)
  5. 2017 (100)
  6. 2016 (236)
  7. 2015 (167)
  8. 2014 (48)
  9. 2013 (34)
  10. 2012 (44)
  11. 2011 (8)
  12. 2010 (32)