Chamberlin: “Different Ways” Leading To The Idea Of Complete Denial of Others

Assignment 1.3–– This weeks question:

Figuring out this place called home is a problem (87).  Why? Why is it so problematic to figure out this place we call home: Canada? Consider this question in context with Chamberlin’s discussion on imagination and reality; belief and truth (use the index).Chamberlin says, “the sad fact is, the history of settlement around the world is the history of displacing other people from their lands, of discounting their livelihoods and destroying their languages” (78).  Chamberlin goes on to “put this differently” (Para. 3). Explain that “different way” of looking at this, and discuss what you think of the differences and possible consequences of these “two ways” of understanding the history of settlement in Canada.


Chamberlin discusses many different perspectives of looking at the history of settlement in Canada. The “different way” of looking at how displacing people from their lands, “of discounting their livelihoods and destroying languages” is that they are also “dismissing a different belief or different behaviour as unbelief or misbehaviour, and of discrediting those who believe or behave differently as infidels or savages” (78). This reminds me of the sociological concept of the “other” and of the fear or apprehension associated with the unknown, the unfamiliar, the strange. By taking away or dismissing the Aboriginals’ belief and behaviour, the settlers have effectively eradicated their identity (because that is what defines people, of who they are: their behaviour, their beliefs), writing off complex history and culture by slapping “laws” and “treaties” across their faces.

The two ways of understanding the history of settlement in Canada, then, following Chamberlin’s description, has more to do with the complete disconnection of every aspect between people and place. The eviction of Aboriginals from their homes not only took their land, or as W. E. H. Stanner puts it, their “hearth, home, the source and locus of life, and everlastingness of spirit”, but also their identity and their very existence as a society and community. Not only does it remove them from their land, but it also labels them as being “wrong” or “unnatural” because of their different beliefs and behaviours. This kind of unsettlement of the Aboriginals truly marks them as “homeless”, as they are forcibly removed physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally from their homes. They are, in a manner of speaking both literally and figuratively, denied the essence of their being. And yet, the idea of home still has lingering remains in their language, their stories, and their songs.

Chamberlin says on page 81 that “[a]boriginal people around the world… have turned back to their own languages and literatures to find ways of recovering the idea of home, and to tell their tales”, that “they feel like strangers in the languages they now speak, in the livelihoods they have been forced to take up, in the literatures they are given to read”. Here is an example of the idea of home: it holds no physical place, no belonging but only that through language and histories of ancestors and past generations. While taking a music class in high school, we studied Inuit throat singing as part of our curriculum, and the idea of the Aboriginals returning to their languages and traditions reminded me of the revival and raising awareness of this type of entertainment between women when men are out hunting. Throat singing is a part of the Inuit identity, and the interest of a younger generation in the art is a step towards them rediscovering the “differences” in behaviours and beliefs which were denied by others centuries ago, knowing that that difference is what makes them feel at home.


Works Cited

Chamberlin, J. Edward. If This is Your Land, Where are Your Stories?. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2003. Print. 22 Jan. 2016.

Griffith, Sian. “Keeping Inuit Throat Singing Alive in Canada | All Media Content | DW.COM | 18.03.2015.” DW.COM. 18 Mar. 2015. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
Zuleyka, Zevallos. “What Is Otherness?” The Other Sociologist. 14 Oct. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2016.

Read 4 comments

  1. Dear Cherie,
    Great post about the concept of home and how colonization has displaced not only people but their sense of home as well. Growing up in British Columbia I had absolutely no sense of being a not native inhabitant of this land. Looking back it is hard to believe but it was not until my later university years that I began to become aware of the fact that Canada’s indigenous population had faced, and continue to face, great injustices as a result of colonial rule and the lasting results. Even today school children lack general information about the impacts of colonization on the existing peoples and cultures. Home is comfort and familiarity and safety. Take that away, which is what happened to Canada’s first nations, and you take away the sense of home. And once that sense is gone and a new way of life is forced upon you it is very difficult to get that sense back. Jump forward to the present day and we can see some of those lasting impacts on the indigenous peoples of Canada. Today of course those of us in Canada can accept the injustices that occurred and take responsibility but is there a way to return that sense of home? Turning back to their own languages is a start but I don’t know that the same sense of home that they once felt can ever be obtained again.

    • Hi Alex,

      I actually like the fact that you had no sense of being a not native in BC until university, because that’s exactly where the concept of “home” comes in, right? You grew up here, lived here, heard stories about this place, etc., so I think it’s a great representation of the idea of the home, even if you are not “native” to the land. I also think the education and awareness of the struggles and injustice of the Aboriginals were a rather recent thing? At least to me, studying at a Canadian international school, we MUST learn about Canadian geography and history in Grade 7-8. Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly), the treatment of the natives were barely mentioned, or brushed over really quickly in favour of how the British and the French “discovered” Canada and settled into communities and commenced trade. I’m just learning more about what really happened to the Aboriginals once I’ve been to UBC, learning that our university is on unceded territory and of residential schools. Of course, if there is a way to fully restore the sense of “home” I am sure we would all be behind that, but instead of going back to the way they once felt about home, isn’t it better if we all created that sense of “new” home together? This time without taking someone else’s away.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Hi Cherie,

    I really like your point about home being such an important part of a community’s identity, and denying Aboriginals that home has made them homeless in their own land. I think the difficulty we have in the present, as descendants of European settlers, is that we feel Canada either has to be our home or theirs. If we admit that Canada is their home, then where is ours? Europe is no longer our home. No matter what we may think of the cruelty and selfishness of our ancestors, we instinctually fight to not be homeless in our own land. I think Chamberlin’s ideal of eradicating the them and us distinction is the only real way to move forward. That means us giving up some of our power so they can have it, but it doesn’t mean reversing our situations entirely.

    What are your thoughts?


    • Hi Caitlin!

      I agree with Chamberlin’s ideal of eradicating the “them and us” distinction as the real way to move forward, but I thought of it as more of a synergistic or cooperative movement / creation rather than having to do with relinquishing power. The power dynamic is already so skewed that it is one of the main reasons for unfair treatment of the Aboriginals. Can there be fair treatment of everyone when people in positions of power and authority are still largely misrepresentations of the people of Canada (while wanting to keep that power)? This is being addressed with Trudeau’s cabinet, but it is still just one tiny step in the way of larger social reform and change. Of course, no one likes giving up control because that is what gets people what they want, but it is precisely this mentality and socially ingrained element that has the world so out of balance. I think people should stop thinking about what is “ours” and “theirs” in an attempt to be territorial, but rather think of everything as “one”. There is only one Canada, and the body of people that are within the country are all Canadians. No matter the differences in identity or ethnicity, as long as Canada is our idea of home, why can’t we all belong? Because people are selfish, because people like control, because people don’t want to give up what they already have? That kind of makes humanity sound very, very much like a five-year-old not wanting to give up their prized toy figure, except this is on a world-wide scale.

      Thanks for commenting!

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