Aborigines Saved Yet Again: Settler Nationalism and Hero Narratives in a 2001 Exhibition of Taiwan Aboriginal Artefacts

Mark Eric Munsterhjelm
Indigenous Governance Program, University of Victoria
July, 2004
 

Abstract

Drawing upon field work, mass media accounts, and Canadian government internal documents, this thesis considers how settler/Aboriginal power relations were reproduced
when Taiwan Aboriginal artefacts owned by the Royal Ontario Museum were used in a 2001 exhibition in Taipei to commemorate the centennial of the death of the Taiwanese
nationalist hero, George Leslie Mackay (1844-1901). I argue that this exhibition and related Taiwan-Canada state Aboriginal exchanges have been hierarchically structured by
organizational narratives in which coalitions of settler state institutions function as adept heroes who quest to help inept Aboriginal peoples deal with various reified difficulties such as “cultural loss” or “economic development.” Aboriginal participants are portrayed as thankful for the heroes’ sacrifices and thereby morally validate the heroes’ quests and
relations between settlers and Aborigines. Helping Aborigines thereby allows for moral claims by involved institutions that justify the use of Aboriginal exchanges to advance
multiple institutional agendas including Canadian government nation branding,
Taiwanese government informal diplomacy, and corporate advertising.
Available online at:
http://web.uvic.ca/igov/research/Munsterhjelm%20MA%20Thesis.pdf
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