Western Canadian Identity and the American “Other”

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Alex Deighton


This paper investigates the creation of settler identity in the North American West within a comparative Canada/US framework. The creation of a colonial “other” was an important aspect in the creation of settler identity on both sides of the border. It is argued that one particular image of the Native American “other,” that of the “ignoble savage” came to dominate the American imagination, while Western Canadians relied primarily on another image of the “other” in constructing their identity – the image of the inferior American. Whereas American and Canadian settlers both manipulated the imagery surrounding Native Americans to foster a sense of settler superiority, the image of the American as immoral, violent, and generally inferior to Canadians was the most persistent image of the “other” for Western Canadians. Through historical analyses of primary source material such as newspapers, popular fiction, and immigration pamphlets, and analyses of Canada/US relations, this paper explores the image of the inferior American “other” and its importance in the settling of the Canadian West.