The emergent Idle No More movement in Canada has brought new attention to an old problem. But understanding the demands of Canada’s indigenous people requires understanding the history of colonialism in the Americas. What the Canadian subset of the indigenous is holding protests and hunger strikes for now—fundamentally, the right to self-determination—the rest of the Americas’ natives also feel, and acutely.
In many parts of the world, Africa in particular, European colonization aimed at extracting labor and resources from the colonized region, rather than expansion and settlement. Relatively few Europeans relocated to these areas, and even fewer remained behind post-independence to test their fortunes in new, native-majority states. Even if there was a plan to claim these places for Europeans and remove the indigenous peoples, those plans did not materialize. The small numbers of these invaders did little to mitigate the harm to the local cultures and institutions of Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific, even without taking into account European efforts to “turn bushboys into civilized men,” but these regions are still primarily the homes of their indigenous. A few colonial efforts, however, led to the systematic (if sometimes incomplete) extermination of all the ethnicities native to the colony and their replacement as the local majority by their invaders: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa.
And the Americas.