The Erasure of Indigenous Presence in the Settler Geographic Imagination: 19th Century Vancouver Island

  • Charlotte Conn


This essay examines the colonial constructions of Indigenous land usage on Vancouver Island in the 19 th century. It turns first to the historiography of Indigenous presence in the Pacific-Northwest region to understand how Indigenous people had been represented in scholarship in the 19th and 20th centuries. For decades it was believed that Indigenous groups did not participate in the stewardship of their land or did not greatly impact it with their presence. By examining more recent scholarship on Indigenous agriculture this is proved to be a misrepresentation. It then turns to cartographic and ethnographic material produced by colonial officials and settlers that depicts Indigenous land usage and occupation in the mid-19th century, which used the purposeful erasure of Indigenous presence to justify colonial settlement. It combines the social stereotypes of the era with the perceived legitimising character of maps and photographs to understand how the settler’s geographic imagination did not include the presence of Indigenous peoples on Vancouver Island. These cartographic and ethnographic materials created inaccurate representations of how Indigenous peoples managed and lived on their lands, confining them to small and untouched areas. It was only through the purposeful space created in these documents that a view of British Columbia and Vancouver Island being pristine, untouched, and untapped wildernesses could be born. The photographs of E.S. Curtis and colonial era maps of Victoria will be pivotal to this research, bringing to focus the world view of the Vancouver Island settler.

How to Cite
Conn, Charlotte. 2024. “The Erasure of Indigenous Presence in the Settler Geographic Imagination: 19th Century Vancouver Island”. the Ascendant Historian 3 (June), 28-24.