As a settler anthropologist, I claim the “Cursed Indian Burial Grounds” myth as part of *settler culture*, which is indeed a scary story born of racism and colonialism.

💀An awful thread of real graveyard horrors... 1/
Whatever white people feel is 💀cursed💀 about any oppressed peoples’ traditions isn’t a reflection of the cultures in question.

These are the feels of colonialism come alive in myth making. They stem from real misdeeds that should haunt anyone with a conscience. 2/
before I get started:

Program notes 📝

-CW ⚠️ graverobbing, dehumanization

-Absolutely no “not alls” or reverse racism bs allowed in replies. If you’re bent about me calling us/you settlers or colonizers and want to @ me, just no. Manage yourself & scroll on,

thx 3/
These “cursed” myths are basically how settlers have internalized, compartmentalized, and otherwise deflected responsibility for any number of crimes against Indigenous people. Crimes which are historic and ongoing.… 4/
There are so many-SO MANY-reasons for this, given that we are responsible for

✅Indigenous deaths directly
✅Cultural genocide
✅Land theft in general, resulting in your house/church/office/swimming pool being on top of A GOD! DAMNED! GRAVEYARD!

I mean really 5/
Let’s start with building on burial grounds. Since first colonizing the Americas, we’ve been throwing shit on top of Indigenous sites.

And where 500 or 800 or 1,000 generations of people have lived, LOTS of those sites are going to be burial sites. 6/
These surveyors in Victoria, 1906, are taking a break from subdividing this Cheko'nein (Lekwungen) cemetery to pose on top of one of the burial mounds. Yes, they knew EXACTLY what it was. But build on... (@BCArchives pic) 7/
Remember Oka? Remember how Mohawk warriors and families faced off with armed forces to protect a burial ground from a golf course? Those developers sure af knew too. 8/
Countless provincial, regional and national parks are built on gravesites. COUNTLESS.

In BC, North Thompson Provincial Park springs to mind, given recent contested anti-pipeline occupation of the site: 9/
Also Haynes Point Provincial Park, where shitters were built atop burials, because white recreation is Really Very Important.

(That was the last straw for Okanagan Nation btw, who stopped the insanity & eventually got mgmt responsibility for the park. Crossroads CRM pic). 10/
None of this is new.

In 1890s, BC’s Superintendent of Indian Affairs A.W. Vowell reported settlers digging up Indigenous graveyards to bypass part of the Land Act that prohibited claiming Indian land.

If these places weren’t cursed before they sure af would be now, no? 11/
Some parts of colonialist worldview are foundational to the cursed burial ground myth- notably ‘terra nullius’, the empty lands doctrine.

Terra nullius says: there are people here, but they’re savages who aren’t using it anyway, go on & move in. God wants you to. 12/
But terra nullius doesn’t work alone. Pair it with the “enlightenment” philosophy of race-based progressivism, which says Indigenous pple are less than human, and you’ve got the callous rationalizing needed to dig up someone’s ancestors & make way for your mall or sportsplex. 13/
The persistence of the ideas of terra nullius and of Indigenous people as less-than-human shines through in settlers’ CONSTANT incredulity when Indigenous remains are found.

Here? Really? What a surprise, how could we ever have known? Oh well, dig it up get it outta here 14/

On top of all that, there’s archaeology, the historical frontrunner of behaving badly toward Indigenous ancestral remains.

(Digging at Marpole midden/c̓əsnaʔəm 1888, CoV Archives) 15/
In the 19th & 20th centuries, we professionalized graverobbing to fill the world’s museums.

*Thousands* of Indigenous remains were stolen for skulls, used to show “mysterious ancients” were a different race from living Indigenous pple (who thus had no claim to land). 15/
In my area, one of the “fathers” of BC archaeology left an unnervingly clear and ghoulish record of these activities. Between 1897-1899 Harlan Smith literally scoured the province on behalf of Frank Boas for skulls, to rank racialized populations from more to less civilized. 17/
Inconveniently for Smith and Boas, the Indigenous people they sought to dehumanize were STILL THERE, which was AWKWARD I guess, and meant getting super sneaky.

So, add lying about graverobbing to the list of cursed behaviour. 18/
Let’s review: whether by professional intent, feigned ignorance, or egregious disregard for human dignity, colonizers have defiled Indigenous cemeteries for centuries.

Places that for *us*, for *our* ancestors & families, are sacred and inviolable. But for Indigenous, nbd? 19/
These indignities to Indigenous ancestors (and living descendants) are ongoing & it’s colonial af to see these immoral acts then call burial places themselves, or Indig beliefs about them, “cursed”.

It’s us, settlers, we’re the curse.


(Kent Monkman, Miss Europe) 20/20
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