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March 2022:

March 25, 2022

Letters regarding Lt. Andrew Bulger, Governor of Assiniboia and influential British soldier – Submitted by Jacob Richard, MPhil Candidate at the University of Cambridge

“In my work on the War of 1812, figures as influential as Lt. Andrew Bulger are not hard to come by. National heroes, symbols, and indeed the national identities of both the USA and Canada were shaped by the conflict. It was a war of great significance but ultimately minimal consequence to the colonial powers. The Treaty of Ghent returned things back to ‘normal’ for these two nations but dealt an undeniably devastating blow to Indigenous sovereignty across North America. I chose these letters because they demonstrate how critical one person can be in these major historical conflicts, both good and bad.

“These letters and the lauding that Lt. Bulger receives within them demonstrate how particularly important his role in ratifying the treaty and overseeing colonial affairs was. Not only was this man critical in the defense of Canada during the conflict, but he was also an important intermediary between England and her Indigenous allies. He acted as both a peace negotiator and a representative for the English state, proving valuable in accruing Indigenous support for the English cause and the aforementioned treaty of Ghent.

“His legacy and the admiration he gained from his peers is prevalent in these letters; whole communities expressed their thanks when he resigned in his role as Governor of Assiniboia in 1823. What is missing from these letters, though, is very telling. There are no prominent Indigenous supports of Bulger present in these letters. I would imagine his role in ratifying the Treaty of Ghent, which ended any potential for an Indigenous barrier state, left many within those communities feeling betrayed. Prominent Indigenous figures like John Norton (Teyoninhokarawen) certainly felt this way, and Lt. Bulger’s work to remove any thoughts “detrimental to our (England’s) interest” amongst the crown’s Indigenous allies make him complicit in the treaty’s dire consequences. These letters speak of colonial legacy but allow for us to reflect on the injustice towards Indigenous peoples that Canada is yet to fully account for.”

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