Looking For A Place To Happen references


"...I've got a job, I explore..."
"...To find a place, an ancient race
The kind you'd like to gamble with
Where they'd stamp on a burning bag of shit"

"Looking For a Place to Happen" deals with the subject of European encroachment and eventual annexation of Indigenous lands in North America. As this was achieved in different methods (war, treaty, disease) by different empires (France, Britain, Spain, Portugal) over a period stretching from the 15th to 20th centuries, it could be argued that the European annexation of North America remains the greatest injustice in the history of the western world.

A study of Canadian history shows that no organized genocide took place, but rather a slow decline of Native populations due to simple European ignorance, apathy and even the occasional dirty trick during times of war, trade disputes and government land acquisition. Most missionaries and early business men in New France and later Canada had good intentions towards Native peoples. This was a necessity given the Native know-how and navigation required for the fur and lumber trades. The Residential School system of the 19th and 20th centuries had more sinister intent, and far more horrific unintended consequences. The schools were designed to "kill the Indian in the child," they were populated by many kidnapped 'students,' and became sad prisons of abuse and suicide. The odds of dying in World War Two were 1 in 26 for Canadian soldiers. The odds of dying in Residential Schools were 1 in 25 for Canadian children. Let that sink in. We did that.

Long before commerce brought Europeans and Natives together in Canada, and longer still before the horror of Residential Schools, the Vikings landed and settled in L'Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland, essentially "discovering" North America for Europeans in about 1001 A.D. The first Natives they would have encountered would have been the Beothuks. Much later on, in 1497, John Cabot landed on the Atlantic coast of Canada. At this stage in history, Europeans did not know the St Lawrence River existed, and mainland Canada remained a mystery for nearly 40 years.   

"...So I'll paint a scene from memory
So I'll know who murdered me"

As the song speaks from the Native point of view, the dark reality of the European conquest becomes apparent. Even though Canada's economic situation prevented the organized extermination and land-wars that occurred in Latin America and the United States, the Canadian Native population still dropped from over 2 million in the early 17th century to just over 300,000 by the early 20th. Inadvertent death by imported disease was very common, Residential Schools took their toll, and in one case (when French and British forces allied with different tribes during the colonial wars of the 1700's) a calculated plot against Natives was documented. This shameful episode occurred when British troops knowingly gave small-pox infected Hudson's Bay Company blankets to a band of French allied Huron's.

"...Jacques Cartier, right this way,
I'll put your coat up on the bed
Hey man you've got the real bum's eye for clothes
And come on in, sit right down,
no you're not the first to show
We've all been here since, God, who knows?"

Lorraine Land's "Living Room" theory explains the annexation in modern terms similar to The Hip's house party: Natives invited Europeans into their living room. After a few hours, more and more Europeans showed up. As the night wore on, the Europeans became comfortable, and eventually outnumbered the Natives. The Europeans then decided to claim, not only the living room, but the entire house as their own.

This verse maintains the Native perspective and greets Jacques Cartier, who in 1535 became the first European to find the St Lawrence River. The Aboriginals Cartier encountered would of course paint their natural environment, often depicting historic events on cliff sides, rocks and cave interiors.

Cartier charted much of the area that Samuel De Champlain would colonize in 1608, and is considered the founder of mainland Canada. Donnacona, the leader of a First Nation at Stadacona (modern Quebec City) befriended Cartier. Together they established the preliminary economic and military ties between the First Nations and the French. In 1536, Cartier abducted Donnacona and his two sons and brought them with him to France where they regaled the French court with stories of their homeland. They died within two years.

Cartier may be best remembered for overhearing two Amerindian boys speaking about their village. The word they used, "Kanata," became "Canada" when Cartier wrote it down in French.

Seven decades after Cartier, Samuel de Champlain arrived in Canada with roughly 100 settlers. After failing to establish lasting colonies in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Champlain succeeded at Quebec in 1608 and became responsible for the stable relations that would come to exist between the French and Huron First Nations. The idea of Canada was born here. A new nation mixed of Indigenous peoples and immigrants from distant shores was established.

After nearly losing his own life, and watching most of his crew perish from frost-bite and malnutrition during their first Canadian winter, Champlain was saved by the Natives. The local Huron’s showed Champlain and his men how to preserve food and survive in the Canadian climate (Donnacona had done the same for Cartier 70 years earlier). The Huron also agreed to aid Champlain in the fur trade. They acted as guides, trappers and indispensable business partners. In exchange, Champlain agreed to supply weapons and soldiers to the Huron war effort against the Iroquois. This co-dependant relationship was viewed as a “partnership” by the Huron. It was called a “conquering” by the French.

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