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Problematic Postage: Canada’s Claim to the North through a Stamp - Daniel Dumas

Part of:
10:00 AM, Sunday 6 Oct 2019 (30 minutes)
Visual mediums are powerful means of communication that convey messages, evoke emotions, and portray abstract concepts such as identity, culture, and worldviews in a physical and tangible way. An often-overlooked visual medium is that of the postage stamp. Though they may seem inconsequential, stamps represent an effective way of building and reinforcing a national narrative, investing importance in the celebration of particular people, places, and events. Naturally, this can lead to problematic representations. After a review of the Library and Archives Canada collection, a striking example can be found: Canada Post’s 10-cent Eskimo Hunter” stamp issued in 1955. It is argued that this particular stamp served two important purposes for the Canadian state; first by strengthening claims to Arctic sovereignty by highlighting the human occupation of the North—which had conveniently been reinforced by the displacement of Inuit families to the High Arctic two years before—and second, by celebrating Inuit culture in order to highlight the country’s unique identity. Between the 1950s and 70s, there were many such examples of problematic philateli¬c—or postage—materials that appropriated elements of Indigenous cultures, places, and events. Although we may have entered the digital age where e-mails reign supreme, postage still plays a symbolic role in visually representing the Canadian national narrative. By critically analyzing past practices, in this case the issuing of colonially charged stamps, we can build a stronger partnership for the future, based on reconciliation and co-operation.

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