Eugenic economics, institutionalization, and public health: The Mi'kmaq in Nova Scotia, 1900-1960

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University of New Brunswick


This study interrogates how the settler Canadian state and its various extensions conceptualized, treated, and fiscally regulated Indigenous bodies in varied healthcare settings. The twentieth century saw the modernization of Canada’s three levels of governments and their bureaucratic health processes. These structures evolved and developed into the current Canadian healthcare system, which continues to reproduce and perpetuate health inequities and inequalities for Indigenous people through structural violence that is entrenched in a health system born from the colonial period. Specifically, this dissertation examines healthcare policies that shaped and affected Indigenous health structures, both formally and informally, and analyzes how they were developed and implemented in specific moments and locations in Nova Scotia. It argues that eugenic ideologies directly shaped monetary decisions, which undermined an entire population’s health and well-being. Simultaneously, the Canadian settler state created oppressive living conditions that not only facilitated but promoted the medical community’s ability to take advantage of Mi’kmaw patients -- adults and children alike - - for surveillance, dispossession, purposes of racialized knowledge production, and research. A regional framework of analysis is crucial in examining how federal Indigenous health policies manifested diverse provincial and municipal health procedures within a national network of surveillance. Foregrounding region and place, this study contributes to our collective understanding of Maritime Indigenous health as it pertains to policies, fiscal procedures, and eugenics. It adds another dimension to the existing body of scholarship on the history of Mi’kmaq and their relationship with the Canadian settler state. Moreover, it balances the historiography on Canadian Indigenous health. And while not negating the profound consequences of traumatic and ongoing settler colonial violences perpetrated by medical institutions, this study also relies on Mi’kmaw life-writing and acts of agency to balance colonial archival sources and amplify previously and intentionally oppressed Indigenous voices.