A Tortured People: The Politics of Colonization


219 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 0-919441-77-7
DDC 323.1'197071





Reviewed by Joseph Leydon

Joseph Leydon teaches geography at the University of Toronto.


This book offers a disturbing analysis of the history of Native people
in Canada, their victimization, and their struggle for
self-determination. Their struggle is placed within the context of
colonialism and neocolonialism and is equated with the universal
struggle of indigenous peoples to rid themselves of the shackles of
colonial domination and to assert their independence. The author is
particularly concerned with the Native struggle for liberation in the
1960s and early 1970s and its failure due to manipulation by the
Canadian government.

According to Adams, the Canadian state, capitalism, white middle-class
society, and the

Native leadership are the main obstacles preventing Native
self-determination. He proposes a bottom-up, collective, democratic
reorganization of the aboriginal community to overcome the corruption of
its leadership (an instrument of neocolonialism) and the outside
influence of multinational corporations and central government. The
analysis offered is essentially Marxist, in that Adams views the
majority of aboriginals as constituting a suppressed subproletariat
class. However, it is not clear whether the struggle is essentially
class-based or race-based. For example, he argues for the forming of
alliances between Natives and other minority groups in Canadian society,
but at the same time, he opposes integration of Native and Canadian
societies. Indeed, he argues that Native self-determination can be
accomplished only through “aboriginal nationalism.” The language
Adams uses often detracts from his arguments. He suggests that in order
to discredit him in the past many have characterized him as a “Red
Power radical,” yet he uses the same technique to characterize Native
leadership (“semi-literate” “right-wing compradors” who operate
“goon squads”) and the Canadian government (white supremacists), and
continually alludes to genocide, Nazi tactics, and apartheid.
Furthermore, the text is repetitive, with the same ideas and arguments
reiterated continually. Despite these criticisms, this is a challenging
book and this reviewer has learned much by reading it.


Adams, Howard., “A Tortured People: The Politics of Colonization,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 18, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/1875.