Power: Who Rules

Who rules in the Global Heartland? The simple answer is, the governments of Canada and the United States are sovereign—they “rule over” their respective territories. But we need only scratch the surface to discover a complex network of fragmented rule shared by national and local governments, Indian communities, religious organizations, employers, households, and individuals. The sharing of rule across society and levels of government is the most visible manifestation of the history of power in the region.

In the 17th and 18th centuries the region was a theater of action for the global ambitions of European monarchies as they struggled for control of the fur trade, and what they believed would be a northern trade route to China. American Indians and European settlers continued the struggle to control the region in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the making of Canada and the United States, the legal claims of Indian communities over much of the region were pushed to the margins. Reservation lands confined Indian communities, but also helped them to keep their culture alive and to assert time and again their legal rights. By the end of the twentieth century, these efforts were more and more successful, allowing Indian communities to exert long-dormant treaty rights to use the land in traditional ways and limiting the ability of national and local governments to rule over Indian Country.

In addition to the conflict over Indian land rights, readers can explore the dynamics of power through documents of free speech and civil rights movements; and in the creation of state and provincial governments. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the region witnessed some of the most dramatic conflicts of the industrial age. The Populist movement swept farmers and small communities into a struggle against the power of railroads and banks. Trade unions and radical movements in the region’s urban areas contested the power of employers, local and national governments.

Related Images

John Cary, A New Map of the United States of North America, exhibiting the Western Territory, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia &c., also the Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Ontario, & Erie (London: J. Cary, 1805).

“Capture of Louis Riel by the Scouts Armstrong and Howie, May 15, 1885,” in T. Arnold Houltain, The Souvenir Number of the Canadian Pictorial and Illustrated War News: A History of Riel’s Second Rebellion and How it was Quelled(Toronto: Grip Printing and Publising Co., 1885), following page 32.

Man Ray, “Capitalism, Humanity, Government,” Mother Earth 9:6 (August 1914), cover.

Borders | Environment | Community | Exchange | Power | Histories

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