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History Native American


A New History of Aboriginal-White Relations

by (author) John Sutton Lutz

UBC Press
Initial publish date
Jan 2009
Native American, Pre-Confederation (to 1867), Post-Confederation (1867-), Discrimination & Race Relations, Poverty & Homelessness, Native American Studies
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    Publish Date
    Jan 2009
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  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2009
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  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2008
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  • Unknown

    Publish Date
    Aug 2012
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John Lutz traces Aboriginal people’s involvement in the new economy, and their displacement from it, from the arrival of the first Europeans to the 1970s. Drawing on an extensive array of oral histories, manuscripts, newspaper accounts, biographies, and statistical analysis, Lutz shows that Aboriginal people flocked to the workforce and prospered in the late nineteenth century. He argues that the roots of today’s widespread unemployment and “welfare dependency” date only from the 1950s, when deliberate and inadvertent policy choices – what Lutz terms the “white problem” drove Aboriginal people out of the capitalist, wage, and subsistence economies, offering them welfare as “compensation.”

About the author

John Sutton Lutz is associate professor, history, University of Victoria.Barbara Neis is professor, sociology, Memorial University.

John Sutton Lutz's profile page


  • Winner, Harold Adams Innis Prize, Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Science
  • Winner, Clio Award for BC, Canadian Historical Association
  • Commended, Outstanding Academic Title, CHOICE

Editorial Reviews

Makúk was originally a way for Original Peoples to enrich their own economies. Lutz reminds us that “prior to the establishment of white settlement, the Aboriginal peoples of present day British Columbia were among the richest and best-fed societies in the world.”

The Dominion

Makúk makes an important contribution to larger discussions of indigenous-newcomer relations and an emerging literature on Aboriginal labour history in both Canada and the United States.

Western Historical Quarterly, Vol 40, No 4, Dec 17, 2009

His study is a crucial contribution to the study of the history of indigenous peoples’ participation in the wage-labour force and the market economy … anyone embarking on a study of the history of aboriginal participation in the wage-labour force should consult this book.

Ethnohistory, 2009 56(3)

George Abbott [Minister for Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation for BC] … has been greatly influenced by the book Makúk … it has some vivid examples of why there is still such lingering hostility among aboriginal groups towards government.

Legacy of change scattered, Globe and Mail, September 5, 2009

Theoretically sophisticated and richly detailed … it will be valued as a reference for researchers … as well as by Aboriginal people. [It] exemplifies the best of contemporary research on British Columbia’s history.

BC Studies, No 163, Autumn 2009

Makúk provides a fresh perspective on the history of indigenous labour … Lutz is both powerful and poetic in his reframing of this important history, and his book is a strong contribution that significantly moves the British Columbia historiography forward in new and exciting ways … I hope [it] will reverberate throughout the fields of Canadian labour and colonial history.

Labour/Le Travail, Spring 2009

Makúk models some commendable ethnohistorical methods … The book casts fresh light on a critical aspect of Aboriginal history … This book belongs in the libraries of all Native studies scholars, in Canada and beyond.

Canadian Journal of Native Studies, Vol 28, No 2, 2008

Essential reading for anyone interested in the field of Aboriginal-White relations.

Western Historical Quarterly, Winter 2009, Vol 40, No 4

… a compelling and beautiful book, explores both the deeply entrenched origins of this incomprehension across a cultural divide and the consequences of the resulting miscommunication for the aboriginal peoples of British Columbia.

Makúk not only highlights the costs of the colonization of British Columbia, but calls us to reconsider how we think about our history and to build a future on dialogue that acknowledges cultural pluralism.

Alaska History, Vol 25, No 1, Spring 2010

Some Canadian scholars are already calling this work “one of the most important books on aboriginal history written in Canada.” This very well could be the case. Lutz provides a fresh perspective on Canada’s history of Aboriginal-newcomer relations by focusing on makúk, roughly translating as “exchange” in a trading, cultural, linguistic, and religious sense, and various resultant misunderstandings … Lutz successfully illustrates how the contemporary image of the Indian as lazy and welfare dependent originated only recently through misunderstandings and particular views about labor that were prevalent in European culture. An intriguing, important piece of scholarship, handsomely packaged, sure to inspire thought and debate.

Choice, Vol. 46, No. 04

It’s a pivotal work, because it explores the nature of business between whites and aboriginals. That is a different way of approaching our shared history, and it is revealing. It enables us to get a better understanding of why matters between aboriginals and whites went so badly off track … Lutz drew from interviews, oral histories, newspapers, biographies, statistical analyses and more to put together his ground-breaking history … As we continue to deal with treaties, housing woes, addictions and unemployment on and off reserves, Makúk should be seen as essential reading … We cannot fix what ails our shared society without knowing how we got here – and what was, sadly, lost in translation.

Victoria Times-Colonist

Librarian Reviews

Makúk: A New History of Aboriginal-White Relations

In this book, the author puts forward the argument that many of the current problems between Canada’s Aboriginal people and the non-Aboriginal government can be traced back to differences in the understanding of the languages used throughout contact times and differences in the meaning of exchanges between settlers and Aboriginal peoples. He looks at Aboriginal involvement in the economy and the different valuations put on work by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples throughout Canada’s history. He contends that the widespread unemployment of Canadian Aboriginal people arose during the 1950s because of government policy decisions. Includes graphs, charts and maps.

Lutz is a professor of History at the University of Victoria and author of Myth and Memory.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. Canadian Aboriginal Books for Schools. 2008-2009.

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