Nationalism and Visual Media in Canada: The Case of Thomas Scott’s Execution
by Lyle Dick
From the time of Confederation, the media has generated images of Canada, its constituent peoples and regions, exerting a wide-ranging impact on the country’s culture. To study these images, especially in the key period after 1867, is to witness the nation-state in the process of its ideological construction. A case in point is a well-known wood engraving depicting the execution of Thomas Scott at Red River on 4 March 1870. Within weeks of the event, the newly-established Canadian Illustrated News of Montreal published this image on 23 April 1870. (Figure 1) Its modes of representation drew on fictional techniques and racial stereotypes, which helped fan the flames of reaction. Once published, it took on a life of its own and became a prototype for subsequent depictions of the Métis and other Aboriginal peoples in the resistances of 1870 and 1885, and after. Dormant for nearly a century, this image has recently resurfaced in representations of the country’s history produced in the national media. Its continuing application in nation-building narratives demonstrates the enduring power of visual reifications to inhabit the consciousness of journalists and their audiences long after the historical contexts of their original production have faded from memory.
Images of the 1870 resistance are also of note because their publication coincided with the extension across Canada of a new genre of pictorial representation in popular culture. In the post-Confederation era, images became tied to textual representations in mutually-reinforcing combinations in the medium known as the illustrated press, which over time changed the ways in which Canadians processed information about the new country as mediated by popular culture. Images had been present in earlier publications in the British North American colonies, but these were typically stylized representations oriented to specific regional audiences within the respective British colonies. By the mid-nineteenth century, the proliferation of national and international illustrated magazines ushered in new approaches to visual representation, accompanied by technologies enabling their widespread reproduction and dissemination. The union of the British North American colonies in 1867 also generated a new national readership and market across the young country of Canada. Integral to the early emergence of a national media based in Montreal and Toronto, these images presaged the visual culture that would eventually dominate the popular representation of Canadian history and culture. It was in this early period that the central Canadian Anglophone media asserted their capacity to construct identities for the new nation according to their values, realized through countless representations of the country’s constituent peoples and legitimized through the media’s developing status as the principal vehicle of advancing truth about the external world.
Figure 1: “The Tragedy at Fort Garry, March 4, 1870,” The Canadian Illustrated News, 23 April 1870, page 1.
Further issues associated with these images include their relationships to larger forces of technology and communications. In his seminal studies on the history of communications, Harold Innis studied the connections between media technologies and the extension of power by groups controlling these technologies. Innis argued that the light, portable character of space-based communications, which he associated with print technology, facilitated military and cultural expansion by nation-states. These contrasted with time-based oral forms, characterized by the face-to-face contacts of local, non-expansionist cultures.  Innis was concerned with the social contexts within which new communications technologies emerge, and why a society favours certain forms of media over others at particular points in time. He was particularly concerned with the tendency of monopolies or oligopolies to use their ownership of communications to shape culture to expansionist purposes. A particular focus of Innis’s research was the newspaper industry in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  In the present case, newspaper images of Thomas Scott’s execution and related events were disseminated from the outset of Anglophone Canada’s national media in the years immediately following Confederation. They therefore present an opportunity to reconsider the applicability of Innis’s thesis through a concrete case study in the history of popular culture in Canada.
Scott’s Execution: Event and Historiography
Images of Scott’s death enable a fascinating glimpse into the process of nation-building in nineteenth-century Canada although the actual details of Scott’s death remain contentious. During the resistance of 1869-70, Scott was a recent arrival in the Red River colony who joined the counterinsurgency led by John Christian Schultz against Riel and the provisional government of the colony. Imprisoned twice following confrontations with the Métis, Scott, who had previously escaped, reportedly threatened violence towards Louis Riel following his incarceration. Riel ordered that Scott stand trial for insubordination before a military tribunal; he was found guilty, sentenced to death and executed outside the walls of Fort Garry on 4 March 1870. Regarding his actual death by firing squad on 4 March, J. M. Bumsted, who analysed all surviving testimonies, concluded that “eyewitnesses have disagreed over almost every aspect of Scott’s execution.”  These included such details as whether or not the prisoner wore a blindfold, and whether he was killed in the first volley or was still alive after the coup de grace. More sensationally, the accounts differed as to whether Louis Riel was present at the execution and personally pulled the trigger, and whether the wounded Scott was buried alive.
What most observers can agree upon is that Scott, as a prisoner of the provisional government led by Louis Riel, was tried by a military tribunal for insubordination, found guilty, and executed by firing squad before the walls of Fort Garry at the forks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers on 4 March 1870. Observers also generally agree that Scott’s death on 4 March 1870 was a major turning point within the Red River Resistance of 1870. It was the first resistance led by the Métis leader Louis Riel during and after Canada’s acquisition of the Hudson’s Bay Company territory of Rupert’s Land, a key component in the Dominion government’s strategy for building the nation-state, although the resistance occurred before the transfer had been completed, so the common characterization of this event as a “rebellion” is inaccurate. 
For more than a century after the event, the conflicting interpretations largely divided along linguistic lines, with Anglophone historians generally representing the execution as either an unnecessary murder of an innocent victim or a serious lapse of judgment by Louis Riel, or both.  In these versions, Scott’s execution was used to explain why Riel was never again accorded a legitimate place in Canadian politics, an interpretation that has also served to explain the subsequent marginalization of the Métis within the country. In summarizing the nineteenth-century reception of the event by the Ontario press, A. I. Silver wrote: “... for Riel and his French followers to impose their rule by force on all the rest of the community—to rule by violence and bloodshed, to shoot Canadians—that was too much; that was rebellion and murder.”  On the other hand, francophone writers stressed the heightened state of conflict in Red River during the period of Riel’s provisional government and specifically Scott’s provocative behaviour as precipitating Louis Riel’s decision to try him before a military tribunal. To a significant degree, these contrasting interpretations have corresponded to diverging political positions, with Anglophones generally sympathizing with Canadian expansionist forces and Francophones emphasizing Riel’s promotion of linguistic and political rights for the Métis and other French-speaking residents of the West.  In the last two decades, several Anglophone scholars have sought to present a more nuanced treatment of the execution and the resistance than earlier scholars.  Whatever one’s interpretation, most concur that Scott’s execution had an immediate impact in provoking a passionate reaction in the Anglophone press of Ontario, which represented Scott as a murdered martyr. It provided expansionists with a rallying symbol for its demands that an armed force be sent to the Northwest, thereby hastening the recruitment and dispatch of the Red River Expedition under Colonel Garnet Wolseley, which asserted Canada’s political and military control over the region.  In the longer term, some historians have suggested that the execution of Scott led directly to Riel’s own execution in 1885. 
My concern in this paper is not to deal substantively with the historiography on Scott’s execution but rather the short-term and residual significance of the imagery generated in 1870 to represent it, which continues to figure in pictorial representations of the historical role of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. Whatever one’s position in relation to Thomas Scott and his demise, only one visual image of this event persists in the historical consciousness of most Canadians—the Canadian Illustrated News image of 23 April 1870. Why this image was developed, what it was intended to signify, and how it has been applied ever since are questions whose answers may help explain the role of pictorial representations in defining Canada’s constituent peoples in popular culture, while constructing identities of dominance for groups sponsoring the production of these images.
Contexts of Visual Media in the Nineteenth Century
Innis wrote that in the nineteenth century, the text-based popular media largely supplanted oral culture as the principal source of information for North American societies, an interpretation supported by Paul Rutherford’s analysis of literacy levels in the different regions of Canada.  A refinement of this analysis may be warranted in that this period was also characterized by a parallel shift in popular culture from primarily text-based communications to representations based on combinations of text and images. The shift towards illustrated media commenced in the metropolitan centres of the major powers of Britain and the United States. By the 1820s, readers had already become accustomed to published images through the circulation of broadsides, the most popular of which featured pictorial representations of murders and executions.  At mid-century, illustrated texts were already an integral component of both fictional and non-fictional reading, as publishers used images not merely as embellishments but as integral means of carrying the story alongside texts, thereby enlisting reader interest and concurrence with the truth claims of these publications. 
A major turning point was the founding of the Illustrated London News by Herbert Ingram in 1842. Featuring a combination of text and illustrations of a wide variety of subjects in Britain and abroad, it was an immediate success, selling 65,000 copies within months of the first issue. For its readers, the Illustrated London News offered a wide-ranging and entertaining mix of fictional and journalistic stories, with an emphasis on dramatic events from all corners of the British Empire. Britain’s illustrated journals drew on the work of corresponding artists sent to accompany its imperial forces, as well as a stable of commercial artists in London who converted their field sketches into arresting representations for mass reproduction and circulation. Military stories were hugely popular, as sales reached more than 300,000 copies a week during the Crimean War of 1863. For this conflict alone, the journal employed six special war artists,  while five artists covered the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.  Favoured subjects included representations of battle scenes and the surrender of adversaries, combined with stereotypical depictions of the subject peoples over which Britain had extended its imperial control.
The success of the Illustrated London News sparked a trend toward high-circulation illustrated magazines around the globe by the late nineteenth century. A survey published in 1885 counted thirty-six such periodicals in seventeen countries, including two in Canada—the Canadian Illustrated News and Le Monde IIlustre, both published in Montreal.  In North America, illustrated journalism was given an enormous impetus by the Civil War of 1861-65 in the United States, where the major competing illustrated magazines Harper’s Weekly and Frank Leslie’s Magazine generated a large market for illustrations of the war and its effects. Frank Leslie’s derived much of its appeal from its focus of applying images to news reporting, as its illustrations were often accompanied by references to the eye or ear-witness status of the journal’s “special artist” in the field, often said to be recording events as they unfolded. Frequently, their art work appeared within a week of the occurrences being portrayed, their sketches restyled as wood engravings.  Emphasizing drama in everyday life, these illustrations often focussed on the climactic or defining occurrence in a series, such as a train wreck at the point of impact or the collapse of a bridge. Unlike photographs, which captured only a moment in time and could not yet be widely printed in any case, wood engravings enabled artists to convey pictorial narratives and associated allegories. Generally, Leslie’s and other newspapers presented events as performances, with the participants assuming the poses and gestures of a theatrical production, framed as if on a stage as viewed through a proscenium opening. While the illustrated magazines relied on graphic images and associated narrative conventions to represent the news, their publishers also relied on readers to participate in the production of meaning. In reading these images, readers drew on meta-narratives encompassing a wider repertoire of images and texts in the popular press of the era. 
At the end of the 1860s, only two years after the establishment of the country of Canada, Georges Desbarats launched the Canadian Illustrated News, Canada’s first national illustrated newspaper. Before ceasing publication in 1883, its remarkable 14-year run brought visual journalism to a wide readership across the young country. In its inaugural issue on 30 October 1870, the publishers explained their rationale for their new publication: “The imagination is so closely linked to the perceptive faculties, and the speediest and surest way of reaching the mind and impressing thereon facts and objects, is to lay them vividly before the eye (that main feeder of the imagination) either in their reality, or in the drama, or even through their image printed and engraved. Hence, the popularity of illustrated books and newspapers through the latter of which especially millions receive knowledge of the resources and features of various countries, and of occurrences therein, of which they would [otherwise] remain ignorant.” 
Like its counterparts in Britain and the United States, the Canadian Illustrated News employed artists to prepare illustrations for both fictional and non-fiction stories. A driving imperative was the dramatization of historical events to present a compelling story to readers, a principle that applied to images as well as text. Indeed, techniques applied by artists in rendering pictorial representations of events were indistinguishable from the methods of visual representation applied to illustrations of fictional stories in these periodicals. The cultural historian Walter Benjamin observed that, with the advent of the cinema in the twentieth century, the boundaries between fiction and reality were effectively erased.  It could be argued that this process began earlier in the blurring of distinctions between pictorial representations of fiction and history in the nineteenth- century illustrated press. Among the specific technological preconditions to the mass production of images was a series of refinements in the process of wood engraving, which has been described as “the most outstandingly important relief printing technique during the nineteenth century and the technique which developed the routines and iconography of modem pictorial journalism.”  Advances in wood engraving by mid-century enabled the mass production of large-scale illustrations utilizing the conventions of Western visual art, including perspective and chiaroscuro to great effect. The form of such illustrations was also significantly influenced by the development of daguerreotypes and early photography, which imposed a need for greater verisimilitude in pictorial representation even as realism was being harnessed to particular ideological agendas.
Local and National Communications in the Nineteenth Century
The image of the execution of Thomas Scott and other visual representations of the Red River resistance published in the Canadian Illustrated News were among the earliest images of Western Canada prepared for mass production and circulation across the country. Remote from the centres of population of North America, the Hudson’s Bay Company colony of Red River lacked a printing press before 1859. In that year, Reverend Griffith Owen Corbett published a broadside, probably with the aid of a primitive hand-press. In the same year, William Coldwell and William Buckingham arrived from Upper Canada with a printing press purchased in St. Paul, Minnesota. Their journal, The Nor’Wester, commenced publication in December 1859; it was the first periodical in the colony.  Apart from the hand-press used by Corbett, Coldwell’s and Buckingham’s press remained the only local technology available for printing and publishing in the colony. The same press was used to publish The Nor’Wester from 1859-69 and the Métis journal The New Nation during the resistance in early 1870. For these publications, there was little capacity to print illustrations, which could be obtained only by importing journals from the outside world, that is, central Canada, England, or the United States. At Red River, the available technology permitted limited press runs of small papers for a readership of about 400 in the settlement.
Some reproduced images were available to local residents, not through the press but the dissemination of carte-de-visite photographs. As in other parts of North America, the burgeoning dissemination of the carte-de-visite following its patented development in France in 1854  exposed literate classes in North America to the realism of the photographic image. Cartes-de-visite were produced by transferring images from glass negative directly to paper, and then mounting these images on a card. Initially used to produce visiting card portraits, the format was soon adapted to reproductions of other popular images. Their small, standardized size (2½" x 4") enabled their ready distribution through the mail. In North America, the dissemination of these images peaked during and after the Civil War as soldiers and their families posed for portraits before being separated by war. 
It was a different situation in the metropolitan centres of Ontario and Quebec, where mechanization of printing in the 1840s and 1850s enabled their newspapers to produce high quality illustrated publications for thousands of readers in this era. Their technological head-start and proximity to the major centres of population positioned these newspapers to capitalize on expanding markets following Confederation. In 1867, nine dailies were operating in the city of Montreal alone.  The centre of the developing newspaper media was Ontario, where more than half of Canada’s 48 newspapers were in operation by 1873.  These journals found a ready market among the developing middle class of “businessmen, professionals, artisans, and farmers.”  Paul Rutherford’s analysis of Canada’s daily press in the late nineteenth century indicated high literacy levels for Anglophone Canadians—more than 90 per cent in central Canada with francophone literacy levels lagging at about two-thirds of adults in this period. 
There is no comparable study of visual literacy for this period, although it must be assumed that a lack of prior experience with mass-produced illustrations gave readers few tools with which to evaluate visual media critically. At the time of Confederation, Canada’s newspapers were almost entirely text-based, with illustrations largely reserved for the advertising pages. This situation changed quickly with the founding of the Canadian Illustrated News by Georges-Edouard Desbarats in October 1869. Published in English for Anglophone readers across the young country, it was joined within two months by l’Opinion publique, a French-language illustrated newspaper also published by Desbarats. Intending to make a major impact, Desbarats printed 10,000 copies of the early issues of the Illustrated News and sent 6,000 copies to potential subscribers across the country.  The timing of the journal’s founding was fortuitous in that it coincided almost exactly with the outbreak of the conflict at Red River, an event that for a few months seemed to thwart the western expansion anticipated by proponents of Confederation. For readers across the young Dominion who were anxious for information about this little-known region, so central to Canada’s aspirations to build a transcontinental nation, the journal quickly became an indispensable source. 
The Red River Resistance commenced soon after the journal’s first issue was published on 30 October 1869, and the newspaper’s coverage of reports from the Northwest began almost immediately. Perhaps reflecting the difficulty of obtaining images from this remote region in the pre- railway age, the first images of the resistance appeared only at the end of the year, on 25 December 1869. In that issue, the Illustrated News published an article on the Red River settlement illustrated by several wood engravings, including a depiction of a Métis man, labelled “A Red River Insurgent”. These images were apparently based on photographs taken by the Montreal photographer William Notman while visiting Red River the previous year. In an article entitled “The Red River Disturbance,” the journal presented concern about reports of conflict that were coming in from the Northwest. Asserting that it had received “serious news from the Red River settlement,” the Illustrated News acknowledged that “as our information comes through American channels, it may be accepted with a wide margin for exaggeration.”  In this early phase of the resistance, the journal expressed a degree of skepticism towards the information trickling in from the Northwest, an element of critical journalism that would disappear as the conflict became more polarized. The story reported news that William McDougall, appointed governor of the territory that had yet to be transferred to Canada, had issued a proclamation on 1 December 1869 asserting control of the region. Meanwhile, 300 “rebels” had occupied Fort Garry and arrested “about fifty persons planning a counter revolution. Further, Riel was obliged to garrison the fort near Pembina to prevent correspondence between Governor McDougall and the interior.” 
In the same issue of the Illustrated News, the journal lampooned the hapless governor in a cartoonish sketch, entitled “Our Absent Friends—A Scene Near Pembina (supposed).” This image presented a seated McDougall with two members of his entourage in a tent at Pembina. Through the tent opening was presented a background silhouette of three First Nations warriors brandishing a rifle, tomahawk, and bow quiver or lance.  These shadowy figures were presented with stereotypical Iroquois haircuts embellished with feathers, transferring historical stereotypes of First Nations of the St. Lawrence region to characterize the Métis of the prairies 1300 miles to the west (Figure 2). Two weeks later, the same illustration was published in the French- language journal l’Opinion Publique.  While the Métis were presented here as wild and menacing, the drawing was apparently intended to be humorous satire. Only a few weeks later, on 16 January 1870, the Illustrated News published an engraved drawing of Louis Riel, leader of the resistance. Here, Riel was represented as a dashing frontier personality, dressed in fur overcoat, leather leggings, and holding a rifle on which rested a fur hat with tail, reminiscent of period representations of the frontier hero Davy Crockett in the United States  (Figure 3). While there is no evidence that Riel owned a fur coat or ever posed with a rifle, the illustration presented a generally positive impression, more in the vein of the Noble Savage stereotype which would soon give way to less favourable reifications.
Figure 2: “Our Absent Friends—A Scene near Pembina (Supposed),” The Canadian Illustrated News, 25 December 1869, page 128.
Thomas Scott’s Execution: Pictorial Analysis
No such ambiguities inhabited the image “The Tragedy at Fort Garry. March 4, 1870,” the wood engraving published on the cover of the 23 April 1870 issue of the Canadian Illustrated News. Apart from the masthead, featuring a wood-engraved representation of the new parliament buildings in Ottawa, the execution tableau took up most of the page. Anticipating the format of twentieth-century tabloid newspapers, it relied on a single image to capture the attention of its readers. Even today, it is a shocking scene, portraying a helpless Scott in a prostrate position, blindfolded, hands tied, and face down, his sadistic executioner striding forward in an aggressive manner, thrusting his revolver forward and firing a bullet into the back of his head. (See Figure 1).
Figure 3: “Louis Riel,” The Canadian Illustrated News, 15 January 1870, page 1.
As a composition, the image expressed two contradictory tendencies. In its rendering, the engraving had a roughly-sketched character, less polished than the usual in-house illustrations produced for this journal, imparting a quality of immediacy to the portrayed event. The very lack of polish seemed to imply that it was hastily drawn by an eye-witness to the execution, analogous to the on-the-spot photo journalism familiar in our own age. Conversely, its composition revealed considerable artifice, as it drew on pictorial conventions to infuse the scene with high drama. Staged as a theatrical tableau, its backdrop, use of light, and positioning of characters placed the image in the genre of melodrama, with dramatis personae reduced to types. To drive home the grim finality of the event, a coffin and excavated grave were inserted into the foreground, a memento mori or symbolic reminder of mortality,  in this case, the victim’s bleak fate.
Contemporary visual theory provides some techniques with which to analyse the formal strategies through which meaning was constructed in this illustration. In Reading Images, Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen identified three interrelated systems bearing on the representational and interactive meanings of pictures. These include its informational value, derived from placing elements in various relationships to each other and the viewer; the picture’s salience, or its methods of attracting the viewer’s attention by placing elements in the foreground or background, their relative size, contrasts in tonal or colour, differences in resolution, and other features; and framing, the presence or absence of dividing lines which connect or disconnect parts of the image, signifying that they belong or do not belong together.  In the case of the Scott image, its informational value was established by organizing the composition into three zones—a foreground section presenting a Métis gunman delivering the coup de grace; in the middle ground, the firing squad, guards, and a band of spectators; and in the background, the walls, turrets, and roofs of Fort Garry. As well, the principal figures were oriented toward the front so that facial features, body type, dress, and action were clearly visible to the viewer. The picture’s salience or eye-catching quality was established by placing the two principal characters—the shooter and victim—in the foreground, thereby presenting them as larger and in greater detail than the background figures, which were rendered generically. The relative importance of these figures was also established through techniques of perspective and by modulating tonal values between light- and dark-coloured terrain. Dramatic salience was realized by juxtaposing the aggressive, thrusting action of the gunman with the inert figure of the dead or dying Scott. Framing the action, the figures in the crowd were rendered monolithically in a solid line, arranged at an angle, and presented as facing the action. The crowd functioned as a kind of Greek chorus bearing witness to a staged tragedy, focussing the viewer’s attention on the central subjects. As well, the representation of the walls and roofs of Fort Garry placed the action in a specific setting, imparting an element of verisimilitude to the image.
Nevertheless, various details make it clear that this illustration could not possibly be a realistic depiction. A comparison of the engraving with period photographs of Fort Garry indicates that the positioning of buildings in the image defied historical logic in terms of their directional orientation within the fort.  The tableau also revealed a lack of local knowledge in its representation of such details as an apparent absence of snow in the image, unlikely in Manitoba in early March. Other anomalies included the physiognomy and clothing of the principal characters, drawn not from eye-witnessed accounts but rather from period stereotypes. The executioner was presented with a handlebar moustache, and dressed in a capote, sash, Aboriginal leggings or mitasses, moccasins, and a cowboy hat, all generic signifiers of Métis identity in the period. In actuality, witnesses reported that the individual who delivered the coup de grace was a Quebecer rather than a Métis person.  The discrediting of the resistance nevertheless required that the gunman be portrayed as a member of Riel’s own people, in this case, a wild Métis desperado.
The artist also took such liberties as representing a Maltese Cross or Cross Pattee flying from the top of the fort’s flag pole. An ancient symbol of the Masonic Order, it would have signified Protestant supremacy to its readers in an era when readers took religious differences seriously. The represented flag was at odds with Joseph James Hargrave’s account of a “Raising of the National Flag” ceremony at the fort on 10 December 1869, in which Hargrave described the hoisting of a flag bearing the symbol of three fleurs de lys positioned above a single shamrock.  There is no evidence that a flag bearing a Maltese Cross was ever flown at Fort Garry during the resistance and in any case would not likely have been hoisted by the provisional government whose leaders were Roman Catholics. Indicative of the journal’s political position in the developing controversy, it may have been inserted as a rallying symbol for Protestant Ontarians enraged by the Scott incident.
It is not known which artist actually prepared the wood engraving or on what information the image was based. In the initial period, the in-house illustrator for the Canadian Illustrated News was Henri Julien, hired by Desbarats in 1868 when he was only sixteen years old.  Julien later accompanied the Northwest Mounted Police on its trek across Western Canada in 1874 and would become one of Canada’s leading illustrators. In 1870, however, he was still a teenaged apprentice—a “factotum” in the words of Marius Barbeau in the printing shop of Burland and Desbarats.  As a novice, Julien was unlikely to place his own personal stamp on an illustration requested by his new employers. His early engravings often went unsigned—in the case of the Scott engraving, what appears to be a signature commencing with the letter “J” is scrawled across the bottom but it is difficult to decipher. Whether or not Julien produced the engraved image, a reasonable inference is that its form and content were significantly influenced by the journal’s publishers, who had shown themselves to be keenly sensitive to changes in public opinion during the Red River affair.  Their pragmatic approach was displayed in their decision to publish the image prominently in the Illustrated News but to leave it out of l’Opinion publique altogether, despite the fact that they owned and published both journals, and the two newspapers generally used the same featured illustrations. These journals employed different editors and writers,  who were presumably sensitive to the important differences in public opinion between Anglophone and francophone readers regarding the Red River resistance.  Most francophone journals in Quebec responded vehemently to the indignation meetings organized in Ontario, at which anti-French and anti-Catholic views were given free rein, as well as the negative coverage in the Ontario press, which was calling for retribution towards Riel from the time news of Scott’s death reached central Canada.  Le Journal de Quebec, representative of most other francophone newspapers, imputed ulterior motives to the anti-Riel Anglophone press: “Tout cela n’est qu’un pretexte pour demander l’expulsion des Francais du Nord-Ouest.”  For their part, writers for L’Opinion publique characterized Scott’s execution as murder although their coverage was more restrained than counterparts with Canadian Illustrated News. 
Whatever the melodramatic composition or inaccuracies of the engraving, there is good reason to suppose that the tableau was accepted as true depiction by Anglophone readers who were calling for vengeance against Riel virtually from the moment the news of Scott’s execution reached central Canada. As the visual historian Stuart Sillars has pointed out, in the nineteenth century journalistic images were not stand-alones but intended to be viewed in combination with accompanying texts.  The Scott image formed part of a larger discourse on the Red River Resistance, many components of which—including articles, broadsides, political speeches, and images—were interrelated. The caption to the 23 Apri11870 cover illustration referred viewers to an inside page, in which an article expounded on this visual depiction. Having previously published the New Nation’s account of the execution in its issue of 9 April along with “some further particulars concerning the brutality with which the inhuman act was consummated,”  the publishers offered details received from other accounts communicated to them by Canadians returning from Red River.
There were interesting differences between this textual account and the accompanying image which presented the coup de grace as an act of mercy, rather than the aggressive, vengeful indignity visited on a corpse suggested in the engraving. Assertions that Scott was still alive after being thrown into the coffin were refuted by several witnesses at Red River although these and other exaggerated stories found a receptive audience among excitable readers in Ontario, who at this point were ready to accept almost any negative rumours propagated about Riel and his compatriots. The journal concluded its article by pronounced its own verdict on the execution: “The excitement created throughout Canada by the shooting of Thomas Scott has been intense. However individuals may view it, in the eyes of the law, which admits of no private interpretation, it is a deliberate murder, and as such, imposes upon the Government the stern duty of exacting retribution.” In pronouncing the execution a murder, the Illustrated News echoed similar sentiments in the Toronto Globe and other Anglophone newspapers of central Canada. Collectively, these publications succeeded in stirring up public opinion against the provisional government, hastening Canada’s assemblage of a military force to take possession of Manitoba and forcing Riel to the sidelines.
The 1870 image in the Canadian Illustrated News was not the only visual representation of the execution of Thomas Scott produced in the period. The iconographic record also includes a painting by the local resident Roland P. Meade which also apparently dates from 1870 or soon after. A house and sign painter in the Red River Settlement from 1867 to his death in 1879, Meade also briefly served in 1868 as editor of the Nor’Wester, the local journal published at Red River. Opposed to Riel’s party, he was one of the men arrested and imprisoned by the provisional government in December 1869. He therefore had local knowledge of the circumstances surrounding Scott’s execution, albeit coloured by his participation in the counter-insurgency opposing Riel. Meade’s original painting has not been uncovered but the image has survived through its photographic reproduction in cartes-de-visites (Figure 4). Exactly when he produced the painting is uncertain—the date adjacent to his signature, incorporating the numerals “187-” is incomplete. For a number of reasons, I believe that Meade’s painting was painted soon after Scott’s execution. It later served as the prototype for the wood engraving published in a book on the trial of Ambroise Lepine in 1874 and therefore dates at least from the early 1870s.
Overall, Meade’s version was a more naive rendering than the Illustrated News engraving. Like the other image, it presented a man with a revolver delivering a coup de grace to the condemned man in the presence of assembled witnesses, but unlike the 1870 engraving, the painting presented the man with the revolver as calmly standing over Scott’s body while delivering the final shot. As in several eye-witness accounts, Scott was shown to be alive after the first volley, with one leg kicking into the air. This was consistent with assertions by eye-witnesses that the condemned man was not killed in the first volley and was writhing in agony before one of the executioners stepped forward to finish him off. According to this version, the coup de grace was delivered as an act of compassion rather than aggression.
The painting also departed from its Illustrated News counterpart in its treatment of the ancillary personalities. In the newspaper image, the crowd was presented as monolithically focussed on the shooting, while in Meade’s version, the individual figures were shown as engaged in a variety of postures and emotions. One figure, representing the Reverend George Young, who had comforted the prisoner, was shown burying his face in his handkerchief, signifying grief, while other participants displayed a variety of emotions. Most of the human figures were treated equally in terms of size, attention to detail, and placement in the composition, suggesting a concern with representing the diversity of action at the event. There was also little apparent use of the techniques of perspective to impart a hierarchy of values to the tableau. In terms of salience, most of the elements of the 1870 illustration were present, including an executioner, the condemned man, and open coffin but there was no excavated grave, perhaps reflecting the empirical evidence that Scott was not killed at the same place where he was buried. The distance between the portrayed individuals and the fort was foreshortened, while the structural features of the fortification were given equal prominence to the human figures in the foreground. In Meade’s painting, the standard flying from the fort’s flag pole was rendered as the emblem of three fleur-de-lys and a shamrock, a representation of the actual flag raised by the provisional government in December 1869. Meade’s painting also carried an aura of authenticity in that it depicted a thick covering of snow on the ground and atop the fort’s walls, a probable presence in early March in Manitoba. The painter’s specific motivations for producing this pictorial representation of the execution are not known, although as an opponent of the provisional government, we can assume that he was not favourably disposed towards the actions of Riel or his supporters. Nevertheless, his painting lacked drama and was less burdened by rhetoric than its earlier counterpart in the Canadian Illustrated News. Produced by an individual with first-hand knowledge of the event, it expressed an individual perspective, rather than a viewpoint dictated by publishers responding to the prejudices of a mass readership.
In 1874, the Montreal firm of Burland and Desbarats, a lithographic company closely associated with Debarats’s Canadian Illustrated News, published a book on the trial of Ambroise Lepine for the alleged murder of Thomas Scott. Interestingly, rather than re-use the 2 April 1870 image, the frontispiece of this book presented a wood engraving signed by “J.W.” but patterned after Roland Meade’s painting. The only major departure from the earlier image was that the engraved version presented Scott in an inert pose, with both legs as resting on the ground, rather than kicking into the air.  Why Burland and Desbarats commissioned another wood engraving based on Meade’s painting rather than reuse the 23 April 1870 image is not known. By the time of the book’s publication, four years had passed since Scott’s execution and the fervour of the Ontario “indignation” gatherings, so the need for an inflammatory image had perhaps receded.
While Desbarats ensured the widespread dissemination of images of the execution in central Canada through the advanced technologies of printing and reproduction, such techniques were slow to develop in the still sparsely- populated prairie region. Few residents of Red River would have subscribed to the Illustrated News, although they soon obtained access to illustrations of the event through alternative means. J. M. Bumsted has noted that on the first anniversary of the execution, “pictures of the murdering” were sold at Fort Garry, suggesting that one or more enterprising entrepreneurs had already found a way to copy the newspaper’s illustration for resale to the public. In the 1870s, several local photographers took advantage of the available technology to copy this image or Meade’s painting for a ready market. The photographers included the firms of J. Penrose,  Nichols and Parkin,  and Duffin and Caswell  (Figure 4), all of which produced carte-de-visite images of the execution. The local reproduction and dissemination of these images attested both to the continuing resonance of the event in Manitoba a well as the desire of local residents to memorialize it.  Other images connected thematically to the event were reproduced and widely circulated in Ontario, including a carte-de-visite portrait image of the head and shoulders of Thomas Scott, reproduced by Stanton, a photographer on Yonge Street in Toronto. Its caption, ‘Thos. Scott. Murdered by Riel on 4 March 1870,’  further disseminated misconceptions and stereotypes relating to the execution. In another case, the J. Stephens Photo Studio of Barrie, Ontario re-photographed one of the cartes-de-visite, presumably for a client desiring the image. Bearing the inscription “The execution of Scott by Riel,” this photograph also incorrectly attributed the shooting to Rie1.  By the 1890s, advancements in printing technology enabled the further entrenchment of the images of Scott’s execution. In 1897, Reverend George Young, who had ministered to Scott in the hours before his execution, published a book in which Meade’s painting was reproduced, with various dramatis personae identified, including Louis Rie1,  although the empirical accounts do not place Riel at the actual event.  Using the available technology, Anglophone Canadians developed imaginative ways of disseminating images that simultaneously memorialized Scott as a martyr while discrediting the Métis leader. Their continuing focus on the execution entrenched a tradition of reducing the Red River Resistance to a single act of alleged murder, bypassing the central issues of land and human rights that originally provoked the insurgency. Clearly, the death of Scott continued to inhabit the imagination of many Manitobans and central Canadians; despite—or perhaps because of—its graphic subject matter, it continued to fascinate.
Perhaps the most realistic representation of the entire series of images of the execution was a late-nineteenth painting of the execution by Lionel MacDonald Stephenson.  He was an artist living in Winnipeg between 1885 and 1892, who specialized in painting subjects from old photographs and paintings, especially historical representations of Fort Garry. While obviously based on Meade’s painting, Stephenson’s version increased the distance between the viewer and the elements the tableau, most of which were set in the middle ground and made smaller in relation to the scene (Figure 5). His placement of the figures at a remove from the viewer may have more closely approximated the view of actual spectators, who would have been kept at a distance from the firing. Stephenson also created greater distance between the various groups of people in the picture, including the execution party in the centre, the spectators, and the party guarding the Fort Garry gate. He painted the ground as if covered in snow and rendered it as a fairly uniform covering of white throughout the picture. The entire tableau has a washed out quality, suggestive of the bleached character of prairie landscape in winter. Lacking foregrounding or other rhetorical techniques of composition, the picture was probably a more accurate rendering of the scene than the Illustrated News or Meade versions. However, its very lack of drama offered little potential for ideological applications, and Stephenson’s tableau was soon forgotten.
With the quiescence of the resistance following the passage of the Manitoba Act and arrival of Canadian troops led by Colonel Garnet Wolseley, visual depictions of western Aboriginal peoples in national media modulated into alternative stereotypes. An illustration entitled “Riel Found Out!”, published in the Illustrated News on 17 September 1870, depicted three uniformed officers of Wolseley’s force in the foreground entering the Métis leader’s quarters at Fort Garry, while a background view showed a horse-drawn carriage beating a fast retreat.  The representation of Riel as narrowly escaping his pursuers signified cowardice and defeat, underscoring the status of the Métis leader as a fugitive. Once the leaders of the Resistance had been driven into exile, the pressing need for images of wildness receded. Métis and First Nations people nevertheless continued to comprise a significant proportion of Manitoba’s population until swamped by immigration by Anglo-Canadian and British settlers in the decades following its entry into Confederation. Their on-going presence required the production of alternative stereotypes to discredit these presumed rivals of incoming European settlers to western lands. In the Canadian Illustrated News, such images included depictions of Aboriginal people as shiftless vagrants, as in the wood engraving “Dusky Loungers,” which appeared in 2 September 1871 issue. Here, three First Nations men were depicted as aimlessly propped up against the walls of Fort Garry. On the same page, another image, entitled “Indian Loafers” presented three standing Aboriginal men as loiterers, one facing the viewer with his hand out. It was apparently one of the earliest iconographic representations of Aboriginal people as beggars to be published in the national media. A third engraved image in the series showed a First Nations woman seated on a log against the Fort Garry walls, with several companions stretched out under a blanket, enjoying a nap. It was entitled “Indian ‘Dolce Far Niente,’“ meaning ‘How sweet it is to do nothing.’ 
Images of 1885: Entrenchment of Stereotypes of Aboriginal People
Events would soon establish a more favourable climate for the revival of stereotypes of Aboriginal violence initiated at the time of Scott’s execution. In 1885, the Northwest Resistance broke out in the region of present-day Saskatchewan. Perhaps it is sufficient to state that under the National Policy, developing encroachments on their land, rights, and lifeways provoked the Métis of the South Saskatchewan area, First Nations, and some European settlers of this region to take up arms against the expanding Dominion of Canada. From the standpoint of Dominion authorities and allied expansionist forces, the resistance challenged the foundation of the recently constituted nation- state. Such a bold test of its territorial integrity demanded a response beyond military deployments of troops, rifles, and Gatling guns to the Northwest. It also required the enlistment of cultural forms, including the manufacture of suitable images to ensure an ideological victory to accompany the anticipated military triumph over resisting forces. In this regard, the government engaged official artists to accompany the Canadian troops and record their progress from commonly-shared expansionist perspectives.
Here, we might refer to refer to the article “Official Images of 1885” by Walter Hildebrandt, which establishes a context for examining the ideological assumptions embedded in images of the 1885 resistance produced for the national media.  War artists and soldiers travelling with the Northwest Field Force sent their sketches back to central Canada where they were transformed by professional in-house specialists into mass-produced images with popular appeal. The major panoramic battle scenes sold to subscribers of the Canadian Pictorial and Illustrated War News were chromolithographs prepared by the Toronto artist William Daniel Blatchley according to drawings by the official war artist F. W. Curzon, as well as sketches, photographs and written observations as recorded by soldiers. The lithographs included the well-known images “Battle of Cut Knife Creek,” “Battle of Fish Creek,” “The Bayonet Charge at Batoche,” and “The Capture of Batoche,” each of which recorded the inexorable progress of the Northwest Field Force towards victory. In the summer of 1885, following Canada’s victory over the Métis, a souvenir edition of the Canadian Pictorial and Illustrated War News was published to celebrate the suppression of the resistance.  Its featured images, selected from earlier issues of the journal, drew heavily on prevailing stereotypes. Among various examples, one image, entitled “Murder of the Priests at Frog Lake,” showed a Cree warrior shooting a kneeling priest in the back, while another full-page image on the siege of Battleford presented the assembled Cree in a drunken revelry outside the fort. 
Following the final defeat of the Métis and Riel’s execution in 1885, the last major military challenge to the expanding Canadian Confederation was overcome. While the Scott affair continued to figure prominently in national histories, the visual representations of the execution entered a long period of dormancy. Possibly because of its brutal subject matter, the 1870 illustration does not appear to have been published again for nearly 100 years. By the 1960s, sensibilities regarding portrayals of violence in the media abated and in 1968 a cropped version of the Illustrated News image of the Scott execution appeared on the cover of a historical booklet, The Execution of Thomas Scott, by R. W. W. Robertson. Colouring the image a bright magenta, the publisher superimposed a splatter of white around the figures of executioner and victim, suggesting the spattering of blood from a bullet wound. The author also included a version of the 1870 image as an illustration within the book. In his accompanying account of the execution, Robertson described the action: “O’Donoghue turned and gave the signal to fire. The rifles cracked. Thomas Scott was struck by three bullets, none of them fatal. As he lay bleeding, a big, and it is said, drunken Métis named Guilmette turned Scott’s body over with his foot and fired a shot into his head.”  In Robertson’s text, no critical analysis of the image was attempted, and his narrative repeated some of the conventional errors and negative stereotypes of the Métis present in Western Canadian historiography since the post-Confederation era.. In 1989, the Canadian War Museum published G. F. G. Stanley’s book on the military expeditions to Red River, in which were reproduced several illustrations from the Canadian Illustrated News relating to the Red River resistance, including the 23 April 1870 engraving of Scott’s execution. The source of these illustrations was not identified, nor were they placed into historical context. 
More recently, the Canadian Illustrated News illustration of Scott’s execution was revived in the first volume of the book Manitoba 125: A History, published in Winnipeg in 1993. Developed to celebrate the province’s one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary, the book featured an artificially coloured version of the image as the lead image of an inset story, entitled “The Trial of Thomas Scott.” The book’s interpretations were in the mainstream of Anglophone historiography on the Scott affair. Presenting Scott as “perhaps a bully and a fool,” the inset concluded with regard to Riel: “... the execution was widely viewed as excessive and undermined the gains he had made for Manitoba. In the end, no other act was to count so grievously against him.” 
Thomas Scott’s Execution and Nation-Building in the 1990s
At the end of the twentieth century, the Illustrated News image of Scott’s execution resurfaced on the national stage in the video and book versions of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s production Canada: A People’s History. Its reappearance coincided with a number of political, economic, and cultural factors which may help explain the larger picture of the role and reception of this production in the modern era. By the mid-1990s, the CBC was experiencing a number of pressures associated with the extension of cable TV networks in North America, increasing penetration of Canadian television markets by American channels, and a diminishing revenue base from advertising and government appropriations. Throughout the 1990s the corporation sustained a series of cutbacks; between 1994 and 1998, its core funding was reduced by about one-third, from $1.6 billion a year to about 1.1 billion,  and by 1999, it was reported to have stabilized at $800 million.”  In the same period, heightened nationalism in Quebec, culminating in the narrow referendum result in 1995, shook the confidence of Canada’s national cultural institutions regarding the future of the federal state and their role within it. In this atmosphere of crisis, the documentary unit of CBC TV discerned the potential to propose a large-scale television series on Canadian history, which was readily endorsed by the corporation’s executives and televised in seventeen parts in 2000 and 2001.  The project also included the production of two large books summarizing the narrative line of the TV production, as well as numerous other products, affording opportunities to generate sales and boost ratings  while enhancing patriotism.
Within the television series, a reproduction of the 1870 Illustrated News image of Scott’s execution was highlighted at the commencement of the sequence on the Red River Resistance, entitled “A Single Act of Severity.”  Here, the image provided a backdrop to the segment title and reappeared in a sequence of still images presented to carry the story. More extensive use of the image was made in the book version of Canada: A People’s History, which featured two reproductions of the tableau—a full-page rendering used as the signature image of the chapter entitled “Confederation” (Figure 6), and a second reproduction accompanying the text’s discussion of the “Red River Rebellion.”  As in the Manitoba 125 book, the CBC’s graphic artists artificially coloured the original black and white engraving, and on the chapter’s title page, cropped and blew up the picture to focus more directly on the killer and victim. As with most other illustrations in the book, the authors attempted no critical pictorial analysis, nor was there an acknowledgement that they had artificially coloured and manipulated the image. It was presented as a realistic representation of the past, without explanation or context.
The use of colour in the CBC’s version warrants comment. Much of the colour was reserved for the figure of Scott, whose pants were tinted a mid-range blue, perhaps to signify blue jeans, while his shirt was coloured in alternating red and orange bands, suggesting a checked shirt.  Emphasizing the moral distance between the protagonist and antagonist, the executioner’s garments, including capote, sash, leggings and boots, were rendered generically in a monochromatic sepia tone, contrasting with the bright colours and individualized treatment accorded the victim. To add another touch of verisimilitude, the CBC’s artists painted the shadows under the head of Scott in a crimson colour to suggest blood pooling from the victim’s wounds.
For additional drama, the plume emanating from the barrel of the killer’s revolver was given the fiery hues of yellow and orange, signifying the explosive action of the gun firing into the back of Scott’s head. Avoiding any ambiguity as to where virtue and villainy lay in this image, the artists painted the shooter’s hat black, contrasting with the victim’s blindfold, rendered in the white of innocence and martyrdom.
As with the pictorial histories of the nineteenth century, the image was not a stand-alone but rather was presented to accompany a textual narrative. Its function in the text is evident from a reading of the succession of references to the Red River Resistance and related events. The narrative referred to the Métis actions in 1869-70 as a “rebellion,” while the opposing insurgency led by John Christian Schultz was characterized as an “armed resistance.”  The caption to the second application of the image on page 286 stated that Scott “was executed on orders from Louis Riel,” a departure from the main narrative line which asserted that Riel “appointed a military tribunal to try the prisoner for treason.” Later in the text, the term “execution” modulated into unlawful homicide, as readers were informed that Riel “was still wanted in Ontario for the murder.”  The final reference to Scott came in a discussion of Riel’s pending execution for treason in 1885: “Bitterness still lingered over the murder in 1870, on Riel’s orders, of Thomas Scott ....”  Beyond characterizing the execution as a murder, these textual and iconographic treatments repeated the suggestion in some Anglophone interpretations that Riel’s own hanging in 1885 somehow was connected to —even a logical outcome of—the death of Scott fifteen years earlier.
Like its predecessor of the nineteenth century, the CBC’s approach to the pictorial representation of Aboriginal peoples in Canada: A People’s History relied on a succession of formulaic models, alternating between depictions of Noble Savages in a state of Edenic innocence and depictions of Wild Men, or Indigenous peoples in a state of wildness or savagery. The intellectual historian Hayden White has explored the paradox of co-existing idealized and demonized images of Aboriginal peoples in European literature following its contact with the New World.  Interestingly, these ostensibly opposite categories share much in common as both entail a process of dehumanization, that is, they reduce whole categories of humanity to objects or types. There is little difference in character between positive and negative stereotypes, as in either case the process of transforming human subjects into objects effectively drains the represented individuals of their humanity, and facilitates the transmutation of the abstracted type into other stereotypes.
Modulations between stereotypes are evident in the selection of images of Aboriginal peoples for the featured place at the beginning of several chapters and in various textual treatments. The first image in Volume I was in the Noble Savage vein, as it presented a cropped, artificially-coloured version of an eighteenth-century engraving of a Nuu-chah-nulth family in a dignified pose.  By the end of the chapter, this idealized picture of Aboriginal people at the point of initial contact was accompanied by several accounts of wild savagery. In one episode, a chief of the Six Nations was quoted to describe practices of torture of adversaries, including stripping away the victim’s skin, cutting off fingers, genital mutilation, scalp taking, beheading, and culminating in cannibalism.  In the Nuu-chah-nulth area, the text accepted John Jewitt’s embellished account of the killing of the crew of the Boston by Nuu-chah-nulth people during the Maritime Fur Trade of the Northwest Coast. After a surprise attack, Jewitt was described as wounded by a blow from an axe and then brought on deck, “where the twenty-five heads of the Boston’s captain an crew were arranged in a neat line on a sheet of blood.”  Regarding the images, the featured illustration at the beginning of the fifth chapter was a cropped version of the American lithograph “The Death of Tecumseh,” showing the Shawnee leader, tomahawk in hand and wearing war paint, being shot by an American officer. As noted, the last chapter to the first volume, entitled “Confederation,” commenced with the Canadian Illustrated News image of Thomas Scott’s execution. Throughout the first volume, the majority of references to Aboriginal peoples emphasized their role in assorted “massacres,” culminating in a treatment of the incident commonly known as the Frog Lake Massacre of 1885, a violent event historically used to justify the suppression of First Nations aspirations following the Northwest Resistance. 
Regarding plains Aboriginal cultures, the book presented a series of interlocking stereotypes to characterize Métis and First Nations people. An example was an inset featuring a reproduction of Paul Kane’s well-known dramatic painting in the Noble Savage tradition of a buffalo hunt by mounted Métis marksmen. Asserting that “the natives, Métis, and fur traders” were being crowded out by settlers, the text of the inset posed a question regarding the West: “was it an Edenic Paradise or a decaying romantic notion?” Juxtaposing a quote from Paul Kane, described as “resolutely romantic,” the inset text concluded with an extended commentary by Henry Youle Hind, described as “the antithesis of Kane’s rosy descriptions.” Stating that Hind “saw a dying culture,” the quoted passage presented a picture of wanton and wasteful slaughter of buffalo by “careless, thriftless Cree, “ a “disgusting” spectacle to Hind and apparently a realistic depiction from the standpoint of the authors. This passage revived long-standing stereotypes of improvidence in which Aboriginal peoples were presented as architects of their own misfortune by hunting the buffalo to the verge of extinction. From the small number of books listed in the bibliography, it is not dear exactly where the authors derived these interpretations but they correspond to stereotyped depictions published in Alexander Ross’s The Red River, subsequently endorsed by George Stanley in The Birth of Western Canada, and entrenched in Marcel Giraud’s Le Métis canadien and W. L. Morton’s Manitoba: A History.  There was no reference to the analysis in F. G. Roe’s classic The North American Buffalo, published in 1951, which challenged conventional notions of Aboriginal responsibility for the near-extirpation of the species from the standpoint of evidence and logic. 
The theme of Aboriginal violence continued into the second volume, where the opening image of the first chapter presented a drawing on a buffalo hide of a battle between plains First Nations, as recorded by a Sarcee artist. Within the chapter, a full image of the drawing accompanied a summary of one such battle between the Cree and Blackfoot: “It was one of the last bloody battles between the Blackfoot and Cree, a military struggle that ended finally in 1869, replaced by a quiet, wasting war with the federal government and alcohol.”  “Wasting,” in this context, apparently signified something like the 1913 Webster’s Dictionary definition: “causing or undergoing waste, as in a wasting disease or wasting fortune,” “useless or profitless activity,” “using or expending or consuming thoughtlessly or carelessly,” or “mindless dissipation of natural resources.”  Following this combination of stereotypes of violence, alcoholism and improvidence, Aboriginal societies of the prairies were effectively banished from the text. Mirroring the omission of First Peoples from Canadian historiography in the first seventy years of the twentieth century, Aboriginal cultures did not re-appear in the CBC’s book until late in the second volume. Some Aboriginal issues were treated briefly in discussions of the Berger Enquiry of the 1970s, Pierre Trudeau’s White Paper of 1969, and Elijah Harper’s blockage of the Meech Lake Accord in 1990, before the role of First Nations in the text culminated in a sensationalized treatment of the Oka Crisis of 1990. Presented near the end of the last chapter, the confrontation was illustrated by a montage of images from the standoff, featuring three photographs of masked Mohawk Warriors, the major image presenting a Warrior brandishing a rifle atop the barricade at Kanesatake  (Figure 7).
Generally, the re-use of the Thomas Scott image comprised part a strategy of enlivening the narrative with images of confrontation in Canadian history, especially sensational accounts of graphic violence by First Peoples in their encounters with European newcomers.  Imbued with nineteenth-century notions of history as a succession of exciting massacres and battles, the producers of the CBC book selected suitable nineteenth-century images to illustrate their concepts of history. In addition to the reappearance of the colourized execution scene, the authors included a two-page reproduction of Blachley’s famous lithograph “The Capture of Batoche,” from the Canadian Pictorial and Illustrated War News, here enhanced with intensified colours and the largest illustration in the book.  No critical analysis of the images was provided. While the historical context of Canadian culture and society had changed significantly in the century since these images were produced, they fulfilled similar narrative purposes in both eras. Where Blachley’s lithograph originally signified the inexorable triumph of Canadian forces over their adversaries in 1885, its most recent iteration in Canada: A Peoples’ History is one of a series of images connoting the nation-state’s inevitable victory over its rivals throughout its history from 1867 to 2000. The book’s exaggerated emphasis on adversaries suggests an underlying fear that victory is not assured, and the battle for the “nation” must be continually re-fought. In this regard, the highlighting of the Scott image in the chapter on Confederation, followed by the Oka montage as set in the present at the end of the narrative, underscores the polemical construction of Canadian history as an on-going “national” struggle against opposing forces.
Perhaps few images have played so important a role in nation-building at critical junctures in Canadian history as the engraving of the execution of Thomas Scott published in the Canadian Illustrated News in 1870. The history of this single image illuminates important trends in the country’s communications since Confederation. Produced only three years after the union of the British North American provinces, it was the first of innumerable images of conflict generated by the national print media of central Canada to characterize key moments in the country’s history, commencing with the pivotal period of expansion after 1867. Its dissemination foreshadowed the publication of a burgeoning collection of images produced by Canadian troops and re-processed by the national media during the Northwest Resistance of 1885. Representing Aboriginal peoples through a succession of stereotypes, the early Canadian media defined them, alternately, as noble, violent, lawless, cowardly, shiftless, and improvident, preconceptions which continued in mainstream journalism well into the modern age. The persistence of these received notions in popular culture points to a continuing gulf between history as constructed to serve nation-building interests, and the past as experienced and remembered by the individuals whose stories have been appropriated or omitted in the construction of national narratives.
In The Bias of Communication, Harold Innis identified a long-standing pattern in history wherein a succession of empires extended their political control over acquired territories through the destruction of oral traditions of conquered peoples and the imposition of new traditions of writing.  In the modern era, this process was given impetus by the paper and printing industries, which supported the further establishment of cultural monopolies in Europe and North America.  While the focus of Innis’s North American enquiries was the press in the United States, a similar process can be discerned in Canada’s Anglophone media after Confederation. In this case, popular quasi-official images, especially the 1870 engraving and the engraving produced for Burland and Desbarats’s 1874 book on the trial of Ambroise Lepine revealed the supplanting of local vernacular traditions, represented in paintings by Manitoba residents Roland Meade and Lionel MacDonald Stephenson.
Conceived in the context of heightened partisanship during the Red River Resistance, the Canadian Illustrated News engraving of 23 April 1870 helped inflame anti-Métis sentiment and spurred the recruitment of a military force from Canada to wrest control of western lands from the provisional government. In the longer term, its publication probably also helped entrench negative attitudes towards the Métis and served as a precursor to official images reproduced in the Canadian Pictorial and Illustrated War News in 1885, which played a similar role in propagating approved messages to build support for Canada’s military actions during the Northwest Resistance. Recently, in the CBC’s production Canada: A People’s History, the Scott image was again appropriated to the cause of nation-building, as it was selected as the featured image for the chapter on Confederation. Its re-emergence coincided with a concerted effort to shore up the federal structure in the years following one of its greatest political challenges since Confederation—the Quebec Referendum of 1995. Only a year after the referendum, the Supreme Court of Canada delivered its decision in the Delgamuukw case, which affirmed Aboriginal title to the land. Executive producer Mark Starowicz recently acknowledged that the series reveals much about the political context of the mid-1990s; as with the book’s narrative structure, his comments suggest an overriding concern at that time with responding to perceived challenges to the federal state.  Elsewhere, my review article on these books identified a particular preoccupation with stereotypical textual and visual depictions of Aboriginal peoples in the narrative.  Whatever the specific motivations, the book’s formal structure relied on the marginalization of various groups in the text to advance the historical role of the traditional nation-state and its proponents.
Following Innis, an operating hypothesis for this paper has been that, since Confederation, the national media based in central Canada have been oriented to historical representations aligned to expansionist imperatives. From the Canadian Illustrated News to Canada: A People’s History, interlocking visual and textual stereotypes were produced to construct—and then recycled to reinforce—national identity at moments of perceived threats to the territorial integrity of the constituted nation-state. In successive constructions of Canadian history since Confederation, the Anglophone national media relied extensively on reification, an ideological process of “representing a human being as a physical thing deprived of personal qualities or individuality,”  images and narratives to fashion a putative national identity by reifying specific groups as adversaries of the state. The publication of the engraved image of Scott’s execution on 23 April 1870 set in motion a process of stereotyping and reification in Canada’s mass media which continues to this day. To study the origins, form, and use of such images in nation-building narratives is to witness the ideological construction of the state through particular pictorial and textual representations, but also to reflect on the potential to recover alternative visions more representative of the actual diversity of the peoples of Canada.
Versions of this article were presented to the annual conference of the Canadian Historical Association in Winnipeg in June 2004, and to the Department of History at the University of Washington in Seattle in March 2003. The author acknowledges with gratitude the critical and editorial comments of Ron Frohwerk, Sarah Carter, Robert Coutts, and Jim Miller, as well as the special assistance of Elizabeth Blight, Janelle Reynolds, Francois Cartier, Andrew Rodger, Jim Burant, Douglas Jackson, Diane Payment, and Irene Romaniw.
1. Harold A. Innis, Empire and Communications (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972), 6-11. See also Marshall Soules, “Harold Adams Innis: The Bias of Communications and Monopolies of Power” http://www.mala.bc.ca/~soules/media212 /innis.htm
3. J. M. Bumsted, Thomas Scott’s Body and Other Essays on Early Manitoba History (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2000), 3.
4. See, for example, Sean Sullivan, “Canadian Illustrated News and the Red River Rebellion (October 1869-August 1870),” (Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 2002) http://www.collectionscanada.ca/cin/h1-202-e.html
5. The Anglophone historiography on Scott’s execution was developed and entrenched in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in such works as Alexander Begg, The Creation of Manitoba, or, A History of the Red River Troubles (Toronto: Hunter, Rose and Company, 1871), 300-305, and A History of the North-West, Vol. I (Toronto: Hunter, Rose, and Co., 1894), 505-13; Robert B. Hill, Manitoba: History of Its Early Settlement, Development, and Resources (Toronto: William Briggs, 1890), 293-98; George Young, Manitoba Memories, Leaves from My Life in the Prairie Province, 1868-1884 (Toronto: W. Briggs, 1897), 131-44; George Bryce, A History of Manitoba: Its Resources and People (Toronto/Montreal: The Canada History Company, 1906), 159-60; and Margaret McWilliams, Manitoba Milestones (Toronto and London: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1928), 103-104.
6. A. I. Silver, “Nineteenth-Century News Gathering and the Mythification of Riel,” in Ramon Hathorn and Patrick Holland, Images of Louis Riel in Canadian Culture (Lewiston / Queenston / Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1992), 76.
7. See, for example, A. G. Morice, A Critical History of the Red River Insurrection After Official Documents and Non-Catholic Sources (Winnipeg: Canadian Publishers, 1935), 282-93; “A propos de la mort de Scott,” Les Cloches de Saint Boniface, Vol. 13 (1914), 49-51, Auguste de Tremaudan, “The Execution of Thomas Scott,” The Canadian Historical Review, Vol. 6, No. 3 (1925), 222-236.
8. Use of the loaded term ‘murder’ to depict Scott’s death is at variance with current scholarship on the history of the prairie region or surveys of Canadian history. Two standard reference works on the prairie provinces by Gerald Friesen and John Herd Thompson place the death of Scott within the context of the developing conflict between the Riel and “Canada First” factions at Red River. Gerald Friesen, The Canadian Prairies: A History (University of Toronto Press 1984), 124-25; John Herd Thompson, Forging the Prairie West (Toronto, Oxford, and New York: Oxford University Press 1998), 41. In History of the Canadian Peoples, Scott is contextualized as “an itinerant Orangeman who had been employed as a road builder before the rebellion started, showed his contempt for his Catholic, non-white guards and called on his fellow prisoners to break out of the makeshift prison. Riel, faced with vengeful guards and a threat to his government’s legitimacy, agreed to have Scott executed in March 1870.” Alvin Finkel, Margaret Conrad, and Veronica Strong-Boag, History of the Canadian Peoples, Vol. II (Toronto: Copp Clark, 1993), 34.
10. In his biography of Louis Riel, George Stanley wrote: “By one unfortunate error of judgment—this is what the execution of Scott amounted to—and by one unnecessary deed of bloodshed—for the Provisional Government was an accomplished fact—Louis Riel set his foot upon the path which led not to glory but to the gibbet.” George F. G. Stanley, Louis Riel (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1985), 117. This interpretation was also accepted in R. Douglas Francis, Richard Jones and Donald B. Smith, Destinies: Canadian History Since Confederation (Toronto: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1988), 27. The authors wrote: “A firing squad shot Scott on March 4. This act would ultimately lead to Riel’s own execution.”
14. Margaret K. Powell and Susanne F. Roberts, “Imperial Views, Colonial Subjects: Victorian Periodicals and the Empire: Images from an Exhibition,” Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University, August - October 1999 http://www.library.yale.edu/~mpowell/ vistorianper.html
21. Lena Johanesson, “Pictures as News, News as Pictures: A Survey of Mass-reproduced Images in 19 Century Sweden,” in Hedvig Brander Jonsson, Allan Ellenius, Thomas Hard Af Segerstand, Lena Johanesson, and Barbro Werkmaster, Visual Paraphrases: Studies in Mass Media Imagery (Stockholm, Sweden: Almqvist and Wiksell International, 1984), 10.
24. American Museum of Photography, A Brief History of the Carte de Visite. http://www.photographymuseum.com/histsw.htm
30. Sean Sullivan, “Canadian Illustrated News and the Red River Rebellion (October 1869-August 1870)” http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/2/1/h1-204- e.html
36. Dan Meinwald, “Memento Mori: Death and Photography in Nineteenth Century America” CMP Bulletin, Vol. 9, No. 4. http://www.cmp.ucr.edu/terminals /mennento_mori/default.html
38. See the photographs and reconstructed camera angles of Fort Garry in the nineteenth century in Brad Loewen and Gregory Monks, “A History of the Structures at Upper Fort Garry, Winnipeg, 1835-87,” Environment Canada, Parks Service, Microfiche Report Series, No. 330, 1986, especially 119-48.
39. Preliminary Investigation and Trial of Ambroise D. Lepine for the murder of Thomas Scott: Being a full report of the Proceedings in this case before the Magistrates’ Court and the several Courts of Queen’s Bench in the Province of Manitoba (comp., Elliott and Brokowski) (Montreal: La Companie de lithographie Burland-Desbarats, 1874), Evidence of John Bruce, 60; Francis Charette, 64-65; Frank G. Beecher, 66; Baptiste Charette, 67; and Michel Dumas, 76.
40. J. M. Bumsted, Thomas Scott’s Body and Other Essays, 254, note 32.
43. Sean Sullivan, “Canadian Illustrated News and the Red River Rebellion (October 1869-August 1870),” (Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 2002) http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/2/1/h1-204-e.html
44. National Library and National Archives of Canada, “Impressions: 250 Years of Printing in the Lives of Canadians; Newspapers and Magazines.” http://www.collectionscanada.ca/2/10/h10-234-e.html
45. For the reaction in Anglophone Canada, see A. I. Silver, “Nineteenth Century News Gathering and the Mythification of Riel,” 80-81; and J. M. Bumsted, Thomas Scott’s Body and Other Essays.
46. Articles in Francophone journals dealing with the Scott affair or its aftermath included, among others: “Correspondence particuliere du Journal de Quebec” Le Journal de Quebec (Quebec), 13 avril 1870, 2; “Lettre d’Ottawa,” L’Ordre (Montreal), 14 avri11870, 1, 13 avril 1870, 2; “Lettre d’Ottawa,” L’Ordre (Montreal), 7 avril 1870, 2; 1”Lettre d’Ottawa,” L’Ordre (Montreal), 14 avril 1870, 1; “Troubles a la Riviere Rouge,” Pionnier de Sherbrooke, 10 mars 1871, 2. For an example of the contrary coverage in the Anglophone press, see “Riel’s Tyranny Must End,” excerpt from the 16 April 1870 issue of The Globe (Toronto), reprinted in Hartwell Bowsfield, ed., Louis Riel: Rebel of the Western Frontier or Victim of Politics and Prejudice? (Toronto: Copp Clark, 1969), 91-92.
49. Stuart Sillars, Visualization in Popular Fiction, 1-26; and Peter W. Sinnema, Dynamics of the Pictured Page: Representing the Nation in the Illustrated London News (Aldershot, Hants, England/ Brookfield, Vermont, Ashgate Publishers, 1998), 1-29.
52. See J. M. Bumsted, “Thomas Scott’s Body,” in Thomas Scott’s Body and Other Essays, 3-10.
54. Archives of Manitoba, Winnipeg, “Shooting of Scott, 4 March 1870,” Negative no. N5953, Photographic copy of drawing by J. Penrose, Winnipeg, in business between 1872 and 1880.
56. Archives of Manitoba, Winnipeg, “Shooting of Scott, 4 March 1870,” Negative no. N5954, Carte-de-visite photograph by Duffin and Caswell, Winnipeg, 1878-79.
57. J. M. Bumsted, Louis Riel v. Canada: The Making of a Rebel (Winnipeg: Great Plains Publications, 2001), 169.
59. National Archives of Canada, Photograph no. C-022613, “The Execution of Scott by Riel, 1870.”
60. George Young, Manitoba Memories, illustration opposite page 136.
63. “Riel Found Out!” Wood engraving, The Canadian Illustrated News, 17 September 1870, 192. The caption stated: “Riel, O’Donahue, Lepine and others fled from the Fort about three quarters of an hour before the arrival of Col. Wolseley and the 60. They left breakfast half- finished; two buggies were seen in the distance. Extract from the Red River Courier, August 24, 1870.”
66. T. Arnold Haultain, A History of Riel’s Second Rebellion and How it Was Quelled (Souvenir Number of The Canadian Pictorial and Illustrated War News, Parts I and II) (Toronto: Grip Printing and Publishing Co., 4 July and 29 August 1885).
67. “Murder of the Priests at Frog Lake,” and “The Town of Battleford, Occupied by the Rebels and Indians, March 30,” in Ibid., 6-7; first published in The Illustrated War News, 4 April 1885 (Toronto: Grip Printing and Publishing Company, 1885).
69. George F. G. Stanley, Toil and Trouble: Military Expeditions to Red River Ottawa: National Museums of Canada, Canadian War Museum Publication No. 25, 1989. A reproduction of a cropped version of the Canadian Illustrated News engraving of the execution appears on page 64.
73. Mark Starowicz, executive producer, related his rationale for using the referendum to seek support for the project in his book on the making of the series. He wrote: “The shock of the referendum was not the genesis of the Canadian History project. I had been actively talking about the idea for years, and in the documentary unit, we hoped it would be the next project for the Dawn of the Eye team. But until now, I had zero confidence I could sell it in the acrid climate in the CBC. I began to think that now might be the moment to make the formal move. The shock of the referendum, I was betting, would change the climate in the CBC, because it had given us all a brush with history.” Mark Starowicz, Making History: The Remarkable Story Behind Canada: A People’s History (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2003), 28.
74. In assessing the project, Gene Allen, senior producer and director of research for the project, stressed the extent of book sales and increased television ratings as benchmarks of success. Gene Allen, “The Professionals and the Public: Responses to Canada: A People’s History,” Histoire Sociale/Social History, No. 68 (November 2001), 381.
75. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Canada: A People’s History, Episode 9, “From Sea to Sea.” Original broadcast, 28 January 2001 http://history.cbc.ca/history
77. Whether the colour blue was meant to represent blue jeans is not clear. In any case, the American clothier Levi Strauss patented blue jeans in 1873, three years after Scott’s execution. Lynn Downey, “About LS and Co: Invention of Levi’s 501 Jeans.” (San Francisco: Levi Strauss and Co., 2001. http://www.levistrauss.com/about/history/jeans.htm
81. Hayden White, “The Noble Savage Theme as Fetish,” in Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), 183-96. For a discussion of the deep cultural roots of stereotypes of savagery, see Gustav Jahoda, Images of Savages: Ancient Roots of Modern Prejudice in Western Culture (London: Routledge, 1999).
85. For an elaboration of the many violent episodes and “massacres” by Aboriginal peoples presented in the CBC book, see Lyle Dick, “‘A New History for the New Millennium’: Canada: A People’s History,” Canadian Historical Review, Vol. 85, No. 1 (March 2004), 85-109.
86. Alexander Ross, The Red River Settlement: Its Rise, Progress, and Present State (London: Smith, Elder, and Co., 1856) 196, 234-74; George Stanley, The Birth of Western Canada, 7-9; Marcel Giraud, Le Métis canadien: son role dam l’histoire de provinces de l’ouest (Paris: Institut D’Ethnologie, 1945); 1156-73; and W. L. Morton, Manitoba: A History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1957), 199. Morton wrote of the commencement of the 1880s, “The mitis had withdrawn to the wooded river lots, or trekked to the plains of the Saskatchewan to shoot down the last bands of buffalo.”
89. See the Hyperdictionary definitions in http://www.hyperdictionary.com/dictionary/waste_and_wasting
91. See the discussion in Lyle Dick, “National History, Epic Form and Television: Two Examples from Canada and the United States,” Proceedings of the Symposium “Heritage, History, and Historical Consciousness: A Symposium on Public Uses of the Past, “ University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick, 22 October 2003. The Atlantic Portal E-Print Repository: http://lusankya.hilunb.ca:8000/archive /00000030
93. Harold Innis, The Bias of Communication (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1951), 92-131. In literature, the philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin drew a similar distinction between official culture, which seeks “to impose order on an essentially heterogeneous and messy world” and opposing unofficial cultural forces, which continually disrupt that order. See Gary Saul Morson and Caryl Emerson, Mikhail Balchtin: Creation of a Prosaics (Stanford, Ca.: Stanford University Press, 1990), 30.
95. In a book published by the CBC to celebrate the television corporation’s first half-century, the author wrote of Canada: A People’s History: “History’s executive producer Mark Starowicz accepts that his fifteen-part series says a great deal about Canada and Canadians in the mid-‘90s. ‘The world was changing so rapidly,’ he says. ‘Globalization and open borders meant that the Canada we knew seemed to be slipping away before our eyes. Railways were shutting down. Airlines failing. The Quebec referendum made us wonder if there was going to be a Canada. At the same time the millennium was approaching and there was an idea we were packing for a long, uncertain voyage ...’ Stephen Cole, Here’s Looking at Us: Celebrating Fifty Years of CBC-TV (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2002), 240-41.
97. “Reification,” Hyperdictionary (Webnox Corporation: 2000-2003) http://www.hyperdictionary.com/dictionary/reification
Page revised: 19 May 2013Back to top of page