In October 1864 the Colony of British Columbia martyred five “Chilcotin Chiefs.” One hour before sunrise on Oct. 26, with a crowd of 250 gathered to pay witness, the Crown hung these defenders of the Indigenous laws on a scaffold provocatively placed in a native graveyard. This event remains one of the most dramatic moments in the history of Canada’s relationship with the Indigenous Peoples. Oct. 26 is now a national day of remembrance for the Tsilhqot’in People. This year’s formal ceremony will be held at Puntzi Lake, near a key site in the events leading toward the martyrdom. How is Puntzi Lake connected to the eventual hanging of “The Chilcotin Chiefs?”
Since the Tsilhqot’in People have never surrendered their sovereign control to Canada through some constitutional means, Canada can again only pretend to the necessary moral authority to license the mine. Anyone who asserts otherwise must show the process of constitutional change that gave Canada its supposed legitimate sovereign authority. Can any social entity gain legitimate authority over another through ethnic cleansing or genocide? Canadians would no more accept a new regime as a legitimate authority if it were to overthrow the Canadian constitution in the same manner as the Tsilhqot’in regime was displaced.
Great movies deal with great themes. Audiences instinctively expect the greater theme to have the greatest dramatic weight. When the greater theme is not given its due, then the whole project seems disproportioned. And that seems to be what happens here. Since Tonto is the true protagonist, the audience naturally expects his story as the primary theme. That story is about the clash of civilizations.
By an overwhelming margin, professional movie critics love “The Master.” Yet a Rotten Tomatoes sample of 41,000 fans is only lukewarm. Why this disconnect? Great movies frequently enjoy a strong critical following. They also often enjoy an enthusiastic broad fan base. “The Master” clearly is not that kind of movie. Yet you will want to see it more than once. This is one of those movies that cannot be appreciated without first knowing how it ends.
However the many critics might try to dress up their varying proclamations of distaste for Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby”, what may be going on here, underneath, is that they are shooting the messenger.