There is a well-known quotation by a U.S. administrator, Captain Richard H. Pratt, in 1892: “A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one … In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.”
If you kill the “Indian in him” or her, if you completely rid yourself of not merely, in Scott’s words, “the Indian problem,” but of any communal or individual identification of Indigeneity, but you don’t actually physically kill people, is it genocide? When we call it something else—assimilation, imperialism, acculturation—do we fail to capture the gravity of willfully eliminating a people as a people, culture, or society? Do we miss the process of cultural genocide?
Conversely, when we use the genocide label for other kinds of killing (e.g. death through neglect, or bureaucratic elimination) do we diminish the weight of the word genocide? Many non-Indigenous Canadians bristle at the notion that a label like genocide applies to Canada, and rarely see ongoing Indigenous issues as the direct legacy of European colonial settlement in North America.