Basques, Mi’kMaqs and Inuits: Transoceanic First Nations encounters in comic and graphic novels

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Aitzpea Leizaola


In 1978, Parks Canada underwater archaeologists discovered the remains of the whaling vessel San Juan in Red Bay. By then Basque cartoonists Gregorio Muro ‘Harriet’ had started to work on one of his major works, Justin Hiriart, a long graphic novel on the Basques’s presence in the North Atlantic coasts in the early 17th century. Well known for their mastery at the sea, Basque fishermen and whalers were in many cases the first Europeans the First Nations met. Historians, archaeologists, anthropologists and even geneticists have studied their presence in the North Atlantic. Whereas the Basques were actively involved in the colonization of Central and South America, it was not the case in the North Atlantic coast of America. Unlike the French and the English, the Basques did not aim to settle or conquer these lands. Following historical data, the relationships between Basques and First Nations seem overall to have been rather friendly, as reflected in the sentence “apaizac obeto” (the priests better) adopted by various Algonquin tribes as a welcome formula towards Europeans. Drawing from an anthropological perspective, this paper will focus on how contemporary Basque popular culture, and especially cartoons and graphic novels have disseminated largely unknown pieces of history. It will focus on the way the encounter with the Other is portrayed, paying attention to the way Native Americans are depicted, far from usual stereotypes – the role of the villain being incarnated by settlers and colonizers. Part of these images are grounded in historical documents, recalling the existence of intercultural connections. Adopting a decolonial perspective, the analysis of these materials stresses the need to investigate the historical evolution of discourses and representations as well as their incarnation in contemporary forms.

Published: Nov 14, 2022

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