Anne with an E

Multiple Directors

This show is just plain excellent. The characters are emotional, passionate, and deeply developed. There’s so many scenes that are so sad or so happy beyond words, and Anne’s vocabulary and way of thinking and speaking is powerful and endearing.

“[Here] the State was nowhere to be seen.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the first 2 seasons of the show, the State is nowhere to be seen. School is not yet mandatory in Canada during this time, so children may go or not go to it depending on their parents and their decisions. There is no massive tax apparatus and regulatory bureaucracies ordering them around, no police force showing up at people’s houses, nothing.

People band together to help each other. When someone’s house burns down, the entire town turns out to help battle the flame and, afterwards, to help rebuild from the ashes. There is trade and a town where people go to buy and sell things, and people resolve their conflicts of their own accord. While Anne herself comes from a pretty wretched and presumably State run orphanage and life, otherwise there is very little mention of the privileged class of rulers known as the State.

This is all for the better. The show displays humanity and community as a beautiful ecosystem in harmony with each other: it is not the “ideal” situation that people think of as a perfect society with no poverty or emotions or conflict, but rather it is one in which people hold each other accountable and are responsible for their own actions and community. They do the best they can with the money and resources they own. No one is going to swoop in to magically solve all their problems while creating new ones, as all government solutions do; they must instead figure out a way to work with each other and solve their own problems.

In the 3rd season, however, things change drastically in this respect. A native community of Indians is befriended by Anne, and one of the children becomes close friends with her. By showing up more often, the family becomes the target of an ambitious government official who claims to want to help the natives by “educating them”. The family is eventually convinced of the benefits and shows up at the train station with their daughter. They begin to have second thoughts about sending their daughter away when Rachel, a family friend of Anne’s, assures them by saying “The Government takes children all the time!” I’m sure this will turn out just fine.

Throughout history, the governments of the US, the colonists before them, and Canada have treated the indigenous people pretty terribly. From Massachusetts Bay and many other early colonies waging wars of genocide against them in the 1600s to the Trail of Tears led by Andrew Jackson to the genocide instituted by Lincoln and his blood thirsty generals after the Civil War to clear the way for the corporate railroads to the modern day reservations where the Indian tribes live in squalor devoid of any semblance of property rights, ownership, and free trade, the overall history of the treatment of these people up to the current day is pretty wretched.

That’s not to say that they were the most pleasant of people either; the myth of the “noble savage” is not always true. They certainly attacked and raided towns and killed lots of innocent people in the frontier towns of the early colonies. They fought on the side of the British during the revolution and pillaged and attacked many towns. There are many cases in which they are shown to be as duplicitous as the colonists, albeit that the colonists by far earn the gold medal in that respect. They once invited the heads of the Indian tribes to a dinner to discuss terms of peace where they then proceeded to poison the Indians and slaughter them.

Yet on both sides this is not universally the case. Rhode Island in particular was always hospitable to the Indians, much to the dismay and rebuke of Massachusetts Bay. Roger Williams, who founded Providence, originally bought the land from the Indians by an agreement and contract instead of using the general practice of killing them and stealing their land by force. Later, Providence and RI became an asylum for Indians under attack in the area. And on the other side of the fence, there were very many tribes who were peaceful and did not want to wage war against the colonists. They were happy just to trade and exchange with them while living aloof of any grand plans to “take back their land” or to harm the colonists.

Predictably, Anne’s friend is taken away to the “government re-education camps” and is then not allowed to leave or see her family or friends ever again, which was not part of the bargain. She is punished, forced to not use her own language, do slave labor, etc. She runs away and barely survives in returning to her home, yet men with guns show up to their encampment and demand their “property”, namely the young Indian girl, back so they can return her to the school.

It should be noted also that mandatory schooling has often been used to culturally modify children away from their parents’ cultures, languages, and history. The birthplace of public schools in the US was in general a fight between the Protestants and the Catholics, both of whom wanted to inoculate children with their own ideas. They generally fought to put mandatory schools in place and have control over them, attempting to assure that their ideas would be dominant.

The old joke “sure you can trust the government, just ask an Indian” runs true here. Please watch this show as it is a simply incredible period piece and bit of television, then ruminate on the general treatment of the native people of North America. Murray Rothbard wrote a lot about it in his Conceived in Liberty series, most notably in Volume 1. It’s a very sad story but presents important lessons about cultural appropriation and theft of people’s property and land.

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