Best New Articles from September 2017

Andrea Eidinger over at Unwritten Histories has released her list of “Best New Articles from September 2017.” I’ve overjoyed by the fact that my “Archival Photographs in Perspective: Indian Residential School Images of Health” article is included on the best new articles list.  Go check out the rest of Andrea’s article recommendations for the past month, there are a number of really interesting and must read Canadian history articles on the list.

Hacking History: Wikipedia Edit-a-Thons as Public Engagement

Women yelling "[Edit] Cdnhist on green and purple background

Edit Canadian History on Wikipedia

Jessica Knapp of Canada’s History and I are organizing a Canada wide Wikipedia edit-a-thon with a focus on editing Canadian History content.  Join us on October 18, 2017 at a regional site or virtually to improve Canadian History content on Wikipedia!

Want to know more? Check out our “Hacking Histories” blog post on Unwritten Histories.  The post explains the details of the event, how you can participate, and answers some of the common Wikipedia questions.

A huge thank you to Andrea Eidinger for her willingness to host this post and for her support of this event.

Rivers Speak Community Play

Rivers Speak Logo reads "The Rivers Speak, Gigdoowag Ziibiik, Les Riveres Parlent"

Rivers Speak Logo

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Gigidoowag Ziibiik (Rivers Speak) Community Play.  This fantastic project was the culminating event of Thinking Rock Community Arts‘ efforts to engage community members in story telling and art making.  Since 2013 Thinking Rock has involved over 1500 individuals in hands-on making and storytelling with an emphasis on reflecting on local rivers and waterways.  This initiative also worked to create spaces for cross-cultural conversations and involve both Indigenous and settler communities. 

The Rivers Speak play included over 30 cast members of all ages and was held on the traditional pow wow grounds of Misswezhaging (Mississaugi First Nation).  This community art project was a joy to see come to fruition.  The play was based on the stories, oral histories, and memories collected by Thinking Rock since 2013.

The play intertwined settler and Indigenous perspectives on water, community, and family — it followed Marie (settler) and Ira (Indigenous) community members who lived locally but passed away within recent years. The play was guided by two local elders and the narration was a mixture of English and Ojibway.  It also included audience participation components – for example the audience walked through an outdoor living stage and were invited to participate in a round dance at the end of the play.

It was an extremely powerful experience to participate in as an audience member and it was beautiful to see such a nuanced story come together based on community narratives and memories.  The work undertaken by Thinking Rock is a great example of community engaged history, community arts and participatory story building. I’m looking forward to seeing what projects Thinking Rock tackles in the future.

Reflecting on Camping and the Parks System

Group of women carrying a canoe overhead

Unidentified group of women carrying a canoe, Winnipeg, 1940s. Library and Archives Canada. MIKAN 4328425

I’ve went camping twice this summer and stayed at three Provincial Parks in Ontario as part of that experience.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the complicated nature behind the parks system, the dispossession of Indigenous people from parks and the lack of acknowledgement of the traditional usage of the land by Parks.  None of the parks I visited this year had signage about the history of the park or about the park’s relationship to the local Indigenous communities.

Last year I visited Pukaskwa Nation Park.  It is the only Park I’ve visited to date that is actively working with the local First Nation community to reinterpret the site and to include a discussion of the community’s history on the land. Pukaskwa’s staff included an Indigenous Cultural Interpreter – who was from Pic River First Nation, the local First Nation community that was impacted by the creation of Pukaskwa.  The were also in the process of creating an Anishinaabe Camp for cultural programming and the “Bimose Kinoomagewanan” trail signage was created by local elders and youth from Pic River.

Pukaskwa serves as one example of parks addressing their problematic past.  I would be interested in knowing of any other examples out there.  As visitors what can settlers do to encourage more critical interpretation? As a first step speaking with the folks staffing the visitors centre and interpreters to ask them about what they know about the park’s history can help.  If they don’t mention the traditional Indigenous territory of the land ask why. Ask them why there is no discussion of the land prior to the park being established and if there is any plans to change that.  Talk with the people you are camping with – have those important conversations about land and history – even if it makes you or them uncomfortable.

For additional context I would suggest reading Anne Janhunen’s The Holiday Spirit Will Prevail’: Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Erasure in Ontario’s ‘Cottage Country‘ presentation and Robert Jago’s “Canada’s National Parks are Colonial Crime Scenes.”

Webinar: Editing Wikipedia Part Two

The recording of the final webinar of the “Wikipedia as Outreach and Activism for Canadian History” series I hosted with Jessica Knapp from Canada’s History Society is now available. I was the main presenter in this webinar  which focused on “Diving Into Wikipedia Editing Basics” and included an introduction and technical walk through of basic editing skills.  It included how to make basic edits to fix content, how to add citations and references, and how to use the article wizard to create your first article.

It was wonderful to work with Jessica on this webinar series and I love that it gave me an excuse to work on some of the Wikipedia projects that have been languishing on my to-do list.

Webinar: Editing Wikipedia Part One

The recording of the third Wikpedia focused webinar in the series I’m hosting with Jessica Knapp from Canada’s History Society is now available. I was the main presenter in this webinar and my presentation focused on the basics of editing Wikipedia.  During my talk I tried to answer some of the following questions: Why should we contribute to Canadian History on Wikipedia? What are the basic principals of editing Wikipeda? How can I contribute to Wikipedia? And how do I get started?  I also talked about Wikipedia as a form of outreach and about the community building that can occur through editing Wikipedia.

Next week’s webinar will build upon the basics discussed in this webinar and include a step-by-step walk through of some of the editing basics.  So if you’re interested in learning how to edit an existing article, add a citation to an article, or how to use the new article wizard this is the webinar for you.  Join us at 2:00 pm ET on Wednesday August 3rd..

Sesqui and the Horizon Film

Last week Sesqui and the film Horizon were in Sault Ste. Marie.  If you haven’t heard of Sesqui (short for Sesquisentinial) it is is a 360° cinematic experience marking Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation.  It’s traveling across Ontario using a giant canvas dome to show the film Horizon. The 20 minute film features landscapes from across Canada and includes artists from across Canada, the film is projected on the interior of the dome providing an immersive film experience.

The film has no words and was visually quite stunning.  Given that this was billed as a part of the 150th commemoration events I (perhaps naively) expected there to be some historical content in the film.  There was almost none. The film was much more focused on highlight the physical, geographical, and cultural diversity of the landscape of Canada.  There were many segments of people singing, canoeing, skating, skateboarding, and engaged in other outdoor activities.  This was paired with wildlife footage and landscape images.

IMAX technology originally premiered in 1967 when the National Film Board launched the In the Labyrinth film at Expo ’67.  The Sesqui project connects back to that original leap in film technology by attempting to create a new kind of immersive film experience.

Sesqui has also created a learning hub which includes additional information on select topics including : Arts, Canadian Geography, education, English, Indigenous Studies, Language Arts, Physical Education, and Social Studies.  For example, Horizon includes footage of a traditional Haida dance and the work of Haida carver Christian White.  The supplemental video material connects these brief segments to large social and cultural traditions and provide historical context to the brief clips that were seen in the Horizon film.  The educational material isn’t perfect but it is a good starting point to have larger conversations about the material that was included (and the material that wasn’t) in the film.

Multiple trailers and previews of the content can be found on Youtube and I’ve included one of the trailers below.  They also mentioned at the screening that there is an associated app, Meridian VR and that eventually all of the video footage will be available to download via that app.

Wikipedia as Outreach and Activism for Canadian History Webinar Series

Wikipedia, Outreach, and Activism, Oh My!

As part of my role at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre (SRSC) I’ve recently been working with Canada’s History Society to organize a summer webinar series focused on Wikipedia, Outreach, and Activism in relation to Canada’s History.  This four part webinar series will run in July/August and is focusing on how Wikipedia can be used for outreach and activism in relation to Canadian History.

This webinar series is suitable for GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) professionals, public historians, and those interested in Canadian history. No experience editing Wikipedia is necessary to participate.  Folks can sign up to participate on the Canada History Society website. We have a great line up of experienced  Wikipedia editors, community organizers, activists, and history folks who are going to be presenting as part of the series.

Beyond 150: Telling Our Stories Twitter Conference

beyond 150 logoI’m super excited to have been part of the planning for the “Beyond 150: Telling Our Stories” twitter conference that will be held August 24-25, 2017 on Twitter. Organized by Active History, Unwritten Histories, Canada’s History Society, and The Wilson Institute the conference aims to diversify the historical narrative and uplift marginalized historical perspectives. It is designed to encourage collaboration, public engagement, and spark discussion about Canada’s history in a way that is accessible to everyone.

For details on the conference, how you can participate, and the CFP check out today’s Active History announcement. Or follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #beyond150CA.

CHA Reflections

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Canadian Historical Association (CHA) annual meeting held at Ryerson in Toronto, Ontario.  This is the first time I have had been back to CHA in six or more years and I happy to say it was a worth while experience. Though I’m still a die hard NCPH fan I can see that CHA has it’s place and value, especially to those practicing history within the academy.

CHA highlights for me included:

  • Meeting with Active History editorial collective and discussing the future of the Active History project.  The last time I saw many of the other editors was in 2015 at the Active History conference, so it was great to be able to connect in person.
  • The “Decolonize 1867: Stories from the People event” was a great way to start my CHA experience.  The session was organized by Stacy Nantion-Knapper and Kathryn Labelle and featured Catherine Tammaro, Brittany Luby, Naomi Recollet, Helen Knott, Jessie Thistle, and Carolyn Podruchny.  The session was conversational in nature and included presentations focused around visual art, poetry, and storytelling.  The words of the presenters invoked discussions of land, the ongoing impacts of colonialism, and a critical look at commemoration.  Helen Knott’s poem “Indigenous Diaspora: Out Of Place In Place” was a beautiful and thought provoking discussion of land, colonialism, and resilience. Similarly, Naomi Recollet’s presentation of the “Unceded” video showcased the varying views Indigenous communities have to land, legislation, and government relationships.
  • One of the panels I really enjoyed was the The Indian Act: A Contested Technique of Colonial Governance, 1876-Present panel.  This panel featured four presenters focusing on different aspects and interpretations of the Indian Act and the Act’s impact on Indigenous communities.  Many of the papers on this panel subverted the standard colonial narrative and were looking for Indigenous perspectives on the Indian Act – either through oral history, finding archival sources written by Indigenous leaders, or reading government documents against the grain. The panel featured: Chandra Murdoch, “Mobilization of and against Indian Act elections on Haudenosaunee Reserves, 1870-1924”; Anne Janhunen, “Government Responses to Indigenous Political Organizing and Legal Representation in Southern Ontario, 1903-1927”; “Genevieve R. Painter, “Cutting Costs and Constructing Canada: A History of Sex Discrimination in the Indian Act”; Jacqueline Briggs “#PolicyFail: How the Department of Indian Affairs negotiated the dissolution of the assimilation and management projects in the 1960s”
  • I also enjoyed the “Recovering Indigenous Law in Ore-Confederation Land Conveyances to the British Crown, 1764-1864” panel.  In particular, Jeffrey Hewitt’s discussion of “Wampum as Treaty Text” and the idea of looking beyond written text for historical information was something that resonated strongly with me.  Hewitt also discussed the need for settlers to develop literary beyond the written word – and the need to view wampum belts, songs, and dances as valid sources of information.
  • Another highlight for me was connecting with folks I only know online at CHA. It was great to see some archivists and public historians at the conference and so many inspiring women participating in the event.

Things I would like to see more of at CHA:

  • The roundtable format used at the social media panel and the public historians panel worked really well.  The format was conversational and included ample time for discussion.  I would love to see more sessions borrow from this model.
  • More creative based sessions such as the “Decolonize 1867” event which re-positioned historical narratives.
  • More community engaged scholars sharing their work – and community collaborators speaking alongside academics at CHA.  Community voices have value and we need to listen.  This is particularly important when talking about marginalized communities and needing to open up the space to make room for those voices.
  • There was one solid queer history panel but it would have been great to see more queer history throughout the program.
  • More people using Twitter.  At times I felt like the lone conference tweeter in the room.  To see the Twitter archive from the conference visit Unwritten Histories.