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.

Indigenous people want museums to heed TRC’s calls to action

Sophia Reuss recently wrote an article on  how “Indigenous people want museums to heed TRC’s calls to action: Cultural institutions have an important role to play in Canada’s reconciliation process.”  Reuss’ piece looks at the role museums and archives play in caring for and presenting materials relating to Indigenous communities and the need to the heritage field to critically responsd to the TRC Calls to Action.

Reuss’ article incorporates comments from Jay Jones, the current president of the Children of Shingwauk ALumni Association and myself.  Jay and I both discuss the unique history of the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre and the important of Indigenous community perspectives in managing collections.  Jay and his entire family are an inspiration and I am constantly grateful to be able to work with them through my involvement with the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre.

Listening: The Henceforward Podcast

I listen to a lot of podcasts and some of those are pure leisure while others inspire critical thinking. Last year I came across The Henceforward, a podcast that “considers the relationships between Indigenous peoples and Black peoples on Turtle Island.”  The podcast aims to “reconsider the past and reimagine the future, in the henceforward.”  It also addresses inter- sectional relationships and “how these relationships can go beyond what has been constructed through settler colonialism and antiblackness”. The podcast is part of the Indian & Cowboy podcast network, which is a network dedicated to Indigenous podcasting and storytelling.

So far The Henceforward has created seven episodes all with different guest contributors and tackling a range of topics including reconciliation, land, DNA/identity, and decolonization. The podcast is produced by Eve Tuck (Unangax) a writer and scholar in Toronto and the University of Toronto.  Contributors have included Stephanie Latty, Rebecca Beaulne-Stuebing (Naawakwe giizhigookwe), Hunter Knight, Faith Juma, Lynn Ly, Christy Guthrie, Karima Kinlock, Deanna Del Vecchio, Sefanit Habtom and others.  The podcast has also been mentored by Chelsea Vowel (âpihtawikosisân).   It evolved out of a Ontario Institute for Studies in Education course titled Decolonization, Settler Colonialism and Antiblackness offered by Eve Tuck.  The recording of the first season coincided with the #BlackLivesMatterTO public protest.

So far I’ve loved this podcast for the range of topics it has addressed but also for the multiplicity of voices.  Each episode has had a slightly different format but all have emphasized conversations and dialogue while centering Indigenous and Black voices.  The podcast addresses fundamental questions such as what does reconciliation look like.  But it also dives into scholarly debates of both historical and contemporary relationships on Turtle Island.  I could easily see a number of episodes from the first season being used as teaching tools or resources for post-secondary classes when discussing Indigenous communities, blackness, and settler colonialism.  As a note for any new listeners: the sound quality of the episodes gets substantially better as the podcast season progresses and the content is well worth listening past the few segments with poor audio quality.

Doing The Work: The Historian’s Place in Indigenization and Decolonization

My most recent piece is a collaborative post with Skylee-Storm Hogan over at Active History.  The post, “Doing The Work: The Historian’s Place in Indigenization and Decolonization“, looks at the prevalence of the terms Indigenization and decolonization in recent post-secondary conversations.  It also examines meaningful ways in which historians can decolonize and Indigenize their practices.

I am extremely grateful to Skylee-Storm for her contributions on this piece.  I really appreciate her voice and perspectives and it was a delight to work with her on this piece.

Ten Books to Contextualize Reconciliation in Archives, Museums, and Public History

My latest post “Ten Books to Contextualize Reconciliation in Archives, Museums, and Public History” can be seen over at Active History.  The post looks at ten books and articles as a starting point for learning about reconciliation, residential schools and indigenous rights in the context of heritage organizations.

Archives of Ontario Family Ties Exhibit

Yesterday the Archives of Ontario launched their sesquicentennial exhibit Family Ties: Ontario Turns 150Running until 2018 the exhibit looks at 150 years of Ontario and what Ontario was like at the point of confederation.  The onsite exhibit focuses on four family groups in Ontario during the confederation era.  One of those family groups is the Shingwauk family.  The exhibit section which focuses on the Shingwauk family and the Shingwauk Indian Residential School contains artifacts and images from the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre (SRSC).

I couldn’t be happier about the SRSC content being included in this type of commemorative and educational exhibit.  Thousands of visitors and students will learn about the Shingwauk family through this exhibit and the Archives of Ontario educational programming.

Here’s a Storify of last night’s live tweet of the opening by the Archives of Ontario

 

Interactive History: Indigenous Perspectives and the Blanket Exercise

BlanketsAs part of Orientation Week at AlgomaU students, staff, faculty and community members were invited to participate in the KAIROS blanket exercise.  Originally developed in the 1990s as a response to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples the blanket exercise is a participatory teaching too that invites participants to learn about Canadian history from an Indigenous perspective.  The exercise has been updated since the 1990s to include information on more recent events such as Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Shannon’s Dream.

The exercise teaches about the impacts of colonialism, the loss of Indigenous land, residential schools, the sixties scoop, and numerous other facets of Canadian history that are not often taught in a classroom setting.  The visual representation of Turtle Island through the use of blankets, the physical act of participants representing Indigenous people and watching the spacial and visceral damage that is caused by colonialism is a really moving and had a huge impact on participants.

This is a very unique teaching tool that can be scaled to different age groups and number of participants.  I particularly liked how the session I participated in combined the national historical perspective with local responses and local experiences.  A local First Nation Chief spoke about his community and the removal of resources from their land and a Shingwauk Residential School Survivor shared their experience at Shingwauk as part of the exercise’s narrative.

Given the potentially triggering nature of the content health and cultural support was available throughout the event and the scripted portion of the exercise was followed by a sharing circle which allowed participants an opportunity to reflect on the exercise and discuss the experience.  Overall I think this is a great teaching tool that should be brought into more classrooms, community centers, and university campuses as a way of talking about history, ongoing inequality, and reconciliation.

Reading: Unwritten Histories

oldbookA few months ago I stumbled across Andrea Eidinger’s Unwritten Histories blog.  If you haven’t already come across her site it’s well worth a visit.  I’ve particularly enjoyed her Historian’s Toolkit posts and her “What’s in My Bag?” series which uses material culture as a lens to examine the past.

Andrea has been wonderfully consistent in posting new content and typically maintains a schedule of a new blog post on Tuesday and a Canadian history roundup post on Sunday which highlights other Canadian history content online.

I commend anyone who is able to maintain that type of schedule for numerous months and still come out with interesting and insightful content.  I also love the name of her blog and the implications of exposing histories and parts of historical practice that are not commonly discussed.

Neys Provincial Park

Following a great trip to Pukaskwa National Park I kept up the natural history and camping adventure by spending a few nights at Neys Provincial Park.  I was struck by the difference in landscape between the two parks despite them being less than an hour away from each other.  Pukaskwa had very hilly, cliff views of Lake Superior and the shoreline was a rugged .  In comparison Ney’s had long open beach shorelines, sand dunes, and forested areas.

Prisoner of War Camp

Star embedded on lawn from POW era.  It is believed that the star was around the flag pole.

Star embedded on lawn from POW era. It is believed that the star was around the flag pole.

Prior to becoming a provincial park the land now encompassed by Neys was used as a Prisoner of War Camp known as Neys 100 during the second world war.  The camp housed high ranking German officers and others and was primarily staffed by veterans from the First World War.  There are bits of this history scattered throughout the present day park — building foundations, bits of embed stone, and other physical remnants are all interpretation points in the Park today.  Additionally the physical landscape was fundamentally changed by the POW camp, they flattened sand dunes and used many of the trees for lumber.  Trees were later replanted by the Boy Scouts but in standard plantation rows, leaving evidence of how the land has changed.

Point Trail

Boats on Prisoners' Point

Boats on Prisoners’ Point

We didn’t do nearly as much hiking at Neys as at Pukaskwa, but I did manage to explore a couple of the trails.  The Point Trail is a short 1 km trail that follows the shore of Lake Superior and ends at a rocky outcrop known as Prisoners’ Point.  The trail then connects to the Under the Volcano Trail that explores the shoreline stretching from the Point.  I explored a bit of this trail as well.  The trail was a relatively easy walk, albeit a bit wet when I walked it and it was well worth the puddle jumping to reach the views of the lake at the end.  There was a few interpretive signs but they were relatively sparse.  I did enjoy the one that talked about the remains of old boats located on the point– the boats were left over from the Prisoner of War camp era and the logging days of the region.

Dune Trail

This easy loop hike included an interpretive handout that visitors could take with them on the walk.  The handout included numbers which matched specific points on the trail and provided interpretive details about that area.  The handout included a bit of information about the role of the POW camp on the landscape but primarily focused on flowers, the dunes, trees, and the impact of local animal life on the landscape.  Unsurprisingly, I liked the fact that there was a physical thing to hold during the walk and that the interpretation was a bit more developed on this trail.

Visitors’ Centre

Beach at Neys Provincial Park

Beach at Neys Provincial Park

The Visitors’ Centre was only open during the last day I was at the park.  Despite this we managed to make a short visit to the Centre and check out some their primary interpretive space.  The displays were fairly standard for a provincial park, a lot of focus on the natural landscape with most material geared at families and including a number of touch and feel stations focused on children.  There was also a substantial section dedicated to the history of Neys 100 which included a model which demonstrated what the POW camp would have looked like.  The staff at the Centre were very friendly and seemed to know a lot about the history of the Park and were happy to answer questions about the way the landscape had changed.