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.


Pukaskwa National Park

20160626_155631Recently I visited Pukaskwa National Park, the only wilderness national Park in Ontario.  The Park features a small campground and 1878 square km of wonderful Northern Ontario natural heritage.

I had a wonderful time camping, exploring, and learning about the landscape at Pukaskwa.  We were there prior to the official start of their interpretation season (July and August) but still managed to take in some activities and many of their trails have great interpretive signage that can be used without a guide.

Anishinaabe Camp Construction

The first morning at Pukaskwa we joined in a walk to the Anishinaabe Camp that was currently under construction.  We were the only ones to participate in the walk that morning but it was worth the half hour to talk with the people building an interpretive space based on traditional knowledge. Our guide was from Pic River First Nation and works as at the park as a cultural interpreter and programmer and the builders were a combination of local and visiting people with knowledge of traditional structures.  As an added bonus our guide took us into the Visitor Centre despite it not being officially open for the season so we could take a look at some of their other programming spaces and some of the other birch bark items that were made at the Park.  I loved that the park integrates traditional knowledge keepers into interpretive programming.

Beach Trail

20160625_085744Pukaskwa has a number of short hikes that can all be completed in a hour or two from the campground.  This was perfect for us given that we were traveling with a small child.  The first hike we did was the “Beach Trail” which visits driftwood filled beaches in three different areas of shoreline – Horseshoe Bay, middle beach, and north beach.  The views of Lake Superior and the huge amounts of driftwood were amazing to look at.  This trail was a fairly easy hike though there were a few spots that could have used better signage and required some hunting to pick up the trail again. In addition to the natural beauty Horseshoe Bay also featured an easel which explored the Group of Seven’s paintings inspired by the landscape contained in Pukaskwa.  I loved this integration of history, culture, and natural heritage.

Bimose Kinoomagewnan

Bimose Kinoomagewnan signage at start of trail.
Bimose Kinoomagewnan signage at start of trail.

The second trail we explored was the Bimose Kinoomagewnan trail or the “Walk of Teachings”.  This trail may have been my favourite of the many hikes we did at Pukaskwa.  It didn’t have Lake Superior views but the views around Halfway Lake and the interpretive signage focusing on the Seven Grandfather Teachings was extremely well done.

Wisdom teaching signage.

Each teaching had a sign placed at scenic points on the trail and the signage contained stories of Elders’ experiences in the park, their thoughts on the teachings, and their memories of the land.  Each of these written experiences was paired with artwork by local youth.  The signage was in three languages (English, French, Ojibway) and extremely well done and added to the trail significantly.  On the natural heritage side of things I loved the variety of this trail which includes forested land, huge rock faces, hills, a beaver lodge, and fantastic views.

Southern Headland Trail

Red Chairs as part of the "Share the Chair" Parks Canada program.
Red Chairs as part of the “Share the Chair” Parks Canada program.

This was probably the most popular trail we explored – at least judging by the number of people we saw exploring the views.  On many of the other hikes we didn’t see anyone else.  The Southern Headland trail has breath taking Lake Superior views and overlooks Hattie Cove, Pulpwood Harbour, and Horseshoe Bay.

This walk provides visitors with glimpses of the power of Superior and there is some signage talking about the impact the lake has on the landscape and flora/fauna in the region.  This trail also featured the “red chair experience” a Parks Canada national initiative which places red Muskoka style chairs at places with breathtaking views and spots which highlight some of the best spots in national parks.  I love the idea of making destination points within parks that are points of connection, shared experience, and social media opportunities.

Manito Miikana

Outlook over Lake Superior on Manito Miikana
Outlooking Lake Superior on Manito Miikana

Also known as “the Spirit Trail”, Manito Miikana is a predominately forested trail leading to two viewing platforms with panoramic views of Lake Superior.  This was by far the most difficult trail we hiked, it has a lot of changing elevations, a ton of tree roots, uneven ground, and it was very wet the day we walked it.  The views were similar to that of the Southern Headland Trail but overlooked different portions of the lake and also allowed for a look at the Pic River Dunes in the distance.  It wasn’t a bad hike and we probably would have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t rained so much prior to our walk.


I really enjoyed Pukaskwa National Park, exploring the natural history and learning a bit more about the landscape of the North Shore.  I was also pleasantly surprised by a lot of the interpretation programming and signage in the park.  The interpretation I engaged with was really well done and the Park has made an effort to engage local Indigenous communities in programming and include traditional knowledge in their signage.

Re-writing Wikipedia

ReWriteWikipediaPosterAs I mentioned earlier the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre (SRSC) is currently hosting ““A Lifetime – Day by Day, Five Women and Their Diaries”the travelling exhibit from the Archives of Ontario and a locally curated companion exhibit “Indigenous Women Rebuilding A Nation.”

As part of the the Indigenous Women Rebuilding A Nation exhibit the SRSC will be hosting an event titled “Rewriting Wikipedia.”  On June 20, 2016 this event aims increase the prevalence of content relating to Indigenous women online. The event aims to re-write Wikipedia to include Indigenous women in historical narratives not only as wives, daughters, aunts, and sisters, but also as leaders with their own identities and stories. The event is free of charge, open to all and no experience with Wikipedia is required. Drop-ins welcome.  More details are available on the Facebook Event Page and in the Press Release.

As you might have noticed I’ve been writing a fair bit about Wikipedia recently.  Since January I’ve been slowly becoming more engaged with the Wikipedia community and have been inspired by the range of possibilities that are available for the GLAM sector on the platform. The idea to hold a Wikipedia edit-a-thon and get the local university community engaged with Wikipedia came from watching the great work of Danielle Robichaud and the Archives Association of Ontario had at their last Wikipedia event.

The idea was also partially motivated by the profound realization that Indigenous Women are greatly underrepresented on Wikipedia.  Indigenous Women fall in the intersection of two underrepresented groups on Wikipedia and the SRSC holds numerous archival holdings that relate to Indigenous women and their work.  I also owe a lot of thanks to the wonderful SRSC Student Assistant Skylee-Storm Hogan who’s enthusiasm and connections to the student population have been key in getting this idea going.  I’m fortunate to work so many inspiring and talented Indigenous women on a daily basis.

Anishinaabe Inendamowin (Thought) Research Symposium

Last week I attended the second Bi-Annual Anishinaabe Inendamowin (Thought) Research Symposium at Algoma University.  It was a great day and included speakers on everything from sustainability, to the power of food, to decolonizing railways. The symposium also included scholars from a range of backgrounds including community members, all levels of students, and academics.  It was nice to see such a diverse group of participants and to learn about so many interesting projects.  Some of the highlights for me included:

Sustainable Education Practices

Yvonne Vizina was the keynote speaker for the day and spoke on her academic and professional work relating to sustainability.  I found her work relating to the integration of Indigenous knowledge in science education and her curriculum development advocacy particularly interesting.  Her talk also focused on role Indigenous people have to play in environmental science and the need for the incorporation of Indigenous voices in policy development relating to sustainable environmental practices.  Yvonne also spoke about her work on the Indigenous Science From Place project which examined the inclusion of First Nations and Métis perspectives in the Saskatchewan school science curriculum and the impact that inclusion had upon student outcomes.

Urban Indigenous Youth For Change Panel

This panel featured Candace Neveau, Jordan Tabobondung, Rihkee Strapp and was chaired by Mitch Case. I’ve heard this group of youth speak a few times before and it is always an inspiring experience to hear about their community driven work and the success they’ve had in engaging local youth.  The discussion focused on how the panelists were involved in the local and other communities, what Indigenous innovation means, the role of Indigenous ways of knowing in their work, and advice for other Indigenous youth looking to become involved in similar work.  The panel included many powerful words and examples of being dedicated and driven to create safe spaces, open the lines of communication, and look at problems from Indigenous perspectives.

Work to Aid Healing and Reconciliation

Maggie McGoldrick, a PhD Candidate at Queens and an AlgomaU grad, spoke on her research relating to Indigenous centered archival movements and specifically the work of the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre to aid healing and reconciliation. I’ve been in touch with Maggie over the past couple of years while she’s started this work and its great to see the early stages of her research coming together.  Her presentation focused on archives as site of memory and the power of archives to act as collective memory.  She also spoke on the need for historical documents and lived experience to interconnect.  I look forward to hearing more about Maggie’s work as it progresses.

Centennial Celebrations at Residential Schools

cowessessI recently was working with an audio recording from the Cowessess Indian Residential School.  The recording was in the form of a seemingly professionally produced record featuring a musical ensemble of Cowessess IRS students.  The recording was produced to celebrate the 1967 Canadian centennial.  This particular item got me thinking about the handful of other material I’ve come across that relates to residential schools celebrating the Canadian centennial.

At the Shingwauk Residential School the centennial was incorporated in a variety of ways including:

  • Students putting on the play ‘Arrow to the Moon’ which was written by a staff member.
  • Participating in the local centennial celebrations, specifically in a local ‘Indian Pavilion’ focused on Indigenous people.
  • Students created small handicrafts which were then sold at local centennial celebrations.  Many of these crafts were seemingly token Indigenous in nature – eg. totem poles and west coast style woodwork.

This seemingly cheery participation in the centennial is a stark contrast to the federal celebrations and the Canadian Indian Pavilion at Expo 67.  Created in consultation with Indigenous communities from across Canada the pavilion was designed to show the living conditions of Indigenous people in Canada and highlight the unfairness of Canadian government policies.  The Pavilion included a graphic display of a life-sized portrait of an Indigenous family outside of their home with the caption “… and still, too many Indians are poor, sick, cold and hungry. Three out of every four Indian families earn $2,000 or less a year. The poverty line for the rest of Canadian families is $3,000 a year.”[1]

The Expo 67 pavilion was a drastic contrast to the official messaging around the success of the reserve system and residential schools.  Unsurprisingly the pavilion was also very different to the celebratory centennial activities seen at residential schools.[2]

If anyone has come across other examples of the types of activities that were done in residential schools as part of the Canada celebration I would be interested in seeing them.  They are odd little pieces of the residential school curriculum that highlight the assimilation based education and attempts to instill Canadian pride in IRS students.

[1] “Message for Canadians At Indian Pavilion”, Indian Record 30, no. 5 (1967): 15.  Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, Grey Nuns of Montreal Collection.

[2] For more information on Indigenous participation in Expo 67 see ““It’s Our Country”: First Nations’ Participation in the Indian Pavilion at Expo 67” by Myra Rutherdale and Jim Miller.

Friday Reading: #AHIndigenous Week

This week over at Active History guest editor Crystal Fraser put together an amazing line up of posts from Indigenous scholars in Canada.  For more information on the series as a whole check out Crystal’s “Politics and Personal Experience: An Editor’s Introduction to Indigenous Research in Canada.” Every post in this the series was worth reading and the week’s lineup included:

  • Monday, January 11 – Crystal Fraser, Editor’s Introduction; Leanne Simpson, “A Smudgier Dispossession is Still Dispossession”; Zoe Todd, “Conversations with my Father’s Paintings: Writing My Relations Back Into the Academy
  • Tuesday, January 12 – Claire Thomson, “Holding Our Lands and Places”; Daniel Sims, “Not That Kind of Indian”
  • Wednesday, January 13 – Adam Gaudry, “Paved with Good Intentions: Simply Requiring Indigenous Content is Not Enough”; Anna Huard, “A Wrench in the Medicine Wheel: The Price of Stolen Water on Indigenous Cultural Continuity”
  • Thursday, January 14 – Lianne Charlie, “Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow: The Next Generation of Yukon Indigenous Politics”; Norma Dunning, “Strengthening the Nunavut Educational System”
  • Friday, January 15 – Billy-Ray Belcourt, ” Political Depression in a Time of Reconciliation”; Mary Jane McCallum, Title Forthcoming

Canadian Girls In Training: 100 Years With A Purpose

My most recent post, “Canadian Girls in Training: 100 Years With A Purpose” can be seen over at Active History.  I wrote this post after attending a local 100th anniversary celebration of CGIT and learning about the local impact of the organization.  The post also looks at the history of CGIT across Canada and the movement’s links to feminism and changing approaches to education.

Brewing Monopoly in Ontario: Northern Breweries Ltd.

Soo Falls Brewing Company, Sault Ste Marie, 1932. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries
Soo Falls Brewing Company, Sault Ste Marie, 1932. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries

Northern Breweries Ltd. was a Canadian brewing company founded in 1907 by the Doran, Mackey, and Fee families. Located in Northern Ontario the company played a significant role in many northern communities and the built history of these facilities are still being considered locally.

The company originally started in Sudbury as the Sudbury Brewing and Malting Co. in 1907.  They later expanded throughout Northern Ontario by purchasing Soo Falls Brewing Co in Sault Ste Marie in 1911, Kakabeka Falls Brewing Co. in Fort William in 1913, in 191 they established a division in Timmins, and in 1948 they purchased the Port Arthur Beverage Co.

Prior to 1960 each of these breweries operated under their independent names.  In 1960 they were amalgamated and became collectively known as Northern Breweries.  Each of these local operations have distinct community based histories but the Northern Breweries company as a whole also has a history that has implications outside of the communities it operated in.

From 1942 to 1992 the breweries eventually known as Northern Breweries had a monopoly on draught beer in Northern Ontario.  If you were at a bar in the North and asked for a pint you got Northern Breweries beer. The first 30 years of this monopoly was provided by an agreement amongst brewers and the LCBO.  The last 20 years of protection was mandated under Ontario provincial legislation.

The Second World War resulted in the protected Northern Ontario draught market. The Wartime Alcoholic Beverages Order limited brewery production and to limit transportation resources in May 1942, wide distribution of beer in Ontario and Quebec was prohibited. Specifically, the order proclaimed,

No brewer shall sell or offer for sale or deliver any draught beer, ale, stout or porter which has been brewed in any brewery in the Province of Quebec or in any part of Ontario lying to the south of the 46th parallel of latitude, to any retail liquor store or place which is situated in any part of Ontario lying to the north of said parallel of latitude.

A similar provision prohibited breweries north of the 46th parallel from selling to the south. This measure effectively ensured the protection of Doran’s draught market. When WWII ended the Wartime order ceased however brewers and the LCBO continued to respect the artificial line separating Northern Ontario from Southern Ontario brewers.[i]

This informal agreement was brought into question in the 1970s with the sale of Northern Breweries to Canadian Breweries Limited.  This sale fundamentally changed the ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ and Southern brewers indicated new interest in selling in the North.

In 1972 Arthur Wishart authored “Report of the Inquiry Into the Brewing Industry, Northern Ontario by A.A. Wishart” on the daught brewing industry in Northern Ontario that looked at the economic and social impacts of opening the North to competition.  Brewing in the North came a point of public debate.  The report emphasized the geographic nature of Northern Ontario and the high cost of shipping draught beer to the North, suggesting that the Southern brewers had little to gain from Northern expansion.

The fact that in 1972 the Ontario government passed legislation that essentially made Doran’s Northern Breweries a monopoly in the North is somewhat unusual.  The main argument for keeping the monopoly was the need to preserve Northern Ontario jobs and the potential negative socio-economic that allowing draught competition would bring. It also highlighted the contributions from the North to Provincial and Federal coffers and Doran’s submission to the report emphasized the role of the brewer in Northern communities and its place as a good ‘corporate citizen.’ Ultimately the monopoly was preserved because the Ontario government was “committed to a policy of encouraging industry to locate in northern Ontario.” Regional development took precedence over free enterprise.[ii]

Even with the protected draught market Doran’s sales began to drop. Coinciding with this decline in sales, in 1977 employees of Doran’s Northern Ontario Breweries purchased the Company from Canadian Breweries becoming the first employee owned brewing company in North America. Under this new leadership the company began to market outside of Northern Ontario. In the 1980s craft brewing also developed in Ontario creating a whole new set of regulatory discussions on the provincial level.

By the 1990s Northern businesses wanted to offer a wider range of draught beer. Starting in 1991 licensees were able purchase draught outside of the North if they transported it themselves. In 1992 the draught market in Sudbury was opened to all brewers, the rest of Northern Ontario followed in 1993.

The 1990s saw the decline of Northern Breweries sales even further. A revival of the company was attempted in 2004 when it was purchased and rebranded by an investment group. But in 2006 Northern Breweries closed its doors for the last time.

Today, many of the communities which housed Northern Breweries buildings are considering how to preserve this part of their local labour history.  In Sault Ste Marie, Riversedge Developments purchased the historical ‘Brewery Block’ and is in the midst of tearing down parts of the building and working on adaptive reuse plans for other portions of the site. Right now the Soo Falls brewing stack still stands as a reminder to locals of the rich brewing history in Sault Ste Marie.

[i] Daryl White. “Draught, Development, and Discourse: The Northern Ontario Draught Beer Monopoly, 1972-92.” Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d’études canadiennes 47, no. 2 (2013): 5-28.

[ii] Wishart, A.A. 1972. Report of the Inquiry Into the Brewing Industry, Northern_Ontario. by A.A. Wishart Q.C. n.p.: Toronto: : s.n, 1972., 1972.

Passing Laws, Just Because: Sault Ste Marie Language Resolution

Downtown there’s a parade
But I don’t think I want to go
Smart as trees in Sault Ste. Marie
I can speak my mother tongue
Passing laws, just because
And singing songs of the English unsung
-“Born in the Water”, The Tragically Hip

If you’re not from Sault Ste Marie you might not understand the local reference made by The Tragically Hip in their song “Born in the Water.”  The song is about the Sault Ste Marie Language Resolution and the historical connections of the city to the French community.

On January 29, 1990 the Sault Ste Marie City Council passed the Sault Ste Marie Language Resolution which resolved that English was the sole working language of the city government. This resolution was not the only its kind to be passed in Ontario. But Sault Ste Marie was the largest community to pass this type of legislation. The Language Resolution drew national coverage to the City and the issue came to the forefront during the Meech Lake Accord debate.

The French Language Services Act in Ontario protects the right of individuals to receive provincial government services in French in specific areas of Ontario. The act outlines 26 designated areas which guarantee French language government services. In these areas Francophones make up a minimum of 10% of the population.  Services provided by municipalities are not covered under the act and it’s up to each municipality to decide if they offer services in French.  The French Language Services Act was adopted on November 6, 1986; and came into effect in 1989.

Sault Ste Marie is included under the act as all of the Algoma District is a designated area. The timing of the Sault Ste Marie Language Resolution, less than a year after the Services Act came into effect speaks volumes.

Coinciding with the timing of the French Language Services Act in 1987 local controversy erupted when a group of local Franco-Ontarians lobbied for a French school to be opened in Sault Ste Marie. In 1988 a group of Franco-Ontarian parents led by Solange Fortin took their case for a French language education environment to the public board of education.

In response to this lobbying the Sault Alliance for the Preservation of English Language Rights (SAPELR) was formed and began working with the Alliance for the Preservation of English in Canada (APEC).  APEC was actively campaigning against the French Languages Services Act and ultimately was successful in convincing 47 of Ontario’s 839 municipalities to pass resolutions similar to the Sault Ste Marie Language Resolution. In Sault Ste Marie SAPELR and APEC were responsible for a petition being brought to city council demanding English only services.  The petition was signed by 25,000 people out of a population of approximately 85,000.

At the time of the Resolution about 4% of Sault Ste Marie’s residents identified as Francophone. But historically Sault Ste Marie has strong ties to the French community, was founded by French speaking missionaries, and once served as a meeting place for traders and travellers from a range of cultures In the days following the resolution Sault Ste Marie was on the national news and served as a flash point during the Meech Lake Accord.  The anti-French backlash was felt by many Francophones in the region and a number of French families moved away from Sault Ste Marie as a result.

In 1994 the Language Resolution was struck down and in 1999 the city council minutes were amended to show that the 1994 Resolution was unjust. In 2010 City of Sault Ste Marie Mayor John Roswell apologized to French Canadians for the City’s actions. One might be able to brush this instance off as the fault of a misguided city council and blame APEC’s influence for the passing of the Resolution.  But the damage to the local French community and the tensions which underpinned the resolution still exist today.

This past summer a Service Ontario outlet in a small community east of Sault Ste Marie was threatened with closure because of its non-compliance with the French Language Services Act.  The outlet is staffed by a single person and provides a vital service to a community that would otherwise have to drive an hour to renew license plate stickers and access other Service Ontario programs. The sole staff person at this location does not speak French.

Currently if someone requests French language services another Service Ontario outlet where French speaking staff are available will be contacted using speaker phone. In the past five years this service has not been accessed once.  After much local lobbying, including a Rick Mercer style YouTube rant, the Service Ontario outlet is staying open.  Many of the people protesting this incident were concerned about the impact on access to services in the community and were not anti-French in their comments.  But some were quick to complain about bilingualism and “French privilege”.  Personally this incident highlighted how quickly things can escalate and the ongoing tension between French and English speaking Canadians.

Today French Language education is available in the Sault, the Le Centre francophone provides French language community programming, city hall flies the Franco-Ontarian flag, and the Franco-Ontarian community continues to preserve its rich heritage.  And almost every time The Tragically Hip come to town they play “Born in the Water” and remind a community of misguided past decisions.